Sydney Night-Time Economy

(Question Time, 15 September 2020, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

My question is directed to the Minister for Customer Service. How will the Government reduce red tape, streamline planning and licensing processes, and support the recovery of Sydney's night-time economy?

Response from Minister for Customer Service:

I acknowledge the ongoing interest and advocacy of the member for Sydney in relation to the night-time economy and particularly acknowledge his contribution as the Deputy Chair of the Joint Select Committee on Sydney's Night-Time Economy. Most members would agree that the committee delivered a first-class report, which laid the foundation for the bill that we will be introduced into this House shortly. In January we removed the lockout and drink restrictions from Sydney CBD venues, increased last drinks times to 3.30 a.m. in the CBD precinct and extended takeaway trading hours across the State. To support small bars, we also lifted the patron limit for this licence, meaning they can now host up to 120 patrons. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic the Government has been quick to respond with temporary measures, including annual liquor licence fee and application fee waivers, as well as allowing takeaway trading for restaurants, cafes and small bars.

We will introduce a Liquor Amendment (24-hour Economy) Bill into the Parliament shortly to progress these important liquor reforms. This next stage will see even more red tape reduction and further streamlining to support a vibrant and safe 24-hour economy. The bill will consolidate three sanctions schemes under the Liquor Act into a single, integrated system, which, for the first time, includes incentives for well-run venues such as ongoing fee discounts. Venues that do the wrong thing and breach the liquor laws will continue to be subject to close review by regulators and escalating sanctions. This single system will make it easier for venues to understand and comply with the liquor laws—reducing the regulatory burden on the industry.

The bill also provides further support for small bars by allowing these small businesses to provide more diverse services during the day and early evening, such as dining, small arts and entertainment, bookshops and record store services. Small bars will be added to the Government's fast-track approval process for restaurants and cafes. I thank the Minister for Planning in this regard. This means eligible small bars, providing they have development consent, will be able to start up and trade as soon as they make a liquor licence application, which is a big step forward. Importantly, the bill also supports more live music and entertainment. It removes outdated and onerous noise conditions from liquor licences and makes it easier for venues to have live entertainment conditions reviewed. Other changes in the bill will see the removal of the liquor licence freeze in Kings Cross and the CBD. In its place there will be a more sophisticated, evidence-based framework for managing the density of licensed premises. Collectively, these risk-based measures in the bill will bring about a significant shift in the way industry is regulated.

I am very pleased to say that this Government has just released a comprehensive strategy for the 24‑hour economy in Sydney, announced by the Treasurer and Minister Ayres yesterday. As part of this strategy, we have committed to further cutting red tape and improving regulation across the board. This will include improving applications processes to make it easier and faster for venues to start up and trade, and make changes to trading conditions. This is a major priority for the Government and builds on steps it has taken in recent years to better align the planning and liquor licensing processes. The Government definitely looks forward to working closely with industry, councils and the community to make this happen. Again, I thank the member for Sydney for his contribution.