Labor makes moves to overturn NSW festival licensing regime
The Australian music industry is expected to ramp up lobbying of NSW parliamentarians to support the dismantling of the state’s controversial music licensing scheme.
It was introduced on March 1 to target “high-risk” festivals with safety concerns, but has come under widespread criticism that it has brought with it extra operating expenses and uncertainty for the sector.
Labor’s shadow minister for music John Graham introduced disallowance motions in the upper house to force the government “back to the drawing board”.
Labor reiterated its support for harm minimisation measures for festivals “including adequate on-site emergency care, and appropriate policing.”
But Graham explained: “We are calling on the government to scrap this current approach and start again.
“They should go back to the drawing board, consult with the festival industry and come back with a regulatory regime that has been worked through collaboratively with industry.
“I call on Minister (Victor) Dominello to do what his predecessor failed to do, and meet with the industry.
“Festival safety issues are simply too important for government and industry not to work together.”
The motion comes at a time when at least three states have begun discussions with some NSW festivals to move.
Festival promoters are privately admitting they are tempted, while criticising a lack of investment and financial support for their events by the NSW government.
The NSW contemporary music and festival sector injects $325 million a year into the state economy and draws 6 million attendees.
One promoter told TMN, “Where is the recognition that festivals are of greater economic and tourism importance to NSW than sports and movies?
“All we get are more costs to operate and decisions that make it difficult for us.
“We get it, the government wants to protect the public. So do we.
“But there needs to be the understanding that cost of talent has quadrupled in recent years.
“We get more and more artists demanding green initiatives on-site.
“But not one of them would donate a percentage of their fees to festivals to move forward in these, which are worthy but are after all the responsibility of everybody.”
Customer service minister Victor Dominello said the government was “committed to continuing to work with music festival operators and other industry stakeholders to ensure the right balance is struck between great entertainment and festival safety”.
A second promoter told TMN it was imperative the live sector be open to speaking to the government.
“They’re not bad people although not all of us would want to vote for them.
“But we in the industry need to do a lot of sitting around tables with them discussing and educating of the values of our culture.
“If we don’t we’ll get legislated out of business.”
These discussions come, he added, at a time when multinationals Live Nation and AEG are widening their presence in the Australian live market.
Independent promoters say it should be recognised that they are operating in a changing landscape where the majors get a larger market share in festivals, touring rights and venues.
Shadow minister Graham’s disallowance resolutions relate to both the Liquor Amendment (Music Festivals) Regulation 2019 and the Gaming and Liquor Administration Amendment (Music Festivals) Regulation 2019.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Labor will need the support of at least seven of the 11-member crossbench.
It hopes to secure the support of a bloc of six progressive crossbenchers, comprising three Greens MPs, two Animal Justice Party MPs and independent Justin Field.
But, said the report, it will also need one vote from a conservative bloc of five MPs, consisting two Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, two from One Nation, and one Christian Democrat.
Shooters MLC Robert Borsak indicated to the SMH that it would support Graham’s motion.
“The music industry in NSW is suffering enough,” Borsak said, adding the motion was “in line” with the Shooters’ opposition to Sydney’s lockout laws.
Borsak plans to re-introduce a bill to repeal the lockout laws.
In the meantime, six people suspected drug overdoses at the Midnight Mafia party at Olympic Park, which drew 14,000.
NSW Police said 32 were arrested for drug possession and four charges with supply.