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Final week two music festivals in NSW shut their doorways, the newest casualties of recent drug policing measures by the Liberal authorities.

Mountain Sounds and Psyfari, which had run for six and 10 years respectively, have been cancelled over issues about surging safety prices, and claims of presidency meddling. Organisers argue that is additional proof of Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s disdain for younger Australians.

The policing prices

On the coronary heart of the Mountain Sounds’ cancellation was a request by police, only one week earlier than the occasion, that the organisers shell out $200,000 price of extra safety.

“The mix of extreme prices, extra licensing and the enforcement of a stricter timeline left us no choice however to cancel the occasion”, an announcement from the pageant organisers mentioned.

Each native police and the NSW authorities contest the organisers’ narrative, claiming that the organisers had mismanaged the occasion, and failed to offer key paperwork and data till the final minute. Nonetheless, simply earlier than the pageant was cancelled, native police instructed media that they “weren’t anticipating any main drug issues on the pageant”.

No matter who’s in the correct, the closure of Mountain Sounds factors to an actual downside with the “person pays” policing strategy employed at music festivals. Beneath the present system, native police decide prices of offering safety on the occasion, which are then carried by the organisers. Whereas the system has been in place for over 10 years, there isn’t any clear matrix for the way prices are decided. As a substitute, they are often arbitrary, and fluctuate in response to the whims of the Native Space Command, a few of that are much more accommodating than others.

Whereas there was no precise coverage change, the current spate of cancellations and rising payments, point out that police could also be responding to the hysteria surrounding drug deaths by demanding larger safety charges. NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge believes that police are utilizing the federal government’s zero-tolerance strategy to medicine to gouge pageant organisers.

“[Festival organisers have] typically privately mentioned that they really feel like they get a shakedown from the NSW police”, Shoebridge instructed Crikey.

In line with Shoebridge, police have beforehand quoted “extraordinary and inflated” estimates, after which organisers have negotiated these right down to a extra cheap determine.

“Within the final six months, there’s been no negotiation by police, and so they’re sticking to grossly inflated prices, with huge proposed police presence. That’s making festivals economically non-viable and driving them out of the state”.

Mountain Sounds and Psyfari aren’t the one festivals to be priced out of their present existence. Good Issues Pageant stopped below 18s attending, a results of “exorbitant” charges for extreme police presence. Bohemian Beatfreaks, held in NSW Northern Rivers area, was requested for $200,000 by police late final 12 months, a dramatic escalation from the $10,000 they paid in 2017. Regardless of profitable a final minute court docket battle over whether or not it might even go forward, the pageant ultimately moved throughout the border to Queensland.

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In an interview, director Erik Lamir-Value mentioned he believed the arbitrary enhance was a part of a politically-motivated transfer towards over-policing pushed by the warfare on medicine.

“The record of ‘issues of safety’ they’ve been rattling off are so minor, insignificant and non-existent that none of them would warrant shutting an occasion down. So there’s acquired to be another motive there,” Lamir-Value mentioned.

The brand new pointers

The NSW authorities’s regulatory framework will probably solely create additional uncertainty for the pageant business. Determined to seem aware of a spate of high-profile MDMA overdoses, the Berejiklian authorities launched a set of interim pointers for music festivals, with the ultimate model set to be launched on March 1.

The interim pointers use a threat matrix to attract a distinction between low and excessive threat festivals, with the latter class dealing with extra prices and regulation. However the pointers are already inflicting appreciable uncertainty. This week, the director of Byron Bay Bluesfest Peter Noble claimed his pageant could be designated excessive threat below the rules, and that he was contemplating shifting the occasion interstate to keep away from skyrocketing prices.

Eager to maintain a significant vacationer occasion, Glady Berejiklian insisted Bluesfest wouldn’t be designated excessive threat. However Noble’s assertion factors to an actual downside with the interim rules, below which even opera could possibly be designated excessive threat.

It’s unclear whether or not the ultimate pointers will alleviate organisers’ issues. Two weeks forward of their launch, Music NSW says there’s been a lack of session with the business, and plenty of within the enterprise concern that almost all festivals will find yourself getting excessive threat standing. Shoebridge believes this may see them “smashed by seemingly endless payments for police and emergency companies, which can nearly inevitably drive them out of enterprise”.

We do know, because of leaked paperwork, that the ultimate pointers will give the federal government far larger management over festivals. The place beforehand the Workplace of Liquor and Gaming solely accepted an occasion’s liquor licence, it is going to now have management over how the complete pageant is managed.

The implementation of the rules has additionally been extremely rushed. March 1 marks the start of the caretaker interval earlier than NSW goes to the polls, and through this time, conference dictates that no new laws or regulation is revealed throughout this time. This implies the rules will probably be signed off on of their present type proper earlier than the beginning of this era, leaving little time to answer quite a few issues voiced by the business.

Welcome to the nanny state?

The spate of pageant closures are simply one other a part of the cultural wasteland that’s post-lockout NSW. Simply as many iconic golf equipment and bars have been killed off by the lockouts, the Berejiklian authorities’s ethical panic over MDMA overdoses (which, as Crikey not too long ago reported, make up a fraction of drug deaths in Australia) appears to be like to be doing the identical to music festivals.

In line with Shoebridge, the closures are symbolic of Berejiklian’s “warfare in opposition to younger folks, all dressed up as a warfare on medicine”.

“That is the nanny-state, however sadly nanny is extraordinarily well-armed and has a bunch of police canines along with her”.

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