News September 26, 2019

Controversial NSW festival licensing laws officially scrapped

Controversial NSW festival licensing laws officially scrapped

It’s time for the industry and government to come together.

That was the message from both Labor and the Australian live after the NSW Upper House today disallowed the controversial NSW music festival laws this morning (Sep 26).

, shadow minister for music and the – who spearheaded the debate in parliament – told TMN that the priority was to quickly get together a roundtable of all stakeholders.

He urged the government to get a new regulation for in place before the summer festival season begins.

“The roundtable was unanimously called for by the Legislative Council Regulation Committee inquiry – the government members (on it), the opposition members and the cross-benchers – so we want to get that up and running straight away.”

Graham agreed “as something Labour would absolutely support” with TMN’s argument that initiatives should be introduced to counteract the negative consequences of the laws since they were introduced in March.

Promoters fear patrons might be slow in buying tickets in case the event doesn’t go ahead, and corporate sponsors might be wary given the toxic image festivals got in the media and the government’s insistence of solving the problem through an “extremely high-risk festivals” list.

The Australian Festival Association, Live Performance Australia, APRA AMCOS, MusicNSW and the PPCA also stressed the need for the government and the industry to work together.

“The government can now sit down with the industry for some constructive consultation on ways to improve patron safety at music festivals, including steps to reduce drug-related harm,” said Evelyn Richardson, chief executive of Live Performance Australia.

“From the outset, we have repeatedly expressed our strong desire to work collaboratively with government on our shared commitment to safer festivals.

“Genuine collaboration with industry representatives who have decades of experience in running safe and successful festivals is the best way to promote the safety of festival patrons, while also ensuring NSW continues to enjoy the economic and cultural benefits from a dynamic and diverse music festival industry.”

Both Graham and Richardson cited how effectively the industry and the NSW Ministry of Health on new guidelines to reduce drug-related harm at festivals.

“The health guidelines were crucial, in that there be ambulance transport and adequate medical care and what had to be in place to protect the patrons,” said Graham.

“My expectation is that the festivals coming up will commit to making sure that’s in place and will be willing to support that they will be compulsory.”

Richardson said the process of health improvements was the way to go, “instead of through poorly-designed and heavy-handed regulation.”

Two key findings by the parliamentary inquiry was that the government’s consultation with the music industry had been “inadequate” and that “the development and continual improvement of the NSW Health Guidelines for Music Festival Event Organisers: Music Festival Harm Reduction is a positive step in addressing drug and alcohol-related issues at music festivals.”

The inquiry’s recommendation for a roundtable spelled out that it should include:

• Liquor & Gaming NSW, NSW Health, NSW Police Force and other relevant government agencies;

• industry representatives, such as the Live Music Office, the Australian Festivals Association, APRA AMCOS, MusicNSW and Live Performance Australia;

• Local Government NSW; and

• Health-related/harm minimisation groups, such as Harm Reduction Australia, NSW Users and Aids Association, and the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education.

Asked if the music industry had a problem with the , Graham paid tribute to how the industry had been unified and articulate in putting its concerns to authorities.

“As a result, we’re really seeing some better results after a very dark period for the music industry in NSW.

“The feature of the music industry is how diverse it is. That’s not going to change.

“But what I’ve seen in the course of the last 18 months in Sydney and NSW is that it’s become a lot more organised around their own issues whether they be the or the festival legislation.

“Without that organisation, we wouldn’t have these results.”

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