The NSW Labour Opposition has welcomed a report from the inquiry into music festival regulations in NSW.

The report has called for the regulations to be disallowed by the parliament, given the disastrous impact they have had on the national music scene since they were implemented.

Key findings from the report included that the consultation process for the most recent Liquor Amendment Regulation (for music festivals) and the Gaming & Liquor Administration Amendment Regulation (for music festivals) undertaken by the NSW Government was inadequate.

The report did however point out that the development and continual improvement of the NSW Health Guidelines for Music Festival Event Organisers is a positive step in addressing drug and alcohol related issues at music festivals.

Key recommendations made in the inquiry report were that the NSW Government immediately establish a regulatory roundtable between the industry and the government for music festivals with participants including Live Music Office, the Australian Festivals Association, APRA AMCOS, Music NSW and Live Performance Australia.

In addition to these findings and recommendations, the inquiry (which heard from key music industry groups including the Australian Festival Association, the Live Music Office and Live Performance Australia) received evidence that no government minister had met with the industry, that regulations were distributed late on a Friday night one week before implementation, and that impacted festivals were notified by text message, or not at all.

the hon john-graham-mlc labor
Shadow Minister for Music and the Night Time Economy John Graham MLC

Ahead of Thursday’s Legislative Council debate on the disallowance motion in NSW Parliament House, The Industry Observer sat down with Shadow Minister for Music and the Night Time Economy John Graham MLC to discuss the politics surrounding the inquiry report, the disallowance motion and where we the music industry can help.

TIO: So what is Labour’s position on how this is all shaping up?

John Graham: I welcome this report and its findings. Labour absolutely supports the recommendations. There are a few key findings and recommendations in particular that will be important going forward. One being an emphasis on consultation and two being the establishment of a roundtable between the industry and the government.

I am also calling on the NSW government to immediately establish a regulatory roundtable to work hand in hand with the music industry as it’s been turned on its head recently and an industry in transition really needs to engage with government and that is now happening, which is encouraging but there’s still quite a lot to do.

There were also recommendations that the Legislative Council to disallow the amendments in both regulations. These festivals will be safer if government and the industry can work together to find a mutually beneficial solution. That hasn’t happened yet, but I’m sure Thursday will be a step in the right direction.

TIO: Do you think the NSW government’s reaction – and subsequent changes to the music festival licencing requirements earlier this year following the string of festival deaths – were perhaps ill advised?

John: We don’t support the hastily developed music festival licence. It has done tremendous damage to the music industry here and around the country. Most importantly though, we need a new regime in place for the upcoming summer festival season.

The NSW government should meet with the industry immediately to get this in place. Labour will offer it’s support to measures that are properly developed and support the continuance and development of the NSW Health Guidelines for Music Festival Organisers: Music Festival Harm Reduction.

TIO: Do you think the findings in this inquiry will help turn the tide and dissolve these amendments on Thursday?

John: The NSW Government in Thursday’s debate will try to oppose this, pretty strongly, but I believe we’ve got the support to disallow the regulations and I think privately that’s also their view as well. We are expecting most of the crossbench, including the Shooters & Fishers Party will vote for the disallowance.

I’m now optimistic that we can revive the CBD with changes to the lockouts and by getting the festival sector really engaged with the government. Oxford Street is a classic example of where it was included in the lockout laws and it was not the source of the problem.

That became very clear when it was looked into as it was just a very different culture to the one that had developed in Kings Cross. So hopefully those laws being overturned will bring back some of Oxford Streets live music culture and give the grassroots venues a chance to thrive.

TIO: So what can we as the music industry do to help?

John: Well, what we’d love to do is invite festival supporters and the music industry along to attend Thursday’s debate. The tone of the discussion is quite important though and we will all need to take the emotion out of our responses.

Another thing that’s really important is the industry describing to us what would really help. So I think putting forward clear, specific and measurable recommendations would be really helpful from a government perspective.

Parliament and government doesn’t really deal well when there’s a lot of different views and recommendations being thrown around so clear, unified solutions are really important.

TIO: What’s the dream state for you in terms of Sydney’s live music scene?

John: The goal is to deal with the venue shortage crisis (caused by the lockout laws), deal with the festival licencing regulations crisis and the aim is that we want to build back up a grass roots music scene that attracts artist’s and builds a community.

Sydney’s at advantage with the majority of the music business being based here but with the regulations how they are we’re effectively killing off our grass roots scene so it’s just about strengthening that now by overturning these amendments.

TIO: Well there can be no commercial scene without a grass roots one!

John: “Exactly! You’ll have a few artists’ that might come through and do well, but it’s not sustainable.”

If you’d like to be a part of the debate, it’s happening this Thursday at NSW Parliament house from 10am.

Where: Legislative Council, Parliament of NSW, 6 Macquarie St, Sydney

When: From 10am September 26th

Details: Register at the Legislative Council desk on arrival and you will be taken around to the public gallery entrance.