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Government extends funding lifeline for show societies, but questions remain about next year

By David Claughton and Michael Condon, Thursday June 25, 2020 - 16:30 EST
ABC licensed image
The Royal Easter Show is likely to feel the impact of NSW bushfire and drought crises this year. - ABC licensed

The Federal Government is putting in an extra $36 million to support show societies around Australia after many have had to cancel their events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most events are expected to be cancelled for 2020.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the cancellations had a big impact on regional communities as the shows generated $1 billion each year and attracted 6 million patrons.

"Agricultural shows are part of the fabric of regional Australia, showcasing everything positive about our communities and local industries," Mr McCormack said.

Covering losses and supporting ambassadors

The Supporting Agricultural Shows program will provide a one-off reimbursement to agricultural show societies to deal with cash flow pressures caused by the COVID-19-related cancellation of agricultural shows.

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the funding would support both large and small shows.

"There is a real risk that if we don't help, not only could Royal shows cease to function the way they are now but also those small shows — all of which are run by volunteers — could fold," he said.

Another $100,000 will go towards supporting the Agricultural Shows Australia rural ambassador program.

This funding complements the Australian Government's existing $20 million Regional Agricultural Show Development Grants Program and will be provided as part of .

Shows will be able to claim up to $10,000 if their attendance last year was less than 2,000, up to $15,000 if their attendance was between 2,000 and 4,999, and up to $70,000 if their attendance was more than 5,000.

All agricultural shows that have cancelled in 2020 because of COVID-19 will be eligible and they will not have to compete for assistance.

Eligible reimbursement costs are expected to include bank fees, utilities, rates, insurance, fire alarms and equipment, cleaning supplies, telecommunications, IT system licensing costs, website costs, state-national show body affiliation fees, and rent.

Cautious about next year's shows

Operational support for Royal Agricultural Show societies was bolstered with $26 million.

President of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Robert Ryan said it was a good start, but he was cautious about the prospects for next year.

"It's great news, a terrific step in the right direction, and we are grateful to the Government for providing this support," he said.

"We've spent an enormous amount of money in preparation for the show in 2020 so we'll use this money to build on."

Mr Ryan said the money had to be split between all the shows throughout Australia and the restrictions on large events were still in place.

It is not clear yet about whether next year's Sydney Royal would go ahead.

"We would need to know by September or October to be able to plan for a show next year," Mr Ryan said. 

In Western Australia the Perth may be the only Royal Show to be held across the country this year.

A formal decision will be made early next week, but spokesperson Paul Carter from the Royal Agricultural Society said it was very likely that thanks to the state's successful handling of the COVID-19 pandemic the event would go ahead in the September school holidays as planned.


© ABC 2020

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