On 16 October 2019, the Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello introduced the Music Festivals Bill 2019 (NSW) (“the Bill”) to the Legislative Assembly. If passed, the Bill will introduce a mandatory requirement for organisers of high-risk festivals to submit and comply with approved safety management plans.
The Bill is the Government’s response to the Legislative Council’s decision to disallow the Liquor Amendment (Music Festivals) Regulation 2019 (NSW) (“the Liquor Amendment Regulation”) on 26 September 2019. The Liquor Amendment Regulation was introduced in order to provide for a new type of liquor license for music festivals. This license would authorise licensees to sell and supply liquor on the premises. The Liquor Amendment Regulation also provided for additional training requirements for managers, agents, and supervisors of premises under the music festival license.
If passed, the Bill will give the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (“ILGA”) the power to direct music festival organisers for high-risk festivals to prepare a safety management plan for their approval. Additionally, the Bill seeks to make it an offence for organisers of high-risk festivals to hold the festival unless there is an approved safety management plan for the festival. The ILGA is an authority that was created under the Gaming and Liquor Administration Act 2007 (NSW). It is responsible for the regulatory functions specific to casino, liquor, registered club and gaming machine matters.
Clause 3 of the Bill defines a music festival as:
“an event, other than a concert, that—
(a) is music-focused or dance-focused, and
(b) has performances by a series of persons or groups that are engaged to play or perform to live or pre-recorded music, or to provide another form of musical or live entertainment, and
(c) is held within a defined area, and
(d) is attended by 2,000 or more people, and
(e) is a ticketed event.”
However, only high-risk music festivals will be subject to the requirement of a safety management plan. Minister Dominello’s second reading speech notes that the ILGA has previously identified a list of music festivals as high risk in the coming months. This list was part of an earlier media release in February in relation to the the Liquor Amendment Regulation prior to its disallowance. However, Part 5 of the Bill provides that festival operators previously required by the ILGA to apply for a music festival license under the Liquor Amendment Regulation will be required to have safety management plans approved by the ILGA moving forward.
The list included festivals still to occur later this year such as This That, Lost Paradise, FOMO, Electric Gardens, HTID, and Ultra.
Under the Bill, the ILGA will have discretion in determining which festivals are high-risk festivals. Clause 5(2) of the Bill clarifies:
“(2) Without limiting the matters ILGA may consider in forming an opinion that a music festival is a high-risk festival, ILGA may have regard to the following matters—
(a) any advice from the Health Secretary or the Commissioner of Police,
(b) whether a death has occurred in the State on a previous occasion at the music festival or in connection with the music festival in the last 3 years,
(c) whether a prescribed event occurred at a music festival, or an event related to a music festival, for which the music festival organiser was the organiser, in the 3 years immediately preceding the date on which the proposed music festival is to start,
(d) any submission made to ILGA by the music festival organiser about the reasons the proposed music festival is not a high-risk festival.”
Where the ILGA has identified the festival as high risk, and issued a direction to the operator to prepare a safety management plan, the operator must submit a plan for prior approval by the ILGA.
Clause 6(1) of the Bill elaborates:
“(1) The safety management plan for a high-risk festival must include the following—
(a) a site plan for the premises on which the music festival is to be held, showing entry points, exit points, areas of the premises and the proposed uses of each area, including the areas for the festival that will be used for the following purposes (each a harm reduction area)—
(i) an area for providing access to medical assistance and supplies,
(ii) an area for providing supervised relaxation spaces for patrons,
(b) information about the areas for the entry to and exit from the premises for a police vehicle or an emergency vehicle,
(c) information about evacuation points for the premises,
(d) information about the entry and exit points for patrons to access the premises, including information about any fencing, structures or other boundaries that will define the area of the premises to limit people from entering or exiting the premises,
(e) information about signage intended to indicate the location of health services and water stations on the premises,
(f) information about proposed health services and harm reduction initiatives that will be provided for the festival,
(g) information about how the health services and harm reduction initiatives to be provided at the festival are consistent with the NSW Health music festival guidelines,
(h) information about persons providing health services at the festival and the qualifications and work experience of those persons,
(i) information about proposed strategies to deal with the preservation of a crime scene on the premises,
(j) any other information—
(i) ILGA considers appropriate for the premises or the music festival, or
(ii) required by the NSW Health music festival guidelines.”
The NSW Health music festival guidelines (“the Guidelines”) were released on 27 September 2019 by NSW Department of Health. The Guidelines were developed in order to support NSW Health and other government agencies in providing advice on planning documents produced by festival organisers in preparation for the event. Compliance with the guidelines will be crucial to the approval safety management plan under the proposed scheme.
Organisers who fail to submit or comply with their approved safety management plan face a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units and/or imprisonment for 12 months.
Furthermore, the Bill proposes to impose additional obligations on organisers for high-risk festivals, including to:
Minister Victor Dominello said in his second reading speech:
“This new scheme is not about targeting certain festivals or trying to shut them down—far from it... The scheme ensures that the Government is able to allocate public resources effectively and without having to divert emergency services away from their normal duties because of under planning by individual operators. It holds festival operators accountable for running safer events”
On 17 October 2019, Live Performance Australia published an industry open letter to the premier stating:
“The [Music Festivals Bill 2019] tabled yesterday is unworkable... In its current form, it appears to be based on the regulations disallowed by the NSW Upper House which were unworkable for all the reasons outlined by industry. Without serious consultation with our industry this proposed legislation will not work and we do not support it.”
The open letter was signed by the Australian Festival Association, APRA AMCOS, Music NSW, and Live Music Office.
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Music Festivals Bill 2019 (NSW) available from TimeBase’s LawOne Service
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