Supporting the recovery of Sydney night-time economy and night-time culture

Sydney nightlife was already damaged by the lockout laws prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is clear that the sector needs significant assistance to recover post-pandemic. Jenny Leong MP spoke in support of the Liquor Amendment (24-hour Economy) Bill 2020 but emphasised that it does not go far enough and much more needs to be done to rebuild our vibrant, local hospitality and live music scene.



"On behalf of the Greens I make a contribution to the Liquor Amendment (24-hour Economy) Bill 2020. This bill amends the Liquor Act 2007 and the Liquor Regulation 2018 in response to both the impacts of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry in New South Wales and on the live music and night-time economy industries, and in response to the inquiry of the Joint Select Committee on Sydney's Night Time Economy. The Greens are supportive of most of these changes. While we absolutely agree that the bill does not go far enough to deliver on the much-needed support for the live music, creative and hospitality industries in our city to be able to recover and thrive, we need to recognise that in recent times these industries and parts of the community have faced a double hit of the lockout and the pandemic.

My Greens colleague Ms Cate Faehrmann in the other place will also address concerns raised by stakeholders about the risks of online sale and same-day delivery of alcohol. I place on the record that the good people of the Newtown electorate love the nightlife but we saw a massive shift to our community as a result of the imposition of the imposition of lockouts. It is important to share that we do not need to have a punitive approach when it comes to these issues and we can also have a recognition of a safe approach to how we deal with these issues in a way that supports our community. We need to get back to a city where we can dance all night as soon as we can. Our beloved late-night venues, restaurants and bars are doing it tough as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is our responsibility in this place and as individuals to ensure that our live music scene, our hospitality industries, and all those who work in them, are supported to recover from these very difficult times.

At its best, Sydney's night time is one of the best places to be on the planet. Our world-class restaurant scene, our incredible selections of small specialty bars, our character-filled live music venues, big and small, that have provided a home base for generations of local musos, artists and creatives, as well as chefs, cocktail makers and entertainers, are the things that make our city so vibrant, so alive and so great. These are the things that attract young people from all over the country and from around the world, when the borders are open, to live and study and work in our city. Now is the time to build up those industries, support our local hospitality industries, our arts and creative scene and it's tireless workers and dedicated patrons.

The Greens wholeheartedly support any measures to do that. If not, we will have lost so much more than we already have when the pandemic passes. And how great will it be when the pandemic passes? We all long to stand in a massive crowd of people again, chanting, singing and hugging. How much do we miss dancing all night on a crowded sweaty dance floor? How much do we all miss feeling the pull of the crowd lifting us up and down to the beat at gigs? For many years Sydney's night-time culture and economy has been under siege. Most recently it has been as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but long before that it was the draconian strong-arm approach of this Liberal-Nationals Government, with the support of the New South Wales Labor Party, which dealt the first serious blow to nightlife in this city.

Members of those parties came together in this place before I was here, but I acknowledge the member for Balmain was here on behalf of The Greens. He was one of only two voices that spoke out against this bizarre recall of Parliament and the implementation of these draconian lockout laws that smashed Sydney's night‑time economy, its live music industry and the vibrant culture that existed in this city well before the pandemic. Now we have Labor, the champions and friends of live music! I am sorry, but The Greens are the only party in this place that knows how to party. The Greens know that when it came to the imposition of the lockouts and the absolutely disgraceful behaviour of the New South Wales Liberals and Nationals, joined by NSW Labor—

[Opposition members interjected.]

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Order! The member for Newtown will be heard in silence. The member for Canterbury will come to order.

Ms JENNY LEONG: —and Opposition members in this place do not want to hear it, but when they all joined hands to impose the lockouts and destroy Sydney's nightlife it dealt the first blow to the night‑time economy, the night-time culture and the live music industry in this State.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Order! The member for Wollongong will come to order.

Ms JENNY LEONG: We finally won that battle, and we see a turnaround of things now. I acknowledge the Minister stating that the Government is trying to fix it. It is trying to fix it, but let us not rewrite history. We are not doing this just because of the COVID pandemic; we are doing this because all these parties came together to smash the night-time culture and economy, well before COVID came to these shores.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Order! The member for Canterbury will come to order. The member for Wollongong will come to order.

Ms JENNY LEONG: They came together and the Opposition supported these changes. This was a blanket punishment on everybody's right to party and to dance. What did we see as the first thing wound back? Gifts to the big venues. Instead, we saw the impacts of these changes. I hear members in this place trying to pretend that there were reasons for them taking this approach—and there clearly were.

[Opposition members interjected.]

Mr Assistant Speaker, I ask whether members are permitted to keep interjecting. Otherwise, I seek a brief extension of time so that I can respond to them as well as put my remarks on the record.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER: I remind members that the member for Newtown will be heard in silence. Is the member asking for an extension of time?

Ms JENNY LEONG: I ask for an extension, because I feel as though I have been trying to yell over the members behind me who are yelling. [Extension of time]

I thank the House. It is clear that the lockouts were disastrous for our city. It is crucial that we recognise that alcohol-related violence is a serious issue. However, if this Government and the Opposition were serious about addressing it there would be a recall of Parliament when we see the amount of alcohol-related domestic violence incidents that occur in our State. While it was an absolute tragedy that we saw losses of life, we need to recognise that there are losses of life in our State for a whole lot of very serious reasons. The decision to recall Parliament and impose this punitive lockout approach was not the solution.

In my electorate of Newtown we did offer a solution. As a result of the imposition of the lockouts we saw a significant number of displaced people who were going out in the CBD and Kings Cross instead come to Newtown. However, we as a community did not call for an expansion of the lockouts to Newtown, because we knew that would kill our community. It would kill our vibrant nightlife, our music industry and our ability to go out and party all night. Instead, we worked together as a community. I co-hosted a roundtable with the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre. We brought together the local police, the local liquor accord and activists, as well representatives from the community, local government and transport, and asked what the solutions were to address this problem.

Together, as part of that Newtown Vibe roundtable, we made sure that there was not a displacement of the violence, even though there was a clear displacement of people going out in Newtown. We were able to address the safety concerns as a result of the increase in the number of people going out while not completely shutting down our night-time economy, our culture and our nightlife. I note that we tried to share those reports at the time with those in Government who were trying to look at the solutions, but they insisted on continuing with this lockout approach. The roundtable resulted in initiatives including improvements to taxi ranks, calls for improvements to public transport so that people could get in and out of the area, safer bars training for venue and security staff and trials of ways to communicate between venues about problematic persons. This was the solution. It demonstrates what can be done if we do not just take a tough-on-law-and-order approach to look tough in handling a problem.

I also acknowledge and shout-out to the 12,000 people who signed a petition calling to keep Sydney safe and open back in 2016. I was proud to stand in this Chamber with the gallery packed with people—back in the days when we were allowed to have the gallery packed with people—and urge the Government to act. I called out the damaging impact of the lockouts on culture, and our right to dance and party all night. I also called for the impact on Sydney's businesses and global reputation to be considered. We recognise the absolute need for these changes. I thank the thousands of people who signed that petition. I thank the many people who came to watch that petition debate in this place. I acknowledge the huge rallies that took place before the 2019 election to highlight the plight of live music.

I welcome Labor's change of heart and its shift to this approach; however, I just wish that we had not had to see all the damage and devastation that happened before its members were to change their minds. Members absolutely know that there is a need for us to approach this in a way that does not just look at this as a night‑time economy issue, but recognises it as being about culture. As the Minister acknowledged in his second reading speech, it is crucial that we recognise that the night-time economy—and I would add to that the night‑time culture—is not just about the moneymaking elements.

Mr Victor Dominello: I agree.

Ms JENNY LEONG: I note that the Minister agrees. It is about so much more than just alcohol. We absolutely need to recognise that. When I was first elected I was able to write an op-ed about the introduction of the lockouts. In it, I mentioned the people outside the train station on King Street late at night selling punnets of strawberries. This might seem like a long bow to draw, but having people out on the street selling punnets of strawberries or offering poetry to people, or having kids out with family members sitting on the street having a meal, that is how you make sure the night-time feels safe, inclusive and encouraged. We absolutely should be looking at all the ways that we can do that in the current environment.

With that said, members also need to recognise that we should be able to party all night; that people should be able to make the choice to go out and dance if they want to. It is important to remember that once a venue closes not all people have the privilege to invite their friends back to their house to drink from their whiskey or fine wine collection. Not all young people have a fine wine or whiskey collection. All those years ago when I used to finish work down at The Rocks, not all people who worked at a restaurant or in hospitality and finished at 1.00 a.m. had the option to invite people back to their house. It needs to be recognised that many people do not have that choice. We need to make sure that young people feel included in our community, and that people who do not have other more secure ways of income and places to go are able to socialise together.

I acknowledge the 61 venues that have banded together to form the Save Our Stages campaign, which calls on the New South Wales Government to commit immediately to supporting live music venues in New South Wales throughout the COVID period. Despite being home to the biggest music industry in Australia, a recent survey by MusicNSW of 47 Sydney entertainment venues found that a staggering 85 per cent predicted their own shutdown within six to nine months if current trading conditions persist. The same survey revealed a whopping $70 million in earnings had been lost in the past six months. I know that so many venues in Newtown are struggling, and that so many artists and musos are struggling. Save Our Stages is calling on the New South Wales Government to work with MusicNSW and industry representatives to devise a stimulus package that will ensure the ongoing survival of live music venues, and support artists and communities who depend on live music for their existence. Both the Victorian and Queensland governments have committed to financially supporting live music venues in those States.

I urge members in this place, and particularly the Minister, to do all they can to make sure we are supporting those live music artists and venues. It is not okay if we get through this pandemic and there is no-one actually there to reopen the doors because they have not been supported during this difficult time. It is crucial that we do not focus just on the big end of town, the big booze barns and the big venues. The priorities of those big venues with serious money are about the night-time economy, but we need to recognise there is also a night-time culture that requires so much more. I am 100 per cent committed to continually advocating for the night-time economy in our communities. As The Greens have always done, we support a vibrant 24-hour safe nightlife."


Sign up for updates