Federal Parliament - Frontier Lighting

18 October 2021

Dr ALY[by video link] If you've attended a Pink concert, a Jimmy Barnes concert—and I know you have, Deputy Speaker Goodenough—the AFL grand final or indeed any large event in Perth, chances are that the event lighting was provided by Perth's own Frontier Lighting. They are WA's biggest event lighting company, established 21 years ago, and they are doing it tough. They have been hit by COVID. In order to recover from the COVID pandemic and its impact on them, they applied for an SME recovery loan. Remember that when these loans were announced, Mr Speaker, they were announced with much fanfare. In fact, at the time, the Treasurer said the government expected that these loans would support around $40 billion worth of business. To date, the loans have in fact only supported around $6 billion.

Jared Hawke from Frontier Lighting tells me that he was rejected for the loan because, with no international acts coming in, he would have no income coming in. I would have thought that that was the purpose of the scheme—to enable companies that aren't getting an income stream during COVID to survive the pandemic until they can become profitable again post the pandemic. For Jared Hawke and Frontier Lighting, the SME recovery loan would have provided the light at the end of the tunnel which they so desperately needed. Jared has now lost his car, is looking at the prospect of losing his home and is waiting to learn if he'll have to be declared bankrupt. I know the Premier of Western Australia, Mark McGowan, has written to the Treasurer about Frontier Lighting and is seeking the Treasurer's assistance in ensuring that Frontier Lighting gets access to these loans. I would add my voice to that of Premier McGowan's to urge the government to step in and ensure that Frontier Lighting doesn't go down.

It's been reported in the West Australian that the company's assets will be flogged off by liquidators at bargain rates, with lights from Germany that cost Jared $7½ thousand attracting offers from eastern states companies of just $500. If the company is sold off to eastern states, this means that lighting for big events here will have to be shipped from the eastern states, at an estimated cost of $80,000. Who's going to bear the brunt of that cost? It will be WA event goers. It will be the WA public who will bear that cost.

Before the pandemic, Frontier Lighting had about 30 staff and engaged another 30 subcontractors, so they have been hit really hard by the pandemic, as have many in the arts industry. Many of their subcontractors included tradies. The arts industry—and the entire sector, no doubt—is one that has been given less attention by this government during the pandemic. When it has been given support by the Morrison government, that support has been slow, it has been limited and it has been without a comprehensive understanding of what exactly the entire arts sector needs or what it includes. We know that the arts sector includes companies like Frontier Lighting—event lighting companies.

Frontier Lighting are not the only ones doing it tough here in WA who have already had issues with accessing the poorly designed SME Recovery Loan Scheme. Here in WA there are many businesses that were successful before the pandemic who will be profitable again post the pandemic if they are able to access these loans. I urge the government—I urge the Treasurer—to look into these loans and to ensure that they fulfil the purpose for which they were set up. If people like Frontier Lighting—a company that's been around for 21 years, WA's largest event lighting company—are unable to access these loans, and other companies can't do it, then the loans are an abject failure in their purpose. I speak on behalf of Frontier Lighting. Let's get this right. Give them access to the loan.