By Daini Stephenson.
Last week the NSW live music industry was used as a fall guy.
The recent drug involved deaths and incidents at NSW festivals have caused a right stir in Australia’s political climate of late, with tyrannical dinosaurs ignoring a harsh, but very factual reality of the 21st century: People take drugs.
The NSW Government are getting really good at refusing death and injury prevention strategies, and as the pill testing conversation dies out, the ‘war on festivals’ continues, and music itself has become the scapegoat.
Last week, NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian introduced new licensing agreement laws applying to festivals that are considered ‘high-risk’. Festivals that previously have had deaths and a considerable number of harmful incidents will be categorised as ‘high-risk’, which, under the new agreements, will force festival owners and organisers to comply with a ‘user-pay’ system for onsite police and health services. To put it simply, and directly quote the horse’s mouth:
“...festivals which have had deaths or serious injuries in the past will be deemed high risk and will have to "step up”".
Festivals have always been places of extremes, and when drugs, heatwaves and festivals meet in NSW of late, young people have been falling victim to overdoses and ill-use.
There is no denying that some festivals should be considered high-risk, and the owners of these festivals should have to re-evaluate how they run a festival. However, this new policy of a ‘user-pay’ system has been unfairly applied to other festivals where there has been no history of drug-related issues. Mountain Sounds Festival, which was supposed to happen last weekend for it’s 5th consecutive year, was cancelled just one week out. A direct result of the newly imposed safety, licensing and security costs.
Regardless of the fact that the festival has had no major incidence of drugs or drug related crime in the years prior. Way to kill the vibe, Gladys.
It seems as though there is a problem, and the problem isn’t really being approached. It’s a classic case of psychology really - The issue is being suppressed and blame is being projected towards easier targets. People are taking drugs, people will continue to take drugs, but the education surrounding the power of these drugs is completely denied and the quick fix seems to be the suppression of culture itself.
Affective policy and realistic implementation will be a result if and when the NSW Government tackle the crux of the problem, that Australian youth aren’t provided with enough education about drug-taking, other than the abrasive and ineffective ‘don’t take drugs, they will kill you.’
What about perhaps creating a safer environment for the inevitable?
A disproportionate component of these NSW licensing agreement laws is that their targeting mostly youth festivals, whereby a good old iron fist is being used to make festival organisers pay the Government to hire police and medical services, and if you can’t pay, then festival no more. And who takes the smack? The live music industry. A thriving, booming and culturally positive economy, where the purpose is enjoyment and trust is employed.
Sure, ban the man that doesn’t comply to rules and regulations regarding festival legislation, but don’t just take it away all together, that’s not saving anyone.
At home here in Byron Bay, we almost lost our chance to celebrate our very own Blues Fest for its 30th anniversary, as the Government's festival policies would have forced Blues Fest out of NSW.
Following the cancellation of Mountain Sounds and the foreseeable threat to the music industry in NSW, Blues Fest Festival Director, Peter Noble, issued an open letter to the NSW Government stating that despite Blues Fest’s policies being that of an industry leader in regard to alcohol, medical services, crowd security and care, Blues Fest would cop the same regulatory beating.
All the hard work building Blues Fest to be the best in the country would be eradicated and stomped all over by a policy that should not even apply to them.
The result of a panicking Government who has rushed the judgement of the music industry, without any consultation of stake-holders or meeting with entertainment & music industry professionals. Furthermore, Noble ends with a punch line of the century, as he claims to charge the Government with a systematic failure in fairness, imploring all politicians from all parties to become involved with what is a serious injustice.
Hey Gladys, maybe you can ask festival organisers (the ones who plan, run and know all the ins and outs) what else they think can be done in order to create safe and enjoyable festivals?
With all the backlash from the ‘war on festivals,’ things are heating up. A new initiative, Don’t Kill Live Music has been born out of a people power throwback, challenging Gladys’ dinosaur behaviour.
This initiative is seeing the likes of some of the biggest names in Australia’s music industry co-signing the petition to protect an industry that doesn’t deserve the blame. 115,000 have already signed the petition that will be further actioned with a rally today in Sydney’s Hyde Park from 6pm.
Gladys, no knee-jerk reaction ever got anyone anywhere. Your interstate brothers and sisters in QLD and VIC seem to be investing in music and the live arts, and their ability to create safe spaces has been doing them good.
Follow suit, would you?
If you are in or anywhere near Sydney today, Thursday the 21st of February, get on down to Hyde Park at 6pm to show your support of the music industry in Australia, and your opposition to the suppression of culture and freedom.
The rally organiser’s have been kind enough to add a slew of great Australian bands to remind the brass just what it is we will be losing if these laws are able to continue to continue unopposed. There will be live performances from Ocean Alley, The Rubens, Cloud Control, Dan Sultan with Polish Club, Urthboy and Olympia.
If you aren’t in Sydney, you can still show your support by signing the petition here.