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News February 13, 2019

Live Performance Australia & Keep Sydney Open weigh in on festival debate

Live Performance Australia & Keep Sydney Open weigh in on festival debate

Live Performance Australia and the Keep Sydney Open Party are the latest organisations to warn the NSW government of the consequences of proposed new licensing plans for music festivals in the state.

Evelyn Richardson, chief executive of Live Performance Australia, called the proposal “some of the most onerous licensing conditions in the world.”

Richardson was concerned about Bluesfest Byron Bay director Peter Noble’s comments that he may have to move the festival to another state to survive.

Economically that would be a blow: according to Bluesfest, last year it contributed over $20 million to the Northern Rivers region and an estimated total of $40 million to the NSW economy.

Richardson said: “Can you contemplate an Australian festival scene without Bluesfest?

“What about the flow-on effects for the local economy and the live music industry across Australia?

(The premier has since said Bluesfest was not targeted, saying “That festival has been going for 29 years, it’s a fantastic festival, it’s low risk so they don’t have anything to worry about, and I want to make that clear”).

Richardson continued, “In its headline-driven rush to respond to some recent tragic incidents, the government has failed to consult with industry leaders on the proposed licensing changes and their impact on highly professional and reputable festival operators.

“The NSW government needs to stop this now and properly consult with the industry.”

She concluded: “We all have a vital interest in the safety and well-being of people who attend festivals, and the best outcomes will be achieved through proper consultation and cooperation with our festival operators, not the blunt instrument of poorly designed and heavy-handed regulation.”

The Keep Sydney Open Party denounced the festival regulations as “culturally and economically irresponsible.”

Tyson Koh, its lead candidate, said: “We completely reject Premier Berejiklian’s festivals policy and call on her to scrap it.

“It was devised by an unqualified panel with little experience in organising large-scale events.”

“This is the lockout laws all over again, but worse.

“Festivals are a $1.8b industry and this crackdown will affect the livelihoods of thousands of people, especially in regional areas of NSW.”

Koh called on the government to meet with festival organisers “who have decades worth of experience and devise a way forward that keeps musicians and young people in work while keeping music-lovers safe.”

Keep Sydney Open has launched its festival policy platform ahead of the March 23 state election, in consultation with festival organisers and the wider industry.

These include:

* Repeal the new festival licence regulations.

* Initiate a roundtable on music festival regulation led by festival operators, music industry representatives, health and safety specialists, drug policy experts, police and government.

* Fully fund mandatory emergency services and counter-terrorism strategies for sport, festivals and cultural events.

* Standardise the ratio of police and security to attendees at festivals and the bring costs into line with other cultural and sporting events.

* Introduce a harm minimisation program for festivals covering pill testing, amnesty bins, drug education, health services and water stations.

* Replace fines and criminal penalties for personal drug use and possession with diversion notices to educational and treatment programs.

* Scrap the sniffer dog program and roll back police strip search powers.

* Restore funding to Sydney Festival’s ‘Festival First Night’

KSO stated, “Implementation of these policies will de-escalate the war on festivals and be an important first step to rekindling the NSW cultural economy which has suffered numerous setbacks over the past five years.”

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