Top Five Takeaways from NTIA’s Q&A with NSW Labor’s John Graham

The NTIA was thrilled to host a Q&A session with the Shadow Minister for the Night Time Economy and Music, the Hon. John Graham at Waywards in Newtown.

In case you were unable to make it we’ve pulled out some of the top five takeaways from yesterday’s event. 

1) “We need to finish the job” – Hon. John Graham

“Think about where we were four years ago, the lockdowns in place and a very tough attitude towards venues, a war on festivals and a war on music and really a government approach that was really way out of line with the sector. To turn that around in four years time because of the work everyone’s done, it’s a dramatically different environment. I think that’s a huge achievement. The discussions turned around. Everyone’s for vibrancy now, everyone knows we’ve got to bring the city back. What’s really got to happen though is we’ve got to deliver that result on the streets of the city and that hasn’t happened. So for me, the number one thing that we’ve got to do, the goal of this campaign and the work we can do together is to finish the job.”

2) Backing the Office of the 24 Hour Economy Commissioner

“We called for the 24 Hour Economy Commissioner role to be established very early on, and that was really based on discussions with industry, but also talking to some of the international campaigners and policy activists on this agenda around the world. This was one of the key things that cities could do to transform their city.

“The government was opposed early on, but then thankfully came on board with that agenda and I think made a very good appointment. One of the things when I look at what’s going on is I see the big agencies and you’re thinking there about Transport, Planning, Police and Liquor and Gaming. Really these are the heavyweights of the government departments and the Commissioner’s Office is a bit outgun doing a great job, but a bit outgun. So I think what we can do is make that role permanently supported. I’m not clear on whether the government’s guaranteed funding is going forward. I think that’s a big question. It is, and I think that’s something that the industry should certainly be raising. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve said we’ll make it a permanent statutory appointment. There’s a real role here, but what I want to do is give the office superpowers. That’s the way to deal with these problems, actually lift it up and give it a role dealing with the big agencies.”

3) Addressing sound and noise regulation and complaint processes

“Some of the best music venues in the city are under pressure from noise complaints. There’s some people exploiting the system. They know there’s seven regulators and they’re using all seven. That’s one of the things we’re going to change if we’re elected on the weekend.”

“At the moment the settings are wrong. I think there’s just no question about it. No one’s happy because neighbours don’t know who to talk to except if they become experts in the noise complaint system – which is a problem as well.

“But venues or operators don’t have the sort of protection that they need. So again, this has been hard. This is not the sort of thing you can change from opposition. Our goal will be two things. One to simplify the regulators and simplify the laws so there are less options for people to use in that sort of situation. And also to make it easier to know where to go. So it might be somewhere to call into. So if you’ve got a legitimate concern, who to call. But on the end of that phone is someone who is pro venue, pro entertainment, keeping the city vibrant, who can help someone move through. That’s the sort of balance that we’d like to move towards.”

4) 24-Hour Public Transportation

“24 Hour public transport is one of the ones that Jo Haylen, the Shadow Minister for Transport and I have talked about quite a bit and I know she’s very committed to. We’ve looked at Melbourne and seen how big transport has been as part of the Melbourne dynamic and the solutions down there and we’ve looked at other cities overseas and seen the same thing. So it’s a key part of the proposal that’s good for people going out.

“It’s also really important for shift workers and people working the night shift just to be able to get home. At the moment, that’s almost impossible for some people. Think about the thousands of health workers working out at Liverpool hospital late at night doing the shift work, almost impossible to then get public transport. So both for this sector but more broadly for night time workers, we’ve really got to have a look at how the whole city works when it comes to transportation. I don’t want to pretend that’ll be quick or easy – they’re major challenges, but it’s certainly key to the solution.”

5) Industry and government must work together in partnership to revitalise the night.

“The only way we’ve got to where we are now is because of the role that industry’s played. This isn’t something that government does well. That’s the truth of it, and I’ve said that I’m a strong supporter of the public sector.

“What the government doesn’t do well is public fun. We’re going to let loose the creative spirits in the city. We don’t want our good venues, our good festivals replaced by public festivals only. Government operating fun just is not going to work in the city. There’s a role for it, but it can’t be the only role. This has got to be industry led. That’s absolutely crucial. 

“The potential here is enormous, but that only happens if industries are leading the way and the government is in there playing a supporting role with funding, with regulatory change. Let’s see what’s possible.”

The NTIA invited relevant Coalition Ministers to join John Graham in today’s event but they stated they were unable to attend.