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Byron Bay Bluesfest to go ahead as planned

The organisers of Byron Bay Bluesfest have confirmed that the festival is going ahead as planned from 9 to 13 April, despite the spread of Covid-19.

“We are all aware of COVID-19 in Australia and want to update you. Bluesfest Byron Bay will be going ahead as planned,” reads a post on the festival’s Facebook page, last updated today (12 March).

“Both NSW Health and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), the federal body, report that attending public events such as Bluesfest are low risk.”

Fan are assured that their tickets are “fully insured” in case of a coronavirus-related cancellation.

The New South Wales festival, organised by Peter Noble, is entering its 31st year in 2020, featuring acts including Lenny Kravitz, Dave Matthews Band, Kool and the Gang and John Butler.

“We are all aware of COVID-19 in Australia and want to update you. Bluesfest Byron Bay will be going ahead as planned”

Extra safety measures and additional facilities, such as hand sanitisation stations, will be put in place at Bluesfest to further safeguard the health and safety of guests.

Covid-19 was yesterday declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Major festivals including Coachella, Ultra Miami, South by Southwest and Tomorrowland Winter have been cancelled or postponed due to the virus.

Events affected in Australia include Miley Cyrus’ cancelled headline performance at the World Tour Bushfire Relief concert in Melbourne, Victoria. However, Robbie Wiliams’ appearance as part of the same event series is going ahead as planned, along with the Australian grand prix.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today said there will be a “further review of mass gatherings” across the state, saying, “there is no need to massively change what you are doing but it’s not business as usual. We are asking everybody to be alert.”

13 new cases of the virus were reported in NSW yesterday alone, bringing the state’s total to 78, half the total number of cases reported across the whole country.

 


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Aussie live industry: new festival legislation ‘unworkable’

A group of Australian industry organisations has penned an open letter to New South Wales (NSW) premier Gladys Berejiklian over the re-introduction of controversial festival licensing laws which were scrapped just a few weeks ago.

The Australian Festival Association, APRA AMCOS, Music NSW and Live Music Office signed the letter, which accuses politicians of a “total lack of respect for the live music industry” and demands a roundtable meeting to discuss “regulation and safety at music festivals”.

Under the newly drafted Music Festivals Bill 2019, it is an offence for any festival deemed ‘high risk’ by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) to take place without drawing up a safety management plan for approval first. Failure to do so is punishable by a twelve-month prison sentence.

The proposed legislation was drawn up following the rejection of previous licensing laws by the NSW Legislative Council. At the time, the Australian Labor Party stated they would not support any legislation which included a listing of ‘extreme risk’ festivals.

“Labor, the Greens and the Shooters took away these regulations and left nothing in their place. This legislation will rectify that,” comments Berejiklian. “The situation is clear – music festivals identified as high risk under the former licensing system will continue to be high risk under this law.”

“Without serious consultation with our industry this proposed legislation will not work and we do not support it”

In response to Berejiklian’s decision, the collection of industry associations writes: “As you are aware, the live music industry has repeatedly expressed our strong desire to work collaboratively with your government on our shared commitment to safer music festivals.

“The draft bill tabled yesterday is unworkable. The industry was not consulted on the design of this draft legislation. In its current form, it appears to be based on the regulations disallowed by the NSW Upper House which were unworkable for all the reasons outlined by industry. Without serious consultation with our industry this proposed legislation will not work and we do not support it.

“Setting aside the total lack of respect for the live music industry which is the largest contributor by far to NSW live revenue and attendance,” continues the letter, “this draft bill also delivers huge uncertainty for all music festival operators and concert promoters in the lead up to the summer touring season.

“We believe it is imperative that you immediately convene an industry roundtable to develop a workable framework that supports our shared objectives.”

Berejiklian first implemented the regulations in February this year. The laws, which responded to several drug-related deaths at festivals in the region, have proved a point of contention between the live industry, opposition politicians and the government ever since.

On Wednesday (16 October), Berejiklian reiterated her opposition to pill testing at festivals, following a leaked report in which the deputy state coroner recommended the practice.

 


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Govt reveals plans to scrap Sydney lock-out laws

The New South Wales (NSW) government has announced it plans on scrapping Sydney’s controversial lock-out laws at the end of the year, except in the King’s Cross precinct.

A parliamentary committee has been conducting an inquiry into the effects of the lock-out laws, which were introduced in 2014 in response to alcohol-fuelled violence, and the wider night time economy, which will be presented on 30 September.

“I’m more than happy to relax or even repeal the laws depending on the committee’s findings,” NSW premier Galdys Berejiklian announced on Sunday (8 September).

“Community safety will always be a major focus for my government, but we need a balanced approach. Sydney is Australia’s only global city and we need our night-life to reflect that,” said Berejiklian.

The lock-out laws mandate bars, pubs, clubs and music venues set last entry to 1.30 a.m. and stop serving drinks at 3 a.m. The restrictions apply to establishments in the city’s central business district (CBD) and King’s Cross precinct.

“Sydney is Australia’s only global city and we need our night-life to reflect that”

Many, including Live Nation Australasia boss Roger Field and Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore, have stated that the laws have exerted a strong negative impact on the city’s nightlife. The planned changes to the laws have been welcomed by live music professionals.

John Wardle, general manager of music policy advocate Live Music Office, called the potential axing “a milestone in the rebuilding of the cultural and economic nighttime future of the city of Sydney.”

Keep Sydney Open, a grassroots movement opposing the laws, celebrated the decision – “a huge moment” –, while demanding more details about the decision to exclude King’s Cross and on what the changes would entail for venues.

However, the move has been criticised by the president of the Australian Medical Association, along with other medical professionals, as a step backwards for public health.

 


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Industry reps, politicians urge lock-out laws axing

An inquiry into Sydney’s night time economy has highlighted support from politicians including lord mayor Clover Moore and industry professionals for the scrapping of controversial lock-out laws.

The number of live music venues in Sydney has halved since the New South Wales (NSW) government introduced lock-out laws in 2014. The regulations restrict last entry to 1.30 a.m. and drinks licensing to 3 a.m. at bars, pubs, clubs and music venues in Sydney’s central business district (CBD) entertainment precinct.

Following an independent review in 2016, the NSW government relaxed regulations by half an hour for live entertainment venues.

The legislation was introduced following an increase in alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour in the city centre.

Speaking at a night time economy committee meeting, the city’s lord mayor Moore stated that “Sydney has lost its reputation over the five years following the introduction of the lock-out laws and associated measures.”

Moore said the laws have had a “devastating impact” on the city’s nightlife and night time economy.

The problem, according to Moore, lies in the failure to distinguish between well run and badly run venues.

“If the lockout laws are removed – we are recommending that they should be – we would be able to incentivise well-run venues, and penalise poorly-run venues”

“If the lockout laws are removed – we are recommending that they should be – we would be able to incentivis[e] well run venues, and penalis[e] poorly run venues,” Moore told the committee.

Live Nation Australasia chief executive, Roger Field, showed his support for the removal of lock-out laws at the close of the hearing on Monday 12 August.

Field referenced the “reputational damage” caused by the lock-out laws “both in Australia and internationally”, based on feedback from artists and their international touring team.

Justin Hemmes, owner of Australian hospitality giant the Merivale Group which operates venues including RNB Fridays, Ministry of Sound, Chinese Laundry and the Beresford, has also weighed in on the issue.

Originally an advocate for the regulations, Hemmes stated the laws “must go now”, adding that the measures had become an “embarrassment” for the city and its nightlife.

The parliamentary committee will report the conclusions of the hearing to NSW premier Galdys Berejiklian in September.

 


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Drugs deaths could signal end for Oz Defqon.1 fest

State authorities in New South Wales are calling for dance festival Defqon.1 to be banned after two people died from suspected drugs overdoses and hundreds more had to seek medical help for drug-related problems.

Joseph Pham, 23, from Sydney was named as one of the victims, while an as yet unnamed 21-year-old woman from Melbourne also died. There have been other deaths at the Sydney festival in 2013 and 2015.

Police in the state report that 13 people required hospital treatment, with three people still in a critical condition, while on site, 700 revellers were seen by medics at the festival. The situation prompted NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian to brand the event as unsafe and call for it to be banned from ever taking place in Sydney again.

Organisers Q-Dance Australia say they are cooperating with the authorities. The company’s website outlines its zero tolerance drug policy and carries warnings such as, “We want to make you aware that the use of illicit substances carries a range of health risks including the possibility of death, and is strictly forbidden at this event.”

Despite this and informing the 30,000 visitors that there would be “a strong police, drug dog and security presence upon entry into the event to ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing,” the warnings apparently went unheeded, prompting drug testing advocates to slam government officials for their ‘head in the sand’ approach to dealing with drugs use.

“We still have young people dying needlessly because we’re doing the same old thing over and over again and we have the mechanisms that we know keep people alive.”

“I’m absolutely aghast at what has occurred,” Berejiklian said in a statement. “I don’t want any family to go through the tragedy that some families are waking up to this morning. It’s just horrible to think about.” She added, “This is an unsafe event and I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure it never happens again.”

However, Berejiklian’s ‘just say no’ stance on drugs has been criticised as dangerous, while the government’s policies on drugs has been labelled as ineffective by doctors and campaigners.

Kieran Palmer of the Ted Noffs Foundation, told morning TV show Today the deaths made it clear the government’s approach of “just say no” is not working. “The difficulty now that we face is that we’ve been handling this with the same approach for such a long time,” said Palmer. “We live in one of the most privileged countries in the world and we still have young people dying needlessly because we’re doing the same old thing over and over again and we have the mechanisms that we know keep people alive.”

Advocating on-site drug testing programmes, he added, “We have the evidence. Shutting down festivals, getting tough on drugs, telling kids to ‘just say no’ doesn’t work. It doesn’t change behaviour.”

 


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