NSW Legislative Council has rejected the NSW Government’s Music Festival regulations.

Earlier today the Legislative Council voted to reject the restrictive music festival licensing regulations. The controversial regulations were implemented with little concern for the impact they would have on the industry and with virtually no consultation with the industry in question. The resolution was supported by a cross-party vote of 21 votes to 18.

The Opposition has also called on the Government to immediately establish a regulatory roundtable with the music industry and local government.

This is a huge win for festivals in NSW, particularly events that became unviable due to the licencing regulations put into effect earlier this year. Amongst the general public in the viewing gallery including members from APRA AMCOS, the Australian Festivals Association and Music NSW was Jenny Ross-King, mother of Alex Ross-King who passed away earlier in the year at FOMO Festival.

It was a two-hour-long and at times passionate and emotional affair but in case you didn’t catch it, The Industry Observer sat through the debate at NSW Parliament House, so you didn’t have to. Here’s a quick run-down of what came out of the debate.

Opening the debate, The Hon. John Graham MLC, Shadow Minister for Roads, Music and the Night-Time Economy who has been a passionate advocate for the disallowance of these regulations stated:

“There is much that we agree on between the parliament, the government and the music industry, we just need to work together to tackle a solution that works for all stakeholders.

“The opposition does not move to disallow these regulations lightly, but we simply believe that these regulations do not do the job as required to regulate music festivals and to keep kids safe across NSW.”

Launching into his argument, The Hon. John Graham pointed out that “Most members of the house will know I’m a music fan, and a big supporter of the music industry, but that’s not the perspective I’m bringing to this debate though.

“It’s really as a father of a music fan, a teenager who will want to go to these festivals in the future, I really want to know that my kids and others will be safe across NSW. It’s impossible not to have that at the front of your mind when you discuss these issues.”

the hon john-graham-mlc labor
The Hon. John Graham

When the regulations were first implemented back in February, festivals were notified just a week out from their event via text message, others weren’t notified at all.

The Hon. John Graham then went on to elaborate that “no minister at the time would meet with the festivals, and no consultative body existed, or exists today”.

The minister also pointed out that in his experience, “there’s just no other industry that government would work within that way. If there’s an agricultural issue, we talk to farmers, if there’s a mining issue, we talk to miners.”

Continuing on, The Hon. John Graham pointed out that these regulations have limitations and that it only regulates eleven festivals, while hundreds of events that fall within the definition of the regulations are not regulated.

This is important as the NSW Heath Guidelines are not enforceable at these events. This also means that these unregulated festivals don’t need their medical practitioners to be licenced, a majorly concerning revelation.

The lack of consultation, heightened by the NSW Premier’s acting during the apex of an election campaign, has meant that these licencing regulations have been implemented without any real thought or concern for the impact they have on the economy, culture or the Australian music scene.

Ministers from the Liberal and National parties crossed the floor to vote no, but ultimately the yeses from The Australian Greens and Australian Labor Party trumped the no voters 21 – 18.

This means that the eleven “extreme risk” festivals will revert to their existing licences for alcohol sales. There will now be two months for the government to propose a new regime. The next two festivals to take place in NSW have also indicated that despite not currently being enforceable now that the disallowance has passed that they will apply the NSW Health guidelines to their events.

This includes Listen Out festival on the 5th of October and This That festival on the 9th of November this year.

Labor stated in the Legislative Council debate that it would support a regulatory regime with the following principles:

  • There is no “extreme risk” hit-list of festivals published.
  • NSW Health guidelines for Music Festival Event Organisers are used, and the granting of a power to require the use of the guidelines, including outside the list of eleven events currently holding music festival licenses in NSW.
  • Medical providers to festivals are required to be registered. This is currently not the case. They should also be required to adhere to the NSW Health guidelines.
  • The immediate establishment of a regulatory roundtable where the music industry, the music festival industry and local councils can be consulted on issues relating to festivals.

The Hon. Ms. Cate Faehrmann (GRNS) and The Hon. Rose Jackson (ALP) spoke in support of the motion — eloquently outlining the context for the house as to why the regulations needed to be scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up.

“We are here because of the Premier’s response which was largely played out in the media and under a lot of pressure to look like she was doing something in relation to what was a tragic string of overdoses not only in NSW, but across the country,” shared Hon. Cate Faehrmann.

The Hon. Cate Faehrmann conceded that the Premier was attempting to act swiftly to minimise harm, but in doing so, only punished the operators. “To blame the operators by implementing hastily thought through regulations without proper consultation I think is the Premier shirking her responsibility to put in place laws that actually keep people safe at music festivals.”

Mr. David Shoebridge (GRNS) also gave a compelling testimony noting that “Young people require a government that’s in their corner.”

The Hon. Penny Sharpe (ALP) also contributed brilliantly to the debate in the following statement: “I don’t think the impact on venues and festivals was accounted for…We need to reflect on and learn from our mistakes when we do these things, just look at the lockout laws. If we’ve learnt anything from the lock out process, we should also learn from this current licencing regulations process.”

The Hon. John Graham rounded out the debate by also pointing out the 91 events captured by this regulation actually effects hundreds of other events (for example sideshows).

“It’s not about the headlines… it’s about the stakeholders i.e. the Australian Music Festivals Association, Music NSW, APRA AMCOS and Live Performance Australia expressing genuine concern.”

In his closing statement, The Hon. John Graham lamented that “An additional death now at a music festival would be the failure of us all to act together.” Here’s hoping that we now can.