Music Festivals Bill 2019
October 23, 2019
I wish to make a brief contribution to this debate on the Music Festivals Bill 2019.
As the warmer months approach, the music festival scene rolls into Sydney and other parts of New South Wales. Today I have seen scaffolds, tents, stage and fencing being assembled in The Domain. No doubt there will be more of that to come. Successful music festivals make our State vibrant and outgoing. They provide attractions for our residents and visitors.
It is therefore important that our music festivals are well run, well promoted and provide a safe and enjoyable experience for festival goers and organisers.
Music festivals are important for our local economy, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and millions more in advertising Sydney and New South Wales.
They are a part of our cultural enjoyment and provide a platform for local and upcoming talent to potentially become major household names.
It is therefore important to ensure that our regulatory framework enhances the entertainment experience and provides a safe place for people to enjoy great music.
Sadly there have been a number of tragic losses of young lives at music festivals, which initiated this bill. Parents, carers and the public must have confidence in the safety and wellbeing of all those who attend music festivals.
Part 2 clause 6 outlines a number of obligations on the provision of health and medical services being made available at music festivals for those who require medical information, advice and, in more serious instances, treatment. That will hopefully prevent tragedy from occurring. A safe music festival is everyone's responsibility and is in everyone's interest.
However, I raise some concerns about classifying certain music festivals as "high risk", as detailed in part 2 clause 5.
Firstly, the language of "high risk" carries certain connotations about the nature of the event but does not necessarily reflect the event's risk or the efforts taken to address safety concerns.
Festival organisers could have gone over and above the minimum safety standards but could still have that risk classification. Classifying a festival as "high risk" may deter people from attending it or unnecessarily raise parental concerns that are not commensurate with the actual risks.
Consequently it impacts on the economic viability of the proposed music festival and increases an organiser's financial risk. The flow-on effect of the increased financial risk from potential reduced patronage may encourage festival organisers to increase their ticket prices to cover for the risk. It could also influence the decision on whether such risks are worth the investment, which may result in planned music festivals not proceeding or being held in other jurisdictions at a cost to our local economy and cultural vibrancy.
Such scenarios are in no-one's interest. Strong public safety management plans can be achieved without the use of negative connotative language assigned to some music festivals but not to others. These are not mutually exclusive events.
Secondly, classifying "high-risk" requires a degree of subjectivity in the assessment process which has the potential to unfairly disadvantage some music festivals over others despite there being marginal differences in their safety management plans.
Regulation is meant to standardise the rules and provide clarity and consistency in their application but the introduction of subjectivity challenges the notion. Whilst I acknowledge that clause 5 (d) in part 2 provides an avenue for organisers to make submissions in order not be classified as "high risk", that can incur a significant amount of resources and flow-on effects to consumer pricing.
A simple solution can be found: Rather than assigning a "high risk" classification, the bill should consider an amendment for more neutral language. It costs nothing to replace "high risk" with words such as "nominated", "designated" or even "identified". The use of those words removes the negative connotations and flow-on effects of being classified as "high risk".
Good bills can become better bills when major stakeholders are consulted simply because governments do not know everything and do not have all the answers.
It surprises me that a conservative Government that purports to believe in the universal supremacy of the private sector will not enshrine its role in the regulatory framework. It could create a partnership and ongoing dialogue with the aim of continual improvement. Perhaps the Government does not believe in public-private partnerships after all.
A regulatory roundtable is not an unreasonable suggestion because it was the Legislative Council Regulation Committee inquiry's recommendations 1 and 2. All the inquiry's good work will come to nought despite the two recommendations having widespread support.
The two suggested amendments do not alter the bill's principles or intent but minimise the potential unintended consequences for the industry and allow for ongoing innovative changes to make our music festivals safer, more successful and enjoyable.
Let us also bear in mind that a vast number of music festivals proceed without major incidents. We always hope that tragedy does not occur.
That is not to say that safety management processes cannot be improved, but the way to proceed is to minimise adverse unintended consequences. Music and entertainment are a central part of our culture and lifestyle and provide significant economic benefits.
I suggest to the Government that these two sensible amendments can achieve improved public safety and ensure our thriving music festival industry in Sydney and New South Wales maintains its supremacy across the country.