LIQUOR AMENDMENT (24-HOUR ECONOMY) BILL 2020

I make a contribution to debate on the Liquor Amendment (24-Hour Economy) Bill 2020. To begin, I note a few issues. The bill includes changes to the New South Wales liquor laws to help create a vibrant, safe and strong 24-hour economy and support the recovery of our night‑life after COVID-19 restrictions are eased. 

 The bill only goes halfway there, in my view. However, the Opposition does support this bill. I will speak to a couple of components that have been mentioned by others in this place. The bill introduces a new framework to help manage areas with dense concentrations of licensed premises and alcohol-related problems. I will take a moment to acknowledge the need to limit harm.

I acknowledge the violence, trauma and anguish of those who deal with and suffer from alcohol abuse, those who have to deal with alcohol‑fuelled assault and those who are in domestic violence situations or are responding to those situations. My son works in emergency services and as a student paramedic already has been faced with the impact of alcohol‑fuelled assaults. I acknowledge that at the outset and commend that component of the bill. The bill includes a variety of reforms to reduce regulatory overlap in order to support more live music and entertainment at licensed premises. As many others in this place have acknowledged, it does not remove bans on live music. We have heard talk of dance floors and mirror balls. I say to the member for Charlestown that I do not want to hear any more about mirror balls, even if they are in chicken coops.

The bill does not deal with the fact that cover bands are compulsory. I acknowledge that this second round of liquor law reforms implements the Government's 2019 response to the report of the Joint Select Committee on Sydney's Night Time Economy. I acknowledge all those who were part of and contributed to that committee. The Government's approach to the night-time economy focuses on alcohol. Labor has said from the outset, and has repeated thousands of times in this place, that it wants a broader discussion about music, entertainment, the arts, culture and tourism, all of the things that make not only our cities but the region is great. That is what I will address today.

There has been an economic and jobs impact. In a recent MusicNSW survey, 85 per cent of venues suggested that they may close within the next few months if they do not receive further regulatory and fiscal support. We know this bill is a solution to an old set of problems that was brought about by the lockouts. The impact of the lockdown on businesses and jobs has swamped the previous impacts of the lockout. Following six years of lockout laws, devastating bushfires and now the impact of this pandemic, venues have only survived through hard work. They cannot do it alone. The industry requires regulatory and financial support in order to survive. We need a night‑life and—as the member for Wollongong pointed out and it is worth repeating—we need to be ambitious and make this more than just about Sydney.

The Blue Mountains electorate is usually an internationally renowned, vibrant live music and entertainment hub. We have missed the Blue Mountains Music Festival, the Winter Magic Festival, the Blue Mountains Ukulele Festival and many other festivals. In March 2019 the shadow Minister for Music and the Night Time Economy, the Hon. John Graham from the other place, visited the Blue Mountains where we held a roundtable with key people in the music space. At that time—before the fires, flood and pandemic—we captured a fantastic group of people and spoke about the need to keep venues open and musicians at work. We spoke about Labor wanting to see a thriving music community across the Blue Mountains and wanting to reinvigorate the touring circuit so that bands performed in the mountains on their way through regional New South Wales and interstate. We stand by that commitment.

I wish to acknowledge a couple of people. I could speak for weeks about all the fantastic musicians, venues and good people of the mountains but I will acknowledge a few organisers extraordinaire in the mountains who have contributed to the "Labor loves live music" position and advocacy. They are Chris Cannell from Music in the Mountains; Blue Mountains City Council for the Katoomba Live and Local initiative; Willem Hendriksen; Millie Hope; and Meg Benson from Music Hunter. I will spend a few moments telling the House about Music Hunter. Music Hunter, which is based in the mountains, breaks new ground. The organisation knows that musicians are not just providers and gigs are not just products. Music Hunter takes a human and respectful approach to showcasing live music.

Meg, who heads up Music Hunter, sees herself as a community builder. As well as the standard definition of "vulnerable" people that welfare groups identify as marginalised and vulnerable, Meg includes musicians and artists in the discussion as among those on our social priority lists. She promotes the idea that it is good for our mental health to listen to music, to listen to live music and to support musicians; it is something that nurtures connection and community and it is good for the soul. I also acknowledge Charity Mirrow and Fusion Boutique, an award‑winning, Blue Mountains‑based booking, promotion, producer, venue consultant and event management company that presents premier live entertainment to the local Blue Mountains area and beyond. Fusion Boutique has been presenting a large range of quality acts in the Blue Mountains for over 11 years, particularly in the genres of folk, Balkan and gypsy jazz, swing and bluegrass. They have worked in conjunction with the Sydney Comedy Festival Showcase in the Blue Mountains for a number of years, the Canberra Comedy Festival, Mountains Comedy Mayhem, the Blue Mountains Elvis Festival, and the Music Festival of Folk, Roots and Blues. Another good person working and advocating in this space is Andy Busuttil.

I have to mention the fantastic Blue Mountains City Brass Band, although it is not for everyone. It starts off our Winter Magic Festival every year at the head of the parade. I also acknowledge the work that a lot of our schools are doing to promote live music, especially the musicians at Winmalee High School who collaborate every year with the Sydney Jazz Orchestra. The Blue Mountains has some awesome local and internationally recognised talent, including Thundamentals, Urthboy and Innamech by Jimmi Carr. Throughout the COVID isolation period we have had Live Music in Isolation gigs, where various artists have streamed their music from Aunty Eds in Katoomba, and that has been really important for people to connect with on social media.

Those who work in the 24-hour economy have really struggled this year. Let's make the best of the situation with the bill and its various components, and not just focus on the important liquor amendment alone. Let's not restrict venues but rather concentrate on promoting safe live music, the arts, entertainment, tourism and fun. I support the bill and the amendment that will be moved. I acknowledge the work done by the Minister and his team, and I acknowledge our fantastic shadow Ministers, the Hon. John Graham in the other place and the wonderful Sophie Cotsis in this House.