News September 14, 2016

Callinan Report: Sydney’s lockout laws should be relaxed, by 30 minutes

Former Editor
Callinan Report: Sydney’s lockout laws should be relaxed, by 30 minutes

Photo Credit: Ashley Mar

The long-anticipated review of the NSW lockout laws by retired Justice Hon. Ian Callinan AC states the Government should allow live music venues to stay open an extra half hour.

Also among Callinan’s recommendations are the proposal to extend the 1.30am lockout and 3am last drinks laws for genuine live venues by 30 minutes, to 2am and 3.30am, respectively.

The report, which can be read in full here, claims the 2014-introduced laws have made Sydney’s CBD and Kings Cross safer, and are therefore valid. 

“I have formed the view that the two Precincts at night were grossly overcrowded, violent, noisy, and in places dirty, before the Amendments, but that after them, they were transformed into much safer, quieter and cleaner areas,” said Callinan.

The laws included a statewide ban on takeaway alcohol sales and home delivery after 10pm. Callinan has recommended an extension on sales to 11pm and an extension on home delivery to midnight.

The independent review of the state’s liquor laws was released yesterday afternoon. It included 1,850 submissions and almost 30 stakeholder sessions, including three roundtables into Sydney’s night-time economy.

Callinan said of the written submissions, slightly fewer than two thirds (about 1,116) “favoured repeal of the Amendments wholly or in part and about 590 favoured their retention, indeed in some cases their expansion.”

John Wardle, Policy Director at the national Live Music Office, told TMN the report offers important recognition for the music industry.

“[The] report finds musicians and other entertainers have been adversely economically affected by the laws. This provides an opportunity for the music industry to engage constructively with the NSW government on a range of issues not just around the lockouts.”

Wardle told TMN the recommendation to extend the 2am lockout and the 3:30am cease service by 30 minutes may be seen as “disappointing.”
 
“From the venues’ perspective this may be disappointing as they were hoping for the removal of the lockout entirely for live music presentation, but the recognition is there that they have been impacted and it’s a step in the right direction. The report also found that audiences have not adjusted or migrated to earlier event programming.”
 
Wardle, along with industry representatives from MusicNSW and Keep Sydney Open, were part of NSW Deputy Premier Troy Grant’s night-time economy roundtable earlier this year. He also convened with police, hospitals, residents, hospitality industry associations and government agencies to deliver a collaborative action plan to the NSW government.
 
“[The action plan includes] developing a strategic plan for the music sector in NSW, a regulation roundtable of agencies to cut red tape, and collaborative marketing for artists and venues,” Wardle told TMN. “Now’s the time when venues and artists need recognition and support from the community.
 
“I’m going to try and get to a gig tonight if I can, there’s great music being played here every night of the week.”
 

The report’s release precedes a government decision on the laws’ future.

The report was delayed following a NSW Supreme Court ruling last month which decided music venues and strip clubs are exempt. The NSW Government immediately appealed the decision. The decision has implications for 15 city venues. But only eight are directly affected as they are allowed to trade after 3am.

Since former premier Barry O’Farrell introduced the laws in early 2014, live music venues have lost 40% in revenue from ticket sales in the Sydney CBD lockout zone (Live Music Office). As a result, venues are also spending less on live entertainment, with a reported 15% overall decrease in venue expenditure on live artist performers.

Callinan recommends his proposals be given a two-year trial.

“A relaxation of the amendments to this effect may go some way to an orderly restoration of vibrancy and employment opportunities in the precincts,” said Callinan.

Keep Sydney Open campaign spokesperson Tyson Koh has called Callinan’s recommendations “out-of-touch”.

“I really did have higher expectations of what Mr. Callinan has come back with,” Tyson told Hack’s Tom Tilley on triple j yesterday afternoon.

“It’s still up to the government if they’re going to take up the recommendations… Will half an hour make a difference to venues and punters? Yes it will. But not enough.”

Keep Sydney Open hosted a rally in February, where 15,000 turned up to protest the controversial laws. Koh told triple j he is planning another rally. 

The introduction of statewide lockout laws in NSW stemmed from a series of unprovoked one-punch attacks in Kings Cross. In July 2012, 18-year-old Thomas Kelly passed away as a result of a ‘coward punch’. Then on New Year’s Eve in 2014, 18-year-old Daniel Christie lost his life following similar circumstances.

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