Liquor Licensing (Entertainment on Licensed Premises) Amendment Bill - 14 October 2015

Wednesday 10 February, 2016

Mr TARZIA ( Hartley ) ( 15:46 :51 ): As I mention this morning, on this side of the chamber we speak in favour of the Liquor Licensing (Entertainment on Licensed Premises) Amendment Bill.

You recall that this morning I gave the house a bit of background into the industry, when I drew the house's attention to some figures of recent times and how, in terms of live performance industry output by state and territory between the years 2008 and 2012, South Australia has gone backwards.

One of the main reasons that South Australia has gone backwards in this regard, the industry says, is the overburdensome regulation that is stifling this part of the music industry. The sale or supply and consumption of liquor is obviously regulated by the Liquor Licensing Act 1997, and section 105(1), particularly, requires a licensee to apply to the licensing authority for consent if they wish to provide entertainment in the licensed premises or, in fact, in any area adjacent to that licensed premise.

The Music Industry Council (and I will talk about their submission in a moment) notes that this provision is the most onerous and the biggest barrier to the industry—that is, the live music industry—in South Australia. They also point out that in fact this restriction does not apply in any other state in Australia and does not apply to any other forms of entertainment out there, and obviously there are many other forms of music, such as recorded music, for example.

The bill aims to draw a balance between cutting red tape and making it easier for a licensed premise to host live music. I made mention of the fact that live music is certainly an area and a component of the identity of a community. As I mentioned, I have three local councils in my electorate alone, and one of them is the Norwood Payneham and St Peters council, and that council contains, as I said, the highest concentration of licensed premises across the metro Adelaide area. There are many of these council areas just outside the CBD that have quite a high concentration of these kinds of venues.

The bill suggests a number of amendments to the Liquor Licensing Act, but I want to focus on section 105 and the regulations that go with the act. They represent everything that can be improved with respect to our entertainment laws in South Australia. Many stakeholders have said that our liquor licensing laws, on the whole, are riddled with over-regulation and quite ridiculous regulation in some instances and these laws are certainly stifling our entertainment businesses, and it makes no sense that bars and pubs have to comply to simply play music.

The 2014 annual report of the Australian Hotels Association criticised these liquor and entertainment licensing restrictions, and this morning I made mention of their submission in regard to this particular amendment. In the past, they have called the regulation by this government on the liquor and entertainment licensing regime draconian and nonsensical. What I think we should be doing in South Australia is taking our lead from the previous Victorian government and the east coast of Australia where legislation has been enacted to give more freedom to entertainment venues to attract patrons, to attract consumers, because the results there have been stunningly successful.

They have been stunningly successful and very well received and they have, in fact, enhanced their reputation as being the hub of Australian culture. I would like to think that down the track people may think the same thing about South Australia but, at the moment, because of this government and the regulation under this government that is stifling this industry, that is certainly not the case in South Australia.

There is obviously not any one quick fix to the question of how we encourage more live music and the industry to grow in South Australia. This has been acknowledged on several fronts, but also quite recently in the report by Thinker in Residence Martin Elbourne, where it is noted that it takes more than just a regulatory regime: a range of measures are required to promote, to encourage, and to support the live music industry as well as those hosting that industry. It would take a mix of legislation, a mix of planning, a mix of education—a wide range of levers that need to be pulling and pushing in the same direction.

The Music Industry Council of South Australia recently made a series of recommendations to the state government in their submission in regard to this bill. The Music Industry Council is quite a reputable body, and I note that they are a newly formed leading music industry advisory body. I believe the MIC was established in 2014, and they have many recommendations which I think the government should certainly take note of. It is comprised of several members, including venues, performers, agents and producers, as well as representatives from the different tiers of government. Members include groups such as MusicSA, the Australian Hotels Association, local radio Fresh 92.7, state government, Arts SA, 5/4 Entertainment, Musitec, APRA, Adelaide Music Collective, Adelaide City Council and The Jam Room.

Following the establishment of the Music Industry Council, its members identified a range of low-hanging fruit, if you like—a range of recommendations—and they say that, if some of these recommendations were actually put in place, put into law, then what you would see is a great enhancement of the live music scene in South Australia. If the government is serious about vibrancy in the city, if they are serious about the live music industry, then they will certainly put forward some of these recommendations.

They note that the industry is certainly fiercely competitive. We all know that the live music industry is subject to many macroeconomic issues but also technology issues, which have contributed, perhaps, to declines in rates of pay in this industry relative to past decades. However, that is not an excuse. As I outlined this morning, we see states where growth is occurring and where the live music scene is flourishing. Therefore, this government cannot blame technology and it cannot blame macroeconomic factors. What it can do is work on the factors that it can control. It can and does have the opportunity to listen to stakeholders and the people who know best, the people at the coalface—the musicians, the stakeholders—and remove burdensome legislation and regulation which is stifling the industry.

Some previous commentators have blamed a lack of venues. Some people have also said that there is not enough talent. I do not take that view, but there are a number of common themes that tend to emerge that the government needs to take note of. Firstly, hotels, pubs, clubs and nightclubs continue to host overwhelmingly the majority of live music gigs in this state, and therefore they should listen to these stakeholders. Secondly, it is quite clear that the onerous liquor licence and entertainment consent requirements actively discourage or prevent venues from engaging live musicians and also from expanding their current offerings.

Thirdly, as they identify, there are complicated and potentially very expensive building and zoning requirements that also have the potential to discourage venues from starting up to provide live music. These add up over time and across the state. They also note that there are high additional compliance costs of venues to support live music, including WorkCover. There is also a lack of information for both venues and musicians as to how to engage musicians or even get a gig in the first place.

The MIC makes five main recommendations to enhance live music in South Australia. The first one, as has been mentioned, is to remove the requirement for separate entertainment consent on all liquor licences. This has been identified as the biggest barrier. The requirement for liquor licensees to obtain different consent to provide any kind of entertainment is obviously somewhat onerous and it discourages live music of any type. It has been raised time and time again by this sector as the biggest barrier currently facing the live music sector in South Australia. This morning I alluded to the submission of the AHA, who said a similar thing.

There are many examples of entertainment consent conditions that are onerous and Draconian especially upon premises that have held liquor licences for many years, in some cases decades, which were in business prior to the recent developments and changes. Improvement in this area by the MIC is a very high priority.

Another point of contention and another position where the MIC is quite critical of the government is where they say that in this current climate, where we are today and beyond where digital and recorded entertainment provides competition for live acts, retention of entertainment consent provisions after midnight will further expose the government's policy to mounting consistency challenges and continue to disadvantage South Australian musicians in comparison to their counterparts in other states of Australia.

The live music industry, musicians trying to get a gig in South Australia, performing in South Australia, are always going to be compared with our neighbours interstate. If a musician has the potential to come to South Australia, questions need to be asked. If it is more onerous to play a gig here, if it is more expensive because of those regulatory burdens to play in South Australia, if the opportunities per capita are fewer because of the regulation that is stifling, well, South Australia by default becomes a less attractive venue for some of these musicians unless the government gets its act together and takes notice of the industry and actually implements some of these changes that the MIC is suggesting.

The MIC goes on to talk about building code regulations to encourage the uptake of live music. Obviously, the Building Code of Australia defines classes of building use, and there are requirements on a number of fronts, such as fire safety, exits, construction specs, materials and ventilation. In South Australia, many venues have split classifications—class 6 and class 9b. Without talking about the size of a venue, areas which are classified as 9b will always have more onerous requirements with respect to air vents, smoke detectors and also sprinkler systems.

While not disagreeing that large assembly buildings will require safety issues to be considered, as it points out, in small kinds of establishments that do host live music the requirement to have specific and additional compliance costs can be detrimental to live music. Obviously, you always have to strike a balance between safety, but I think that the government should seriously look at where that regulation is over the top.

I note other states in Australia. Have a look at Victoria, have a look at New South Wales, the two states that by far have liberated regulations to free up licensed venues. If you look at those two states, in recent times they have introduced state regulations to free up and liberate licensed venues from some of these onerous requirements.

For example, at the end of 2014 (I think, October) Victoria introduced the Building Amendment (Live Music) Regulations 2014 to amend the building regulations to cater for these sorts of improvements. In both cases, I think that you will find, Deputy Speaker, the result has been a liberation, a freeing up of premises that provide live music from having to comply with provisions that are onerous and unreasonable.

We all understand that you need some regulations, sure, but the point has been made through fact and through weight of evidence and through studies and the money that is actually flowing through the industry in South Australia compared with interstate that we can be doing much better here, and so it is time that the government listened.

Another recommendation the MIC talks about is the issue of external noise attenuation in new buildings and developments. This is perhaps a little more complicated, but the music industry group, the MIC, will continue to advocate for solutions that are workable to these sorts of issues. So, I would encourage the government to look at the submission in regard to this. It is much more complicated than the amendments we are looking at here, but if the government is serious about making South Australia more vibrant, making the city more vibrant, this is an area of law that it certainly needs to improve.

Another interesting recommendation that the MIC talks about relates to minors being able to perform in licensed venues, and this was quite interesting when I came across it. Obviously, having opportunities to perform live is a crucial element in the development of young musicians. Recently, I and perhaps other members in the house, only some weeks ago attended the Catholic music festivals. There are some extraordinary young talented musicians in our community. It is fair to say that a lot of students do not continue their music in a professional manner after their high school and their university and TAFE years, and part of that is perhaps because the opportunities are tough. I have a cousin who is trying to make a go of it. He is trying to crack the music scene. It is a tough scene. It is a very competitive scene and often, unfortunately, very talented people do not get a good run because it is extremely competitive.

One of the things the MIC has brought to the government's attention is that in some jurisdictions minors are able to perform in licensed premises. They make the assertion—and it is quite correct—that having the opportunity to perform in a live environment is imperative as a component in the development of young musicians. If they can give a performance in a live environment, obviously it is imperative for their development and it would teach them so much. With many performance opportunities being presented in licensed premises, we should be providing a clear direction to provide safe guidelines for young artists to perform in these venues. I think that if we were able to do that, we would better support their development.

If there are teachers out there who have young gifted students or parents who perform and are ready to have young family members perform, I think we should give serious consideration to allowing young musicians to perform in licensed premises—as the MIC recommends—obviously with safety measures in place and provided that they are under the direct supervision of an adult. This will certainly increase performance opportunities and enable paid employment.

Precedents exist interstate for these conditions, such as section 123(3) of the New South Wales Liquor Act. However, I note that currently there are restrictions on who can perform in a licensed venue, and it is very hard for a minor to perform even though they are under supervision. I had a look recently and there are a number of very young musicians doing great things worldwide—look at 5 Seconds of Summer, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and Meghan Trainor. It was not that long ago that these musicians were under 18. We might have the next Taylor Swift here in Adelaide.

Mr Knoll: It could be my daughter.

Mr TARZIA: It could be the member for Schubert's daughter. Hopefully, she sings better than the member for Schubert.

The Hon. J.M. Rankine interjecting:

Mr TARZIA: Yes, exactly. The point I am making is that we should not preclude our youth from having the opportunity to do the best they can in any employment area. Let's face it, for some of them live music is the future, so why should we preclude them by not allowing them the competitive advantage they have interstate? We should be allowing our young people to exercise and practise their talent and give them every opportunity in life and that includes in this area. I commend the MIC for drawing the house's attention to this, and I am happy to have a conversation with them down the track about this sort of thing.

Another recommendation they talk about is in regard to legislation that addresses the limitations on the temporary occupation of buildings. They note that at the moment the Development Act 1993 does not apply any different criteria for the short-term occupation of a building, and for most in the industry it usually means an expensive, costly, long and frustrating process, with the result often suggesting that people who want perhaps to use a space temporarily do not proceed with an idea even if the building is otherwise abandoned. Especially in Melbourne and Sydney, you see these unoccupied spaces where, before too long, musicians have gone in—

Mr Bell: Or squatters.

Mr TARZIA: No, not squatters. We are not talking about squatters today. People have gone in and made the best of a building that was otherwise vacant, and so there is massive potential here. So, I thank the MIC for their submission. They make a number of valid points and I hope the government, on another day, will consider them.

The LGA also makes a range of suggestions with regard to the draft Liquor Licensing (Entertainment on Licensed Premises) Amendment Bill 2015. They are very supportive of some parts of the bill, however, they have asked for clarification of some other parts. Obviously, the LGA has a strong interest in this matter because, let us face it, it is often local councils that have to come to the rescue when there are issues that present. As a former councillor on a metropolitan council I often came across issues between residents and venues in the planning area.

The LGA correctly points out that the main intention of the bill is to remove the requirement for a licensee to seek consent from the licensing authority for entertainment provided between the hours of 11am and midnight, but entertainment outside of these hours and entertainment of a prescribed kind would still require consent under the Liquor Licensing Act.

I acknowledge that the intent of the bill is to strike a fair balance between reducing red tape but also maintaining adequate regulation, and the LGA supports the intent. I do not think anyone in this chamber would argue with the intent because we all appreciate that we need a sensible, somewhat appropriate, common-sense regulatory framework that does not unreasonably add to the cost of doing business. However, that said, the LGA would like to highlight some of the concerns it has, and makes the point with regard to the proposed changes and the potential for unintended consequences.

Of particular concern to the LGA are the changes being proposed ahead of more significant changes to the law that are likely to be included in the government's upcoming package of planning reforms. The LGA has not taken this bill lightly. It has sought legal advice, provided by Norman Waterhouse Lawyers, a very reputable firm, and I would encourage the government and the Attorney to look at this advice and reflect on the issues the LGA raise, and perhaps we can flesh these out down the track.

They make a number of comments. Firstly, they make some comments with regard to the limitations of relying on existing development plan consent conditions and highlight a concern that the proposed amendments have been based on the assumption that there are existing planning consent conditions in operation that can be relied upon to manage entertainment within licensed premises. Obviously, there are a number of questions to be raised here.

They say it is highly likely (through their advice) that a number of established licensed premises will have either none or inadequate planning conditions imposed under the Development Act, or predecessor legislation, to adequately regulate noise from those premises. It is a very interesting point and I would encourage the Attorney to speak to this point. They have a concern that the proposed removal of certain entertainment conditions under the Liquor Licensing Act may create a legislative void for what is otherwise the proactive management of noise.

With regard to triggers for a development plan consent versus a liquor licence application, they go on to highlight another concern. The LGA says that another limitation of the proposed approach relates to activities that could or would trigger or highlight an application to a planning authority compared to those that would require a new or varied consent from a licensing authority.

They make the point that, usually, an application under the Development Act would be generally triggered by intent to, say, undertake building work or a change in land use. The LGA make the point that there is some doubt in the amendment about whether offering a new type of entertainment (for example, live music or a DJ) or expanding the licensed area would trigger a new development application. I would encourage the Attorney to speak to this.

They go on in regard to noise management. Obviously, noise management is a significant issue. It is probably the most significant issue from a resident point of view when they are residing in an area close to a licensed venue. Noise monitoring and the management of the noise is a substantial issue where there are licensed premises that are situated close to or adjacent to a residential area. Obviously, everyone has the right to the quiet enjoyment of living in an area, and so this is an area that needs to be managed well. We only have one go at this. If we get this wrong, we will be playing catch-up. It will lead to many unpleasant conversations in the community, for all members, not just those who have a border or boundary area in the city.

Councils have advised the LGA that the current framework is working well. The proposed amendments will place, however, the onus on councils to manage noise issues between 11am and midnight. Unfortunately, councils are being misunderstood a lot of the time. I wish the government would listen to councils more often. Because the proposed amendments will place the onus on councils to manage noise issues between 11am and midnight, this will arguably undermine existing partnership approaches and it also may create a resourcing issue for local government, if you work on the assumption that there are adequate planning conditions in place to provide a basis for compliance action.

What I am asking the Attorney to do is provide evidence that an analysis of the potential cost impact on councils, and ultimately communities, has been undertaken. We are yet to see any of that, as the LGA have pointed out. It is obviously suggested and considered that the amendments that are being proposed will reduce proactive noise management. As you cannot get on the front foot and as it will be difficult to proactively manage noise measures, it will inevitably result in a higher number of complaints. So, in the absence of what would be a mechanism to efficiently resolve these issues, it would be unlikely from that point of view that red tape will be reduced in that space, because if you are saving it somewhere, you might be putting more on in other ways to make sure you address the concern.

Getting to the legislation, can I just say that I am here to listen to these stakeholders, and that is the problem with this government. For too long now, they have not listened to the industry. I will go through these figures again. The live music industry output by state and territory is such that, between 2008 and 2012, every single state has gone forward (bar Victoria, because they have come up so fast in recent times), but South Australia has gone backwards 11.5 per cent. The government and the Attorney-General can jump up and down all day long and talk about them creating a vibrant state, this, that and the other, but the fact of the matter is, in terms of economic contribution, South Australia is going backwards, and this government has no economic credential whatsoever when it comes to the live music industry.

Section 105 states that it requires a licensee to apply to the licensing authority for consent, and we on this side of the chamber are listening to the industry. The Music Industry Council are in favour of it—

The Hon. J.M. Rankine interjecting:

Mr TARZIA: People used to listen to you much more when you were on the front bench, but anyway. So, the Music Industry Council are in favour of it, the AHA are in favour of it, and the LGA are in favour of it. I would ask the Attorney-General to consider not only the positive comments that have been made in response to this proposal, but also to reflect upon the criticism of the amendment.

This is an industry for which South Australia is certainly doing a below-par job. We can be doing much better, and it is an area in which we can really kick some goals to better provide a vibrant city where we can also put some economic runs on the board. I will support the bill, we on this side of the chamber support the bill, and I commend it to the house.