MUSIC FESTIVALS BILL 2019 - Second Reading Debate

I speak to the Music Festivals Bill 2019. My electorate of Maitland and the Hunter region have been a central part of one of the most popular festivals, Groovin the Moo, since its inception in 2003. It was the vision of a local high school teacher and a statistician thinking that they wanted to put together a music event that everyone could be part of, an event that would include Newcastle TAFE music school and local clubs and businesses. It would be an event for everyone, serviced by local community groups, with the main focus being on fun and affordability. Before Groovin the Moo, if you asked my two young adult children what they liked about Maitland they would not have said the nightlife.

The Moo first grooved in Gloucester, where 1,400 fans saw amazing acts that they would never in their wildest dreams have hoped to see in their regional community. In 2006 we were able to get the event to Maitland. It happens in our local agricultural showground and is open to everyone. There is a huge amount of effort that goes into staging it. In fact, in the first year she tried to go to Groovin the Moo my daughter, who is quite strategic, told me that she was going to help out the local Rotary club rather than go to the actual festival herself. I think she just did that as a bit of a scoping study to see how things were going. It is a festival that has grown from our little towns of Gloucester and Maitland in the Hunter to go to five States across this nation and brings so much joy to so many young people, particularly in our regional areas. It has been going for 13 years. We are so lucky as a community to host it each year.

The festival does come with its traffic snarls, which we all worry about, but it also comes with that concern of many parents. I remember a year ago when my daughter went for the first time. All the parents in my demographic were at a fundraiser for a local charity. At about 10.30 p.m. or 11.00 p.m. we all started looking at our clocks because we wanted to know that our children were safe and we wanted to make sure they were getting home in the right way. As parents we are always concerned about our kids doing things that they see as a rite of passage. It is a long day for them. We wonder how they are going to cope with sunburn, heat stroke and the sheer number of people at the venue. For many of them it might be their first opportunity to be with so many young people. Of course, underlying all of that is always the fear of what might happen to them in terms of drugs and alcohol.

This is a problem that we all see in our community. It is a problem that we all have to work on together. I am concerned that this Government is not working with everyone. That is what we have seen so much from the Premier in recent times: A failure to work with others, to listen to the experts. I am a mum of kids in their late teens. I worry about them every day and what their response will be to drugs and alcohol—is this whole pill testing scenario just about encouraging it, as the Government and Premier try to portray it? I asked my daughter whether she would tell someone who was doing pill testing that she was on another medication. She said to me, "No, Mum, I wouldn't". These are things our kids do not understand. They do not understand the interaction of drugs and other medications. When they are at a music festival with all their mates, grooving around and being cool, Healthy Harold is a long way away. "Just Say No" was a long time ago.

We need to we see if there are other ways that work. When you have kids of that age you will do anything to keep them safe. Every single parent in that fundraiser that I attended last year wanted their kids to be safe. This bill is just the typical "Premier knows best" approach from this Government. We have got an industry that wants to make things safe. There is no benefit to them. My local Rotary clubs want to make kids safe at Groovin the Moo. The promoters, the acts—the people who were themselves probably inspired by these festivals—want to make people safe. What the Opposition is trying to do is to get this Government to come to the table and actually do the consulting work that it needs to do.

The Government's default position on every behaviour it does not like is to ban it. It is so arrogant that it does not want to negotiate with people who are experts. It ignored the Deputy Coroner. It set up a commission of inquiry to have a look at options and excluded options before it even got the terms of reference. There is an upper House committee inquiry report that recommends that the New South Wales Government immediately establishes a regulatory roundtable for music festivals. Where is that in the bill before the House? The Government should have brought that in its bill, but just like last week they bring the half-finished legislation. Where is the amendment from the Government to put in that roundtable?

As the shadow Minister for Investment and Tourism I am appalled that the Premier is not going to set up a regulatory roundtable body to ensure that those people who have the expertise around how festivals work get together with Government to find the safest and best pathways. I do not know; I am a middle-aged woman. I do not know what festivals are like. I have not been to one. I have seen them. I have driven past them. Why does the Premier and the Government think they know? Maybe they have a different lifestyle to me. They should be going to the experts.

Today I got a phone call from my local radio station saying that Groovin the Moo is talking about pulling the pin this year because this Government will not negotiate with them. That is not the way for the Government to ensure that it is keeping a good investment of local music, local festivals, local talents, and local jobs in our communities. We know that festivals drive jobs in our regional areas. For so long the Opposition has offered its bipartisan support for appropriate festival regulation, as it does on so many of these issues, and it has been rebuffed.

All members in this House want people to be safe at festivals. We spelled out four principles for festival regulation that we would like to see. We wanted no extreme hit list of festivals published. We wanted to see that health guidelines would be used and that there would be a power granted to require the use of guidelines where they are needed. We wanted medical providers to festivals be required to be registered and to adhere to NSW Health guidelines, which is not currently the case. We wanted the regulatory roundtable established immediately to allow festivals, the Government and local councils to work together. Unfortunately, the bill in its current form does not meet these four principles. The lack of provision for a regulatory roundtable is the most concerning.

Labor agrees that this industry should be regulated. No-one disagrees with that. It is the view of the Parliament, the Government and industry. However, regulation will not be effective unless there is a mechanism for industry and the Government to review and discuss these issues. We need to make sure that this is done. What is it saying about New South Wales when we have a bill such as this come before the House that is basically a head-in-the-sand approach by the Premier? We are saying that this State is regressive and ignorant, that we are unwelcoming to economic investment. We are saying, "Okay, go interstate". Where is the safety in that? Where is the safety in our kids getting into trouble at festivals interstate because they cannot go to festivals in New South Wales? It is such a short-sighted approach.

Police want to help. I talk to my local area commanders. We have got issues around how we keep kids safe. We need to have everyone in authority at those festivals working together and kids feeling safe to go and speak to them. If we do not take a harm-minimisation approach, and have experts at the table thinking about how these processes go forward, that will not happen. I urge the Government to do something very different with the bill than it has done for most of this year—that is, work in a bipartisan manner. I note that the Deputy Premier is in the House. I urge him to think about the kids in the regions who want to go to festivals and to work with the industry to keep them there.

Debate adjourned.

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