Keep Sydney Open
(Discussion, 12 May 2016, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I welcome the many people with us in the gallery today who are here to listen to this discussion, and I thank them for their strong advocacy in getting this petition to 10,000 signatures. I thank them all for the way in which they engaged with politicians and the community to raise awareness of the impacts created as a result of the lockout laws. I will start where the member for Maroubra finished by saying that of course we are dealing with legislation that was rushed through this Parliament and that was imposed in my electorate without any consultation. Indeed we do know that it has had impacts.
I welcome the fact that the Government is now taking an evidence-based approach to the review, and I thank the member for Drummoyne for his very measured contribution to this debate. I thank the Government for the way in which it is engaging with the sector to improve these laws. I thank the member for Newtown for her strong commitment to improving these laws and Sydney's night-life. More than 10,000 people signed this petition, about the same number attended the Keep Sydney Open rally in February, and constituents continue to express to me how Sydney's night-life is suffering as a result of the lockout laws.
The Live Music Office reports that live performance venues in the lockout zone have lost 40 per cent in revenue from gigs, and these venues have decreased spending on live performance by 15 per cent. There are fewer places to go, with live music venues like the Flinders, the Backroom, FBI Social, Spectrum and Q Bar having closed; and I understand that the 1.30 a.m. lockout now acts as a closing time. Sydney is an attractive place to live and visit partly because of its arts and culture scenes, which are heavily supported by the night-time economy. If bands and artists cannot get gigs, they will move elsewhere. If the night-time economy becomes mediocre, fewer people will move here or visit.
I acknowledge that there have been public safety benefits from the restrictions, with a drop in hospitalisations and assaults, and believe that we can improve the laws in a way to maintain these benefits while allowing night-life to flourish. A number of restrictions apply in the inner city, including the 1.30 a.m. lockout, the 3.00 a.m. cessation of service, a freeze on new liquor licences, temporary and long-term banning orders, identification [ID] scanners in Kings Cross, the three strikes policy, responsible service of alcohol [RSA] marshal requirements, risk-based licensing and drink limits. Many studies have shown that blanket lockouts do little to curb violence and that earlier closing times reduce assaults. Interestingly, the 1.30 a.m. lockout is reported to be doing the most damage to Sydney's night-life.
Venues that promote a rich social fabric for our city that do not contribute to violence and antisocial behaviour should not be subject to the same restrictions as those with a history of violence and poor management. A more sophisticated approach to dealing with outlet density than the liquor freeze is needed, which in the environment of lockouts has prevented much-needed diversity. Instead we need saturation zones to enable new and different venues to open while preventing hotspots from emerging. Licensing should be renewable to encourage good management. I have long supported laws to reduce violence and antisocial behaviour associated with late-night trading. However I opposed the lockouts because I was concerned that they went too far. It has now been more than two years and it is clear that the laws need improvement to ensure that Sydney has a safe, civilised, diverse and vibrant night life scene. I support the petition and commit to working towards this goal.
You can read the FULL discussion HERE