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This New NSW Parliamentary Inquiry Confirms That Sydney's Music and Nightlife Industry Is in Peril

It's given 60 recommendations on how to save it — none of which reference the lockout laws.
By Samantha Teague
November 15, 2018
By Samantha Teague
November 15, 2018

A permanent festival site in the inner city, a NSW Minister for Music, millions of dollars in funding for contemporary music and a biennial live music census are some of the suggestions put forward today to improve Sydney's wallowing music and nightlife economy.

While a vote to repeal to the lockout laws sits with the NSW parliament and is set to be discussed later today, a year-long inquiry into the state of Sydney's music and arts economy has just released its findings — and it has a lot of big recommendations. But, the recommendations are just that: recommendations. For any of them to become a reality, they'll need to be accepted by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and actually implemented.

Nonetheless, the inquiry's committee found that due to the NSW Government's history of neglect, and lack of funding, for the sector, Sydney's contemporary music economy is "disintegrating". While it doesn't blame the lockout laws for this, it does acknowledge that this is the sentiment throughout the city, quoting submissions from a member of the public saying that "the introduction of the lockout laws were a 'sledgehammer' to the city's night-life" and that "since the lockout laws, not only have the number of venues dramatically decreased, there is no longer the variety of capacity for venues".

Sixty recommendations were put forth by the committee, which received more than 400 submission from local businesses, artists and individuals — including Keep Sydney Open, record label Future Classic and the City of Sydney — and a large chunk of them talk directly to Sydney's contemporary music scene and nightlife economy. None of them, however, talk directly to the lockout laws.

If you have time to comb through all 351 pages of the report, you can do so here. Otherwise, here are the big six recommendations:

  • The NSW Government should match funding for contemporary music with that of the Victorian Government (which would total $35 million over the next four years).
  • Some NSW gaming machine profits should be used to support the live music industry (which, by the way, was almost $2 billion from Dec 2017–May 2018).
  • A live music census should be held every two years.
  • New live music venue-specific liquor licences should be introduced.
  • Outdated conditions for liquor licences, such as prohibiting music genres or specific musical instruments should be removed.
  • A permanent festival site should be created in inner Sydney.

It's also suggested that these changes are made relatively quickly, with the committee urging the NSW Government to complete and publish a nighttime economy master plan by no later than December this year. It ends with Committee Chair Hon. Paul Green MLC saying that to "neglect the music industry any further in New South Wales" will come at the state's "own peril".

This report comes weeks after the City of Sydney released its own plan to improve the city's after-dark economy, through the introduction of 24-hour trading in the CBD, later opening hours for bars and a new cultural precinct in Alexandria. The CoS has no power over lockout laws — that's sitting with State Government — and other Liquor & Gaming NSW legislation, which is why Ms Berejiklian and her team need to submit an action plan of their own.

Another potential spanner in the works is that a NSW state election is scheduled to take place in March 2019, so even if Ms Berekjiklian does accept some of these recommendations, there's no saying that newly appointed Opposition Leader Mike Daley will if voted in. Mr Daley has already come out to say he's against the winding back of the laws.

We'll update you as soon as Ms Berejiklian comments on the report.

Image: Frankie's by Katje Ford. 

Published on November 15, 2018 by Samantha Teague


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