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September 27, 2021

Franklin fights own government over festivals

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Mullum Music Festival could be next in the firing line under the state government’s draconian new legislation. File photo

North Coast Nationals MLC Ben Franklin has revealed he is at odds with his own Coalition government over the state’s controversial ‘high risk’ festival policy.

Meanwhile his rival candidate for the state seat of Ballina, Asren Pugh, has claimed that even Mullum Music Festival could be in the government’s firing line.

Previously it was thought that so-called ‘high risk’ festivals were limited to those that include onsite camping and alcohol sales, such as Bluesfest, Splendour, Falls and Tropical Fruits.

Mr Franklin said he has been ‘concerned with the potential changes to festival regulations and the impact that they could have on long standing and very successful festivals in our community’.

‘I have called many of the festival operators in our area and given them my assurance that I will do everything in my power to make sure that they are not impacted by any of the proposed changes’, he said.

Mr Franklin added that he had ‘spoken to the premier on this issue many times over the last couple of months, both in person and over the phone’.

But it appears those calls have fallen on deaf ears.

Uncooperative: AFA

In a statement issued after a meeting with premier Berejiklian last week, the Australian Festival Association (AFA) said it had been informed the government will not change its position on the implementation of new licensing rules from next Friday’.

‘Despite the industry’s willingness to work constructively with government on these issues, the premier’s approach to the festival industry has been an uncooperative and heavy-handed “put up or shut down”,’ the AFA added.

Mr Pugh has meanwhile lashed out at Mr Franklin, saying, ‘the truth is that the Nationals can’t and won’t stand up to the Liberals in Sydney’.

Direct attack

He described the policy as, ‘a direct attack by the Liberals and Nationals on our community, on our local economy and on people, young and old, that just want to have a good time.

‘Our region is the festival capital of Australia and we need a government that will support live music, not kill it,’ he added.

He said Labor would ‘work with the industry to support live music festivals’ and’ consult with festivals and relevant government agencies about a licensing regime’.

He said any costs borne by festivals should be ‘subject to full transparency and negotiated ahead of time’, there should be ‘a clear understanding of the impact of the licensing on festivals’ and proposed ‘harm minimisation measures for festivals including adequate on-site emergency care, and appropriate policing’.

He stopped short of advocating pill testing at festivals, although he has said previously that he would support it being ‘considered as part of drug summit’ if Labor wins office.

Mr Pugh told Echonetdaily that festivals such as Mullum Music Fest, which takes place in the town and Tropical Fruits, which involves DJs playing recorded music, would be eligible for support under Labor’s new live music policy.

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