Night Time Economy

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Legislative Council - 17 June 2020

The Hon. JOHN GRAHAM (20:06:55): I represent the Opposition in debate on the motion before the House on the night-time economy. I welcome the fact that this motion has been moved and I thank the Hon. Natalie Ward for the role she played in chairing the committee. I agree with her assessment of the valuable work of the committee. We support this resolution but we also support bold action now to support our night-time economy. It is true that the lockouts have been lifted across the Sydney CBD and that is very welcome. It was one of the issues I raised when I first spoke in this Chamber. The Government has been up-front about the damage that has been caused over the five years that it says the lockouts were in place. That admission is welcome, although the Government should be up-front and say that the lockouts were, in fact, in place for six years. Over those six years we lost hundreds of venues and we lost thousands of jobs.

The committee's report was clear about the economic cost to Sydney—$16 billion a year was lost in the time it took us to get night-time policy right. That was the assessment of Deloitte Access Economics. That is one of the crucial reasons why we should pursue this agenda. I welcome the change in the Government's rhetoric, which was driven by this committee and by other key members of the Government who have supported this agenda. There are many things that we agree on. We do agree on the economic importance of this agenda. The night-time economy represents 17 per cent of the businesses in the economy. We do agree that we have to get fun back into Sydney. We have to recover from the fact that Sydney was recently ranked as forty-eighth out of 48 in a poll of cities ranked for their nightlife. We do agree that this agenda has to extend outside of the CBD of Sydney, across the rest of Sydney and the rest of New South Wales. We support the 1,000 gigs that have been announced by the Government.

We disagree on some things, though. We do not agree that this is just about tweaking the alcohol laws. We want to see an agenda that covers music, entertainment, tourism—all the things that make a city great. We want an optimistic agenda. We have heard the Government's discussion about a 24-hour economy. The trouble is the laws that it has proposed do not run a 24-hour economy; the laws are about an 18-hour economy and the Government should be honest about that. We would also like to see more funding for things like music because we are still outstripped by Victoria at $5 million compared to $35 million.

There is more to do. It is still illegal to hang a mirror ball in some venues in New South Wales. It is still illegal to take the stage and play music. There are still seven agencies regulating noise in the State of New South Wales. It still takes months, between the planning and liquor licensing processes, to open a venue. Despite the Treasurer's plea for European-style outdoor dining, nothing has changed. There are 1,000 gigs scheduled for this November in Sydney but Melbourne has nearly 1,000 gigs on an ordinary Saturday night. There is still more to do. We need to get up from the bottom of the table and get some momentum back in Sydney.