News October 21, 2019

Will NSW festivals consider legal options over new legislation?

Will NSW festivals consider legal options over new legislation?
Image: Former NSW festival Mountain Sounds / Facebook

A number of festival promoters and music associations contacted by TMN agreed that taking legal action over the NSW government’s proposed latest festival legislation could be a possibility.

The original March legislation was overturned on September 26 after a 90-minute debate initiated by Labor, the Greens and the Shooters in the NSW Legislative Council.

But the government has virtually revived the controversial aspects of the legislation. In the name of safety.

Under the newly drafted Music Festivals Bill 2019 tabled on Wednesday (Oct 16), any “high risk” festival must draw up a safety management plan for approval by the Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA).

Failure to do so could result in a 12-month jail sentence.

Music execs expressed disbelief that the government had not learned its lesson after being criticised by a parliamentary committee looking into the March legislation for rushing through the legislation before a state election without consulting the music industry.

Said one, “In March the premier’s staff told us in meetings that they would be happy to confer with us after the legislation went through. We’re still waiting.”

Others talked about “our need to survive in the face of such disrespect”.

However, they agree that given the expense and time of any legal move, they should wait to see NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s response to the industry’s latest attempt to initiate talks.

They are hoping that solid new framework is put in place before this summer.

To ensure safety, the industry will also call for the regulation of medical staff used on festival sites.

Labor’s shadow minister for music, John Graham, described as “unbelievable” that no consultation with the festival sector had taken place or even considered.

The industry calls for talks

On Thursday evening (October 17) the industry – via Live Performance Australia – issued an open letter to the premier calling for a roundtable to discuss “regulation and safety at music festivals”, saying that the new draft law would be “unworkable”.

The letter was signed by LPA, the Australian Festival Association, APRA AMCOS, Music NSW and Live Music Office.

It stated: “The industry was not consulted on the design of this draft legislation.

“In its current form, it appears to be based on the regulations disallowed by the NSW Upper House which were unworkable for all the reasons outlined by industry.

“Without serious consultation with our industry this proposed legislation will not work and we do not support it.

“Setting aside the total lack of respect for the live music industry which is the largest contributor by far to NSW live revenue and attendance, this draft bill also delivers huge uncertainty for all music festival operators and concert promoters in the lead up to the summer touring season.

“We believe it is imperative that you immediately convene an industry roundtable to develop a workable framework that supports our shared objectives.”

The government’s stance

Premier Berejiklian said she had gone to the polls promising a crackdown on illicit drugs, and that only eleven festivals were deemed “high risk” and faced preparing a safety management plan.

“Labor, the Greens and the Shooters took away these regulations and left nothing in their place. This legislation will rectify that.

“The situation is clear – music festivals identified as high risk under the former licensing system will continue to be high risk under this law. These laws provide absolute certainty for the festival industry.

“They impose the same requirements on high-risk music festivals that were in place under the regulations that were disallowed by Labor, the Greens and the Shooters.”

Minister for customer service Victor Dominello, whose portfolio includes liquor & gaming, said, “Music festivals are an important part of NSW’s entertainment scene and economy, and we want them to thrive.

“The vast majority of festivals are managed responsibly and are safe, however the death and serious illnesses that have occurred compels the government to act.”

Music executives told TMN that it had also reached out to Dominello for talks but had no response.

Related articles