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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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NSW music festival regulations rejected

The New South Wales (NSW) Legislative Council has rejected regulations put forward by the NSW Government that imposed stricter licensing laws on music festivals.

The rejection means that festivals formerly placed in the government’s ‘higher risk’ category, and were most affected by the regulations, can revert back to their previous licensing laws.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian implemented the regulations, which placed more responsibility on festival organisers to ensure the safety of patrons and incurred many additional licensing and security costs, following a string of drug-related deaths at music festivals in the region.

The regulations were criticised by industry bodies including the Australian Music Festivals Association, Live Performance Australia, Apra Amcos and Music NSW, as well as leading industry figures such as Byron Bluesfest founder Peter Noble and Live Nation Australia chairman Michael Coppel.

“The government can now sit down with the industry for some constructive consultation on ways to improve patron safety at music festivals, including steps to reduce drug-related harm,” comments Evelyn Richardson, chief executive of Live Performance Australia.

“From the outset, we have repeatedly expressed our strong desire to work collaboratively with government on our shared commitment to safer festivals.

“Genuine collaboration with industry representatives who have decades of experience in running safe and successful festivals is the best way to promote the safety of festival patrons, while also ensuring NSW continues to enjoy the economic and cultural benefits from a dynamic and diverse music festival industry.”

“The government can now sit down with the industry for some constructive consultation on ways to improve patron safety at music festivals”

The government now has two months to propose a new set of regulations. Representatives from the Australian Labor party stated that they would support a regime that did not publish an ‘extreme risk’ list of festivals, that followed existing NSW Health guidelines for festival organisers and that ensured all medical providers at festivals are registered.

Politicians also urged the ‘immediate establishment’ of a regulatory roundtable, at which live music industry associations could consult with local councils.

“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,” stated shadow minister for roads, music and the night-time economy John Graham, speaking at the debate.

The minister also commented that no politicians met with the festivals at the time of implementing the regulations and that “no consultative body existed, or exists today”, adding that there is “no other industry that government would work with in that way.”

According to Labor minister Penny Sharpe, the “impact on venues and festivals” was not “accounted for” in the regulations. The minster urged the government to learn from its mistakes, referencing the recently scrapped Sydney lock-out laws.

As well as Byron Bay Bluesfest, other NSW festivals include Defqon.1, Days Like This, Transmission, Electric Gardens and Rolling Loud.

 


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