#savethebasement speech

Legislative Council

12 April 2018

In the short time that the music inquiry has been running, it has revealed a crisis in the NSW music scene.


I want to recognise the role of Chair Paul Green and the members of the Committee here today.


It is a venue crisis.

  • Venues fell by 61% in the decade to 2013 in the City of Sydney area.
  • Since then live performance revenue has fallen a further 40%.
  • Gigs are down – down by half over the decade to 2013.


The music inquiry has heard about the impact of planning laws on small venues, including these examples:

  • Multiple instances of mirror balls in venues, being banned.
  • This condition applied to Sydney’s radical arts festival, the Sydney Fringe: ‘no dancing, no DJs’.
  • In Newcastle a ukulele lesson for over 60’s banned, after a single noise complaint, at 5.30pm on a Monday afternoon.
  • In Terrigal, a pub had to defend itself in court. It was accused of breaching this condition: ‘no rock music’.


I am no small government zealot.


However there are some things government just should not do.


Firstly, Government shouldn’t tell you what style of music to listen to.


Secondly, Government shouldn’t tell you when, and where, you can dance.


Finally, no interior decorating!


There is no way I would let the planning department or local govt decorate my home.


Why should the rule be different for the state’s entertainment venues?


I believe we should say these are simply not matters for planning or local government regulation, as they have done in South Australia.


It is against that backdrop, that the news of the closure of the Basement broke on the 25th of March.


It was our oldest licensed music venue in Sydney.


Throwing open its doors on the 10th of May 1972, The Basement was a home for our best songwriters and performers:


Deborah Conway

The Whitlams

Kate Ceberano

Paul Kelly

Renee Geyer

James Reyne

Ian Moss and Jimmy Barnes

Tommy Emmanuel and

Vince Jones

Don Burrows

Keith Urban


International musicians:


Dizzy Gillespie

Herbie Hancock

Prince after party (2003)

Maynard Ferguson

Taj Mahal


This space in the Basement was fundamental to maintaining and developing the Australian music industry.


Over the course of this week, I have spoken to many, many fans, musicians, promoters and MPs who have spoken of their heartbreak to lose this space.


I have also spoken a number of times to AMP Capital who manage the building at 7 Macquarie Place.


They emphasised their past support for The Basement, having partnered with the business for over a decade. 


They have also emphasised their willingness to continue to keep the venue as a live music venue and have already begun an expression of interest process, inviting live music operators to contact them. 


They confirmed they have been approached by multiple music operators interested in continuing to use the space as a music venue.


They offered to be a part of a dialogue with industry and government, prior to decisions being made.


AMP Capital have said they would like to see the space continue as a music venue.


I welcome these commitments.


That is no guarantee though.


The risk here remains, that Sydney ends up losing an iconic music space, and developing one more restaurant. 


If this was London, which suffered a similar venue crisis – this space would now be deemed an ‘Asset of Community Value’ and protected.


It is the Parliament’s business to assert the public interest in retaining a music space in the city.


This house did so yesterday.


“This house notes the support which the current owners of the property have shown for The Basement, and a calls on them to consider all options to keep the current space operating as a music venue.”


I thank my colleagues on both sides of the chamber for supporting this resolution.


I reinforce that view today.


It is the view of this parliament.


The view of the industry.


The view of the public.


We want to keep music playing in this special space.