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NSW opposition promises to lift music bans and ‘put verve back into Sydney’

NSW opposition promises to lift music bans and ‘put verve back into Sydney’
December 13, 2018

The NSW Labor opposition has promised to scrap live music bans and restrictions on over 600 venues in NSW, as part of its election pitch to "put the verve back into Sydney’s night life".

Labor leader Michael Daley said he would use a single piece of legislation to sweep away historical liquor licence conditions attached to 669 venues if elected Premier following the NSW state election in March.

Daley said the music industry had been "overburdened with regulation", and as a result had been "squeezed out of suburbs" and was now "fighting for survival".

Making the election promise at Marrickville's Factory Theatre yesterday, Daley advised “we've seen over time council regulations and state government regulations put layer and layer on top of this struggling industry ... we (now) need to put the verve back into Sydney's night life.”

However, he reaffirmed Labor's commitment to maintaining Sydney's lockout laws advising that Labor was prepared to look at ways "of helping and rewarding venues that do the right thing" while at the same time not "tearing apart the fabric of the safety mechanism that are built into the lockout laws".

Labor's election promise follows the release of a NSW Parliamentary report last month into the music and arts economy in NSW, which found that 669 licensed venues restrict or ban live music and entertainment. The Parliamentary committee concluded that the bans were "an unnecessary block to employing musicians".

The report also acknowledged that one of the "dominant themes" of evidence before the inquiry was that the "introduction of the lockout laws were a 'sledgehammer' to the city's night-life and have resulted in the closure of live music venues".

It also found that the NSW Government would need to invest $35 million in the sector over the next four years in order to match Victorian funding for contemporary music per capita.

Daley said Labor would released a fully-costed music policy before the election, indicating that he was prepared to make this funding commitment to "do what needs to be done to put into effect the recommendations".

Daley was joined at the announcement by NSW upper house MP John Graham, who he appointed last month to the newly-created shadow portfolio of music and the night time economy.

Graham said NSW had a "grassroots music venue crisis" as the industry had lost "hundreds of venues and thousands of jobs".

He advised “currently NSW has bans or restrictions in venues on dancing and rock music. It also has bans or restrictions on live music, disco, DJs, drumming, four piece bands, singer songwriters, the bass guitar, vinyl records, bands facing in a direction other than south and mirror balls.”

He said Labor's policy would "remove these archaic restrictions in a single go".

Responding to the plan, NSW Minister for Racing Paul Toole said the changes would deny the community the right to have its say about venue conditions in their neighbourhood, highlighting the NSW Government’s recently announced plans to eliminate unnecessary restrictions on licenced venues, which is now under way.

Toole advised “liquor licencing is about the responsible service of alcohol and should not be a means to regulate entertainment ... that is why we have initiated a three-month blitz to get rid of them, considering these conditions on a case-by-case basis.

“As part of this assessment, local communities will still be able to have their say - this is important for a balanced consideration of any move to change licence conditions.

“In cases where conditions are no longer relevant, venues can apply to have them removed, allowing them to expand the types of entertainment they offer.”

Toole added that a plan for special live music licences would entangle venues in more red tape and reduce flexibility for business operators.

Images: Sydney's the Oxford Art Factory (top) and Metro Theatre (below).

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