Calls to compensate ASWS after lockdown cancellation

Australian Sheep and Wool Show organisers call for compensation

CANNED: Everything was ready to go at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show when the snap lockdown was called.

CANNED: Everything was ready to go at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show when the snap lockdown was called.


Australian Sheep and Wool Show organisers are crying out for government assistance.


Australian Sheep and Wool Show organisers are crying out for government assistance after the eleventh hour cancellation of the event in Bendigo due to the Victorian lockdown.

The snap lockdown on Thursday afternoon meant the automatic cancellation of the three-day show on the eve of its opening, with the Australian Sheep Breeders' Association

Australian Sheep and Wool Show CEO Margot Falconer said they were currently going through the options on how they could recoup some costs, but would definitely be seeking any form of compensation they could from the state and federal government.

"We will spend all of our resources refunding, it's going to be very tight," she said.

"We've spent an enormous amount of money getting it all ready. The costs are massive... ribbons, power that's been set up everywhere, the audio-visual system that's been set up, the marquee hire... our costs that we have to pay out will be $300,000 to $400,00.

"Our show is the pre-eminent event in Australia and I think both governments need to help us.

"We want to come back next year and we don't just want to come back for the farmers, we want to come back for Bendigo.

"It brings millions into this economy and we've lost it two years in a row now."

Ms Falconer said there had been terrific support from industry sponsors and stakeholders.

"We know that everyone is going to be there for us next year, it's just going to be tight," she said.

"We just want everyone to get vaccinated so we can have a show next year."

Ms Falconer said it was disappointing to get the news on Thursday afternoon after people had spent all day travelling to get to Bendigo.

"Thursday was bump in day so every site holder was there, every sheep, every farmer, they were all there," she said.

"I was telling people to come because in the morning the message [ from Daniel Andrews] was 'I don't want to lockdown the state' so the inference was there would be no lockdown."

When the news came through there would be a lockdown, thinking immediately turned to how to mitigate some of the costs.

"We rang our local member here looking for some guidance... we actually asked if we could judge the sheep because they were all there and that meant we could have used the ribbons, it meant we wouldn't have had to contemplate refunding entry fees but the answer came back within an hour, no," Ms Falconer said.

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh said the snap decision to go into lockdown had thrown the Australian Sheep and Wool show and all exhibitors into disarray.

"Exhibitors, stall holders, sponsors and advertisers put a year's work into absolutely nothing - and there has been no sign of any kind of compensation," he said.

Mr Walsh called for the Victorian government and premier Daniel Andrews to offer support to event organisers.

"Daniel Andrews needs to provide a plan and a pathway for these industry events to operate with confidence, the continued uncertainty is not just causing financial pain and confusion now, it is threatening the ability of many of these events to survive beyond 2021 if they cannot recoup money already spent," he said.

"If these events are shut down due to COVID outbreaks, then the Andrews Labor government has no choice; it must offer financial assistance to the organisers so we don't see the end of these trade shows."

A Victorian government spokesman said there would be support for affected events but did not confirm details.

"We are standing with businesses and event organisers across Victoria," he said.

"We'll have more to say on events affected by the current lockdown shortly."

The Merrimans from Merryville Merino Stud at Booroowa, NSW were among the studbreeders who made the trip to Bendigo, even going early in their efforts to get to the event.

George Merriman said last Sunday they made the the decision to go down early when Mr Andrews called for Victorian residents to return home.

"We got down to Wodonga on Sunday night before the midnight border closure," he said.

"I rang up a couple of committee members and they put up some temporary pens for me, so I was well catered for while they were putting everything up, it was a credit to them for facilitating that I could come early but unfortunately it didn't pay off."

"I was at the showground from Monday on through to the Thursday when the lockdown was announced and then back home Friday."

Mr Merriman said the whole show would be taking a hit from the late cancellation, but he was accepting of the situation.

"I don't think they could have done it any other way, the show was just a consequence of that," he said.

"I think it's just one of those things out of our control."

A spokesperson for the federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment said while the Australian Sheep Breeders Association received $70,000 under the 2020 Supporting Agricultural Shows and Field Days Program for the Australian Sheep and Wool Show, there was no funding currently available for shows cancelled in 2021.

""Last year we hadn't even spent any money on the show so that [$70,000 in funding] just kept us going, this year we've spent hundreds of thousands setting it up," Ms Falconer said.


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