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In 2017 the Northern Territory Government undertook a review of their alcohol policies and associated legislation.

Through this process, Music NT and the Live Music Office provided music industry submissions to the consultation process that spoke to some of the issues the sector had raised with these organisations as well as through the NT Music Industry Council.

We recognise that the liquor licensing regulatory framework is closely associated with the development of the music industry:

  • Many live music performances are provided by dedicated licensed live music venues which may also be hotels, clubs, or nightclubs or as ancillary entertainment in hospitality industry premises also including cafes and restaurants.
  • Licensed festivals, concerts and events also provide significant jobs and opportunities for musicians, as do community organisations

Given this relationship, this review has far reaching implications for the provision of employment, creative opportunities, and the cultural and economic development of the Northern Territory.

Objects of the Liquor Act

Currently the Objects reference that might be referred to where the interests of the live music and performance sector would likely be supported is under S.3.(b) as follows – to regulate the sale of liquor in a way that contributes to the responsible development of the liquor and associated industries in the Territory;

Including a specific reference here to the live music industry would align with similar references nationally, and provide a position from which the application process and public interest criteria be adjusted. Businesses could refer to this when applying for, transferring, or varying licenses.

This would also be an important reference for governments and for policy consideration where there is an opportunity for better regulation to support industry development.

Other associated references in Australia include –

NSW LIQUOR ACT 2007 – SECT 3 Objects of Act

(c) to contribute to the responsible development of related industries such as the live music, entertainment, tourism and hospitality industries.

SA LIQUOR LICENSING ACT 1997 – SECT 3 3—Objects

(b)         to further the interests of the liquor industry and industries with which it is closely associated—such as the live music industry, tourism and the hospitality industry—within the context of appropriate regulation and controls; and

VIC LIQUOR CONTROL REFORM ACT 1998 – SECT 4 Objects

(c)     to contribute to the responsible development of the liquor, licensed hospitality and live music industries;

WA LIQUOR CONTROL ACT 1988 – SECT 5  Objects of Act

to facilitate the use and development of licensed facilities, including their use and development for the performance of live original music, reflecting the diversity of the requirements of consumers in the State;

Further to this, a reference in the second reading speech as any associated amendment is progressed through Parliament that clearly speaks to the aspiration and intent of the function of these provisions would provide an additional ‘extrinsic’ point of reference if ever the intended operation of the objectives were brought into question.

Liquor Licence Application Process and Public Interest Test

Looking to the Application for the Grant of a Liquor Licence, there are over 8 questions relation to probity, including criminal history of applicants, financial management, legal and employment history.

The LIQUOR ACT – SECT 6 Public interest criteria in respect of licence or licensed premises has multiple subsections along similar lines referencing public health and safety, emissions, vessels, use of credit and more.

In neither the application process nor public interest criteria is there any capacity to reference cultural, social and economic benefit.

  • No reference to how many jobs would be created for artists and hospitality workers
  • No reference to valuing the positive contribution of live music and hospitality industry businesses.

We are of the view that both the application process and the Public Interest criteria be adjusted to also provide a formal opportunity for the cultural and economic contribution of licensed premises, events or program that provide jobs and opportunities for artists to be a specific matter for consideration.

Minors in Licensed Premises

The permissibility for minors to remain on licensed premises is addressed under S.106 and associated subsections.

LIQUOR ACT – SECT 106, Director-General may declare licensed premises prohibited areas for children

(1)     The Director-General may, by notice in writing, declare licensed premises or parts of licensed premises to be an area or areas where a child:

        (a)     must not enter or remain; or

        (b)     must not enter or remain unless the child is in the company of an adult who is the child‘s parent, guardian or spouse.

Many live performance opportunities are in licensed premises, which may then restrict the development of younger artists when under certain conditions there should be options available to support their development.

For teachers who have young students showing promise, or for parents who perform and for whom whose children might be able to accompany them on the show, providing a reference in the legislation that recognises their situation would enable younger musicians to avail themselves of otherwise unattainable performance and employment opportunities under the right conditions.

We submit that this section be amended to include the following reference:

A minor does not commit an offence under section 106 if the minor is performing in a show or other live entertainment performance held in the bar area, and is in the company of a responsible adult while in the bar area.

Entertainment Conditions on Liquor Licenses

A number of live music venues have identified that they have entertainment conditions on their liquor licence that unnecessarily restrict the types of entertainment that may be provided, including for example, the regulation of genres and types of music.

Currently under the LIQUOR ACT – SECT 31 Conditions of licence, the Director-General may, subject to the Regulations, determine conditions with respect to

(g)     the provision of  entertainment  on or at licensed premises;

Firstly, if we look to adjacent work interstate, the South Australian Government has recent recommended that entertainment consent conditions after midnight be removed completely (except for sexually explicit entertainment) – under:

Liquor Licensing (Liquor Review) Amendment Bill 2017

Part 4—Other matters 11—Entertainment consents and conditions

11—Entertainment consents and conditions

(1) A consent in force immediately before the commencement of this clause is, by force of this clause, revoked.

(2) An entertainment condition will be taken to be of no effect from the commencement of this clause

Along with the negotiation of the SA Small Arts Venue NCC variation, one of the other primary motivational factors that informed the establishment of the recent Streamlining Live Music Regulation 90 Day Change Project in South Australia was the removal of entertainment conditions from liquor licenses across the state with changes to the entertainment consent process that commenced 20 December 2015.

The compounding red tape from the operation of the entertainment consent provisions had become a significant issue of over-reach by licensing authorities. This was enacted through conditions on liquor licenses that regulated genres and instruments.

In NSW a level playing field had been the state government policy since 2009 under planning reforms to encourage more live music and performance.

Bringing Back the Music Community Brochure

A level playing field? We can enjoy a wide range of entertainment when we go out to pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafés . Large screens broadcast the latest sports or entertainment, recorded music is played through speakers. Many venues have been deterred from having live music because of the cost of licences and compliance measures—which in some cases do not have any relevance to the performance of music. Restaurants, pubs, cafés  and clubs no longer need additional approval to have live music. Venues across NSW can now offer musicians more opportunities to perform.

MusicNT and the Live Music Office would like to request that the government re-considers the capacity for these laws to regulate certain types of live music and entertainment, and looks to endorsing a process where licensees can apply for a removal of existing entertainment conditions restricting the growth of the live music industry in the NT.

“Ensuring Safe and Vibrant Entertainment Precincts”

As the terms of reference identify both “Ensuring safe and vibrant entertainment precincts” as well as “density of premises” as a matter for consideration, we would submit that this would be an area where careful deliberation around the positive benefits from better regulation aligned with associated town planning would provide more certainty for business and reduce potential land use conflict between music venues and adjacent short and long term residential development.

Where discussion around venue precincts might be premised under narratives associated with saturation and undesirable consequences, we should be careful not to also provide for the recognition of the social, cultural, and economic benefits of ‘destinations’. It has been said before that ‘no-one goes to Las Vegas because there’s only one casino”.

Coordinating Associated Functions of Government

It is recognised that it is out of the scope of this review to also provide for the associated revision of town planning controls as well as to the National Construction Code and other regulatory measures that are to be required if the genuine aspiration of achieving safe and vibrant entertainment precincts is to be realized, however we would like to provide some national references as a matter of public record to intentionally inform a wider policy revision.

Looking again to recent work in other states, from the consideration that followed in South Australia of the associated adjacent regulations across other departments that eventuated as the NCC variation, small bar liquor licenses and entertainment consents were progressed, it was recognised that

“There is ample scope to simplify the current regulatory system whilst still ensuring that common neighbour and community concerns about noise and safety are addressed”.

We submit that this observation is equally applicable in the NT at this time.

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