Lockout laws “an international joke”, Sydney the “broken link”, parliamentary inquiry told
Since their introduction in 2014, Sydney’s controversial lockout laws haven’t ceased to generate backlash from venues, artists, music industry, lobby groups and residents.
Yesterday, industry representatives including The Preatures‘ Isabella Manfredi; Set Mo‘s Nick Drabble and Stuart Turner; Helen Marcou of Save Live Australian Music (SLAM); Darcy Byrne, mayor of the Inner West Council and more gave evidence at the public NSW parliamentary inquiry into live music.
Manfredi spoke at the music inquiry about the changes she has observed since The Preatures formed back in 2008, calling the lockout laws a joke.
“It’s a laughing stock; that’s really the crux of it,” she told the inquiry, noting that news of the city’s suffocating live scene and controversy around the laws have “become an international joke.”
“People are aware of it all over the world, which is surprising.”
Helen Marcou added that the death of Sydney’s live scene has a flow-on effect on the live culture of other cities and rural areas.
“I’ve seen the fragility of our sector and that a healthy, robust scene in Melbourne cannot be sustained if other cities and indeed rural towns can’t support touring artists.
“Australia’s tyranny of distance and population size means Melbourne can only be sustained as a music city if our sister cities and towns are also strong and robust.
“Sydney has become the broken link in the chain of an Eastern states touring circuit as well as national touring circuit.
“Without a healthy and supportive music scene, many artists leave Sydney off their national touring schedule altogether.”
APRA CEO Dean Ormston, ARIA CEO Dan Rosen, Hoodoo Gurus frontman Dave Faulkner, and Tim Levinson (aka Urthboy) have previously given evidence over the last few months.
There was never a question of whether the laws would damage the city’s nightlife, but the stats are still shocking.
Recent figures report that Sydney has seen a net loss of 176 venues, with 418 licensed premises in Kings Cross and the CBD closing since 2014.
Only 242 new small bar licenses have been granted.
A 2016 report by City of Sydney council showed that late night foot traffic in Oxford Street and Kings Cross areas dropped by 80%.
The inquiry has previously uncovered that there are at least six “overlapping” government authorities who handle noise complaints.
Committee member John Graham of Labour Loves Live Music told the Daily Telegraph: “It’s so complicated that even the government can’t actually tell you how this works.”
He also lamented that the 25 recommendations from the nighttime economy task force (an initiative of the City of Sydney) “were all due to be completed now,” speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald.
So far, only five have been completed.
The #musicinquiry will wrap up at the end of August.