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Keep Sydney Open and the Callahan Report

Defocussed Concert Crowd At Music Festival

This weekend is the second Keep Sydney Open rally against the controversial lock out laws, following on from the release of the findings of the Callahan review last month. The rally is expected to attract large crowds (you might see me there).

Last month the findings of the Callahan report were announced, with calls to reign in Lock Out Laws, including the extension of lockouts to 2am and last drinks to 3:30am in venues with live entertainment. We could also see bottle shop hours extended to 11pm, and alcohol delivery services available through to midnight. Let’s start with some positives; it’s a move in the right direction towards a considered and reasonable tapering back of the laws. More importantly, it’s an official record that the lockout laws have indeed affected Sydney’s nightlife and music cultures.  One of the biggest issues with the report however, is that it weighs the arts and music community against overall public safety, and believes the latter to be more important. As if the two things are mutually exclusive.

Keep Sydney Open has continued to call for alternative safety measures to ensure safety for people out for a night. On that note, half an hour will do next to nothing for the music scene in my mind. What will support Sydney’s efforts to be an international, vibrant city? This is literally copied and pasted from KSO’s Facebook page; Improve public transport, Improve police strategies, Fund anti-violence campaigns, Fund intervention programs, Widen CCTV coverage, Standardise an electronic venue incident reporting system, Encourage extended trading hours for retail, restaurants and galleries Encourage street entertainment, Shut down traffic in entertainment precincts, Install creative lighting displays, Extend hours for small bars and music venues, Incentivise well-run venues, Conduct an audit of licensees identifying any links with known crime organisations and Appoint a ‘Night Mayor’ role charged with overseeing Sydney’s night time economy (NTE).

Why have none of the above methods been attempted before bringing in the restrictive laws with economic and social consequences. I believe this comes down to a fundamental difference of opinion from our government. On the one hand, you have a focus on prevention through restriction in order to get results. On the other, you have attempts to bring about genuine, cultural change through education, improvement in amenity and structure. It’s not a quick process, nor does it get the headlines, but it’s real.

During the most recent local election, a night economy reform was a major platform for my Sydney Matters Independent Team.  We argued that there is scope to introduce policies and plans that encourage targeted growth backed by sound safety principles. This is an issue that requires multiple levels of Government to collaborate in order to achieve a positive outcome for the City of Sydney. A major suggestion that we brought forward was the introduction of a night mayor for the city as seen in other international cities, most notably Amsterdam. The Night Mayor would lead a not-for-profit foundation, funded by the City and the business community, to work with residents, businesses, the City of Sydney, the State Government and its agencies to ensure any policy decisions meet the competing needs and concerns of all in an impartial and consultative way.

I am really pleased to see the concept supported by the Keep Sydney Open team and I can only hope that this Sunday’s rally will keep the proposal and informed discussion about this issue alive.

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