The Keep Sydney Open Party today pledges to repeal the lockouts, end the festivals licensing crisis and introduce pill testing as part of a package of measures it’ll take into the NSW state election.

The political party got the new week away by sharing its music-friendly manifesto and unveiling a new-look lead pack of candidates, which features night economy advocates Tyson Koh, Jess Miller and Jesse Matheson.

Keep Sydney Open was created in response to former NSW premier Mike Baird’s contentious lockout laws, which have been in place since 2014. The grass roots organisation evolved into a political party, manifesto and all, and it will vie for seats in both houses of Parliament in the 2019 state election.

The new party hopes it’ll spur action with its commitment to making NSW “more open, vibrant and inclusive for everyone,” with policies including $100 million in investments for contemporary music over four years, and a push to end the war on drugs. And yes, legalising weed is an item.

EDM club
The return of 24 hour party people?

Its policy platform runs like a checklist of critical matters on the agenda for the live entertainment industries. Among them, the party pitches:

Repealing the lockout laws and allow 24-hour trading for well-run venues.

Developing and investing in innovative, evidence-based late-night public health and safety strategies that encourage a positive nightlife.

24 hour public transport.

Provide tax offsets and lower fees for live music venues to increase investment in artists and performance.

End the ban on new nightclubs by removing the liquor licence freeze.

Establish an independent ‘Office of the Night’ to provide accountability for stakeholders of the night-time economy and a Ministry of Culture, Music and Nightlife for a seat in Cabinet.

Push the incoming Premier to make arts, culture and nightlife a priority for NSW over the next four years.

Invest $100 million into contemporary music and performance over four years, quadrupling Victoria’s investment (paid for by reducing over $1 billion in tax subsidies for pokies)

Dedicate $10 million to a targeted marketing and promotion campaign to rebuild confidence in the state’s nightlife and cultural offering.

Repeal the Berejiklian Government’s new licenses regulations for festivals to take effect on March 1.

Initiate a festival stakeholder roundtable between industry, emergency services and policymakers to create smarter and informed risk management strategies.

End special exemptions for casinos from three-strikes liquor licensing scheme and the violent venues list.

Use pokies tax revenue to fund gambling addiction support services

Introduce free pill testing facilities at festivals and fixed locations across NSW.

Establish a statewide pill testing results database to inform public health responses and early community warnings about deadly substances and create evidence-based interventions.

Legalise the use of cannabis in NSW.

music festival crowd
Keep Sydney Open wants to keep festivals alive

In Koh, Miller and Matheson, the party is headed by candidates who should be familiar to the state’s music community. And they’ve some key traits in common:  They’re young, smart as whips, they’re experienced community activists and live music is in their veins.

“The voters of NSW have seen first-hand what happens when Government reaches too far into the lives of private citizens,” comments Koh, who has spearheaded the organisation since its origins in 2014. “Our culture, our nightlife and our economy have suffered as a result. It’s time to change that for all of NSW.”

Adds councillor Jess Miller, who served as City of Sydney Deputy Lord Mayor from 2017-2018: “The community and business are fed-up with opaque, reactionary and sledgehammer approach to policy. We represent a grassroots movement willing to fight for more balance, openness, transparency and vitality in NSW – from lockouts, to toll roads, stadiums to public housing – enough is enough.”

The Keep Sydney Open Party policy platform was announced on the heels of Labor’s promise to fight the Liberals’ “war on music” with contemporary music policy which has been warmly received by the music industry. And it comes just days out from the introduction of an unwanted licensing regime which could cripple the industry, live advocates say.

Notes Matheson, an advocate for LGBTQI+ issues and director of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which takes place this weekend: “NSW has a rich history of cultural events and freedom of artistic and individual expression. The Government has placed this under threat which is unacceptable. We want a state with thriving cultural industries and ample opportunities now and in the future.”

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