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Dave Graney: ?We Need A New Proxy!

DAVE GRANEY took minutes on yesterday’s round table meeting between members of Melbourne’s music community and Victoria’s government bigwigs.

1.30pm: Arrived at Treasury Place for the meeting at 2pm. What a pleasant garden it is too. I sat and read a book for a while. Then a crowd gathered, more people than I was expecting, but what the hey? We all went in and got security tags and were led to a conference room. This is who was there:

John Brumby: Premier, lead singer of the Brumby Government.
Brian Kearney: Australian Hotels Association CEO and former director of Liquor Licensing.
Peter Chellew: General manager, The Push.
Richard Moffat: Way Over There (representing Corner Hotel, Northcote Social Club and East Brunswick Club).
Penny Armytage: Secretary, Department of Justice (she has to write the rules and legislation I guess).
Richard Wynne: Member for Richmond.
Rob Spence: Municipal Association of Victoria.
Terry Noone: Secretary, Musicians Union of Australia (Melbourne branch).
Carl Gardiner: Managing director, Mushroom Music.
Kirsty Rivers: APRA.
Wally Kempton/Meanie: Bass player, Espy booker.
Tony Robinson: Minister for Consumer Affairs.
Michael Gudinski: Frontier Touring/Liberation Music.
Quincy McLean: Musician, SLAM march organiser.
Rob Hudson: Parliamentary secretary.
Jon Perring: Fair Go 4 Live Music; co-owner Bar Open, Yah Yah’s and Pony.
Clare Bowditch: Musician.
Dave McCluney: Atalantis Studios.
Andrew McGee: Torn & Frayed.

2pm: We all introduced ourselves. I took the opportunity to say I was a musician of many decades, had recorded 22 albums and enjoyed the chaotic and dynamic nature of playing in clubs as opposed to theatre or recital-type situations. I said they were messing it up and should de-link live music venues from the “high risk” category. Quincy read a letter from Paul Kelly.

There was an hour allowed for the meeting. John Brumby spoke of violence in the streets being the intent of the legislation and government focus on that problem. Tony Robinson spoke of the licensing reform process being a fundamental thing and a work in progress. There are apparently 611 ?high risk? venues.

Brumby put out an idea to replace “high risk” with a new set of rules. No security demands if music is over by 10pm and not if there are less than 50 people in a venue open until 1am.

Richard Moffat spoke of three venues he is involved in (see above). Two close at 3am and one at 1am. the latter has the most problems.

Wally and I interjected a few times to state that there is little evidence, in our experience, of violence at live music venues. I also objected to them talking about ?small venues? as if they were a marginal part of the scene, pointing out that most of the activity is at lots of ?small venues?. I also stated that these ?small venues? entertain more people than the multimillion dollar recital hall in Southbank.

2.45pm: Brian Kearney spoke. He said that the definition of “live and amplified music” became a “proxy” to determine “high risk” at some point in the ?90s. This became a point of agreement at the end of the day, that this “proxy” isn’t right and other things would be much better stressed. For instance, a venue with live music is “high risk” automatically, but a sports bar with a bunch of blokes and a giant TV screen is not.

2.50pm: Carl Gardiner from Mushroom spoke, asking that whoever is making these decisions in government should do more research and have someone from the music scene involved in any decisions.

2.52pm: Michael Gudinski finally thundered into life, testifying that there is no violence at live music venues and that the problem is with all the pilled-up douches at the King Street discos. He thumped the table and waved his arms and had everybody’s attention. It was pretty great. Like Khrushchev thumping the desk with his shoe at the UN.

I meekly mentioned that when I said “chaotic and dynamic” at the beginning I was talking of a sophisticated dialogue in the clubs between musicians and their audiences, not physical jousting.

2.55pm: Tony Robinson disagreed. It’s not only on King Street, he said, and they have ?data? to prove it. He and Penny Armytage also spoke of problems with ?amenities? (parking and people loitering noisily etc). They believe their ?data? is right. This caused much groaning and disbelieving yells. The Premier had to whistle to get everybody to stop. He enjoyed it. “Better than a cabinet meeting,” he said.

2.58pm: Armytage said that violence increases every hour after 1am.

3pm: Gardiner said the research is wrong. He compared a crowd at a recent music festival to the number of arrests at a cricket match.

Tony Robinson spoke again.

Terry Noone from the Union spoke, asking everyone to agree to John Brumby’s proposal as it was “a start”.

Brumby wanted to end on a note of “accord”, saying things like “some merit in your points” and that more discussion was to happen. He asked if we agreed and got a vocal ?no? from Wally to my left. Pretty much all of us disagreed. We felt they had created a problem and they had to fix it.

3.15pm: Jon Perring asked for a more sophisticated approach, especially from Liquor Licensing.

Brumby said the government would ?ask the Liquor Licensing director to take a more common sense approach?. He pointed out she is a statutory officer and that the government couldn’t order her about. He suggested she should be more accommodating to music venues.

Brumby wanted an ?accord? at the end of the meeting that would ?reflect? a review that would happen and also the importance the government places on live music in Melbourne. He also stressed the ?intricacies? of liquor licensing. He pointed to a statement of the government’s plans for the year that he put out last week. It talked of “getting the balance right in regards to Victoria’s nightlife”.

He also spoke of Music Victoria. And Victoria Rocks. Something about those, anyway. “Going forward”. My mind was wandering in regard to some language by now.

He restated that he was “keen to resolve this”.

There was no arts minister (Peter Batchelor) or Liquor Licensing director (Sue Maclellan) present and no lunch was served. There were juices and soft drink only.

Gudinski thanked Brumby for making himself available and asked everybody to “be positive” and that there were “more ways to skin a cat”.

Someone referred to the current situation as an “unfortunate glitch”.

The meeting was over. Some of us retired to another room to “thrash things out” with Rob Hudson, Armytage, Richard Wynne and about four other secretaries. Sixty percent of us stayed.

These secretaries were the “yes minister” types who spoke plainly. Hudson is like a straight Nick Cave. Died black hair and a sharp suit and unable to keep the sardonic smile from his face. He was getting all the cats into a bag. Pretty impressive. Armytage was also very good. She’s not afraid to admit she doesn’t know things. She seems to listen.

It was agreed that the “proxy” or “trigger” for the determination of a venue being “high risk” needed to be looked at, researched and changed. “WE NEED A NEW PROXY!”

Other, more “nuanced” definitions, taking into account the day of the week of the performance and the time of day, needed to be looked at.

It was also stated that any change by the Liquor Licensing people needed to be put to public discussion for 21 days.

It was agreed that there would be a further meeting next week by these people and three people from the crew who were there today. A lot of this talk is not in my area of expertise, really. Liquor licensing and the like. More for the venue owners, I think.

I also think the added pressure of the Save Live Australia’s Music (SLAM) [march](http://www.slamrally.org/) would help to push things along a little too. A real lot, actually. Better to be outside the tent, pissing in, sometimes.

4pm: Got back on the train and got a couple of dimmies at Ringwood Station where I changed lines. They were just as good as they looked, actually. For once.