A New Director!

Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our non-esteemed Director of Liquor Licensing Sue MacLellan has either been given the flick or wisely left of her own accord, at the end of her 5-year term, and we have a new Director, Mark Brennan.

He starts work tomorrow, Saturday May 8, according to the Government's press release. Which is here: Appointment of new Director of Liquor Licensing.

From reading the press release, it appears to me that Brennan has a solid background in dealing with and supporting small businesses, which is great, and music is high on the agenda, which is extra great. We'll see how the next couple of weeks unfold, I guess.

There will no doubt be quite a few articles written about this—I will keep collecting them in the Links section… see the May 2010 page.

Brennan's appointment is for 2 years—by 2 years’ time the amalgamation of Liquor Licensing with Gaming will be complete. (There was an article about this restructure in this week's Melbourne Times, #17, p14)

Live music 'not tied to violence'
It's not a long article, published in today's Age, but it packs a punch. It begins by saying Victoria Police and Melbourne City councillors have backed the music industry's view that live music does not lead to violence.

It has a few more very good points, including:
"Victoria Police's Senior Sergeant Michelle Young, who leads Melbourne's regional licensing unit, said most venues she worked with were well managed and co-operative. She did not believe there was a link between live music and violence."

Read it here: Live music 'not tied to violence'.

Till next time ~ Robin

Easter News

photo © Carbie Warbie

Yesterday a group of musicians spanning many generations handed Greens arts spokeswoman Sue Pennicuik a petition signed by 22,000 people, which asks the Government to remove the link between live music and high-risk liquor licence conditions.

Ms Pennicuik (the other Sue) will present it to the Parliament next week.

Here's the press release from S.L.A.M and Fair Go 4 Live Music:

Over 20,000 Victorians demand that ‘high-risk’ conditions be de-linked from live music.
12.30pm Parliament House, Melbourne

Since the closure of The Tote Hotel in mid-January, the Fair Go 4 Live Music petition has been collecting signatures from music lovers all around Victoria, calling on the State Government to overturn the link between live music and ‘high risk’ conditions on liquor licenses for live music venues.

Melbourne’s musicians and music lovers marched through the city streets for the SLAM Rally on February 23rd and it’s time to return to the steps of Parliament with the delivery of the petition to the Legislative Council on Wednesday April 7th 2010 by various decades of well-known Victorian musicians.

The Victorian musicians who will be presenting the Fair Go 4 Live Music petition to Parliament are:

1930s – Harold Frith
1940s – Mike Rudd
1940s – Ross Wilson
1960s – Jon Von Goes
1960s – Clare Bowditch
1970s – Kram
1970s – Angie Hart
1980s – Dan Sultan
1980s – Evelyn Morris

Despite the signing of the Live Music Accord with the State Government, the link between live music and ‘high risk’ still exists. More disturbingly, no venues have had their high risk conditions removed since the signing of the Accord. The music industry and the public want to see real action on this issue. We want action, not just Accords. The threat to Victoria’s vibrant live music culture remains in place.

The 22,000 signatures attest to the public support of live music. SLAM, FG4LM and Music Victoria will redouble their efforts to bring this issue to the attention of the public.

SLAM petition makes it to Parliament - story on triple j
Musos take fight to Parliament - The Age

Remove Sue MacLellan campaign
At the end of March I put up a new page on this website… Remove Sue campaign.

There has now been word the Government are restructuring arrangements for liquor licensing, but it's still possible MacLellan may remain in her role for another year, and every week that goes by with her in charge, more damage is done to music venues and the music industry. Please consider campaigning in some way to make sure she is removed from her position as soon as possible.

New Facebook page
I've now set up a Facebook page… Music Doesn't Make You Violent, to help publicise this website and the issues. Please fan yourself!

Articles and letters
I've also added an Articles and letters section to the website, primarily for writing not published elsewhere online. There's one article so far, by the Reverend Canon John Fowler, about how our pubs are essential training grounds for musicians: Pubs Give ‘Live’ Line to Local Bands.

Please drop me a line if you would like me to publish an article or letter for you.

More articles
Two other great articles have appeared. One is Labor's HOT Seats can save Live Music's Universities, by Martin Cooper. It includes a moving description of a music session at the Lomond Hotel, where both kids and adults learned from experienced musos.

The other is in the March AudioTechnolgy magazine (no 73), page 32: Live music shall overcome… someday. It concludes by saying to sound engineers: "Remember, it's very difficult to master the art of a live mix if there are no venues to practise in".

That's it for now

Cheers - Robin

Last St Pat's Fest At Dan O'Connell

Dan oconnell hotel

Tomorrow is St Patrick's Day, and like the past 100 years, there will be celebrations at Carlton's Dan O'Connell Hotel, which is known for its Celtic and folk music. Thousands of people come each year to party in the park next to the pub, and the event has the support of police, residents and the Melbourne City Council.

However this year's may be the last, because Liquor Licensing Director Sue MacLellan will only give the event a 10pm liquor licence rather than the usual 1am licence, which makes it financially unviable. Worse, without income from this annual event the hotel business will not be as healthy as it was, apparently… see the Dan’s pages for more on this.

The Hotel’s manager Toby Kingsley says "Crowd behaviour has been exemplary in the past" and that "the director of liquor licensing has insisted on maintaining a draconian approach to live music venues while many violent inner-city nightclubs continue to trade unabated".

Read about this in Last St Patrick's at Dan O'Connell (The Age 4/3) and on the Dan's website: The last ever St Pat’s Day?

You may wish to join Facebook group Save St Patrick's Day at the Dan O'Connell.

And come along to St Pat's at the Dan! But be early… it finishes at 10 o'clock.

~ Robin

Rally, Accord & Greens

Photo by Joe Armao

I'm starting to wish I wasn't doing this website… it's getting depressing, and I naively didn't think the issues would last this long.

The situation is so ridiculous that Blind Freddy can see the problems (no offence to blind people), and so easily fixed that one could be forgiven for assuming this would happen quickly.

In case you are new to this issue, two folk singers playing in the afternoon now requires the hiring of expensive security guards at many hotels and bars, even with a very small audience, and this expense simply stops the music.


This can be fixed with a stroke of the pen by the Director Of Liquor Licensing, Sue MacLellan, because she can change the regulations at any time. Legally, they are in place at her discretion.

Rally and accord
The rally was great—see the SLAM website and the new official SLAM Facebook page SLAM (Save Live Australia's Music) for videos and photos.

However, most of the media reports straight after said it was a win for music, because music representatives and Government signed an accord the day before, yet for the venues, musicians and audiences sadly affected by all this, NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

My new page about the accord is here: Live Music Accord

Photo: Original Bagpipe player from the classic AC/DC music video of "It’s A Long Way To The Top" - by Carbie © www.carbiewarbie.com

The Greens
I'm beginning to think The Greens might be our only salvation. They support common-sense changing of the regulations, and threaten, I think, three ALP-held seats in the election at the end of the year.

Please don't believe the nonsense that they voted against music when they didn't support a poorly-worded Liberal motion in January—it just ain't true.

Read all about it on my new page: The Greens. (And I just want to say here I haven't been involved with The Greens in any way.)

Greens MLC Greg Barber looking out for music, 23/2.

Till the next time ~ Robin

Know Your Info

With the rally in the city tomorrow, see SLAM rally, I am a bit worried that many people connected with music still don't understand the issues. So when a long email arrived from the small venues site last night, I decided to put the whole thing, with a few edits, into a blog post today. Here it is…

There exists a high risk licence condition, beginning "when live or recorded amplified music other than background music is provided:" and followed by a variety of requirements including the employment of a minimum two crowd controllers, along with staff training, cameras and signs.

This condition originally appeared in 1998 when it was applied to 3 troublesome premises in Frankston. At the time, the only thing in common among those three places that they could find was the provision of live or recorded amplified music, which is why the condition was worded that way.

The condition became a standard high risk condition, applied to licences of premises on a case by case basis, when there were incidents of trouble.

In 2002, the then Director of Liquor Licensing began a policy of applying the condition to all new late licences, and also of applying it "retrospectively", or in other words, applying it to existing late licenses as a precautionary measure. In this context, a late licence is one that allows sale of liquor after 1am.

The current Director of Liquor Licensing has continued the process of applying the condition as a precautionary measure. Numerous licences have had the condition newly imposed on them as recently as 2009.

In the process of changing the licence, licensees have been told:

"It is the Director's policy to endorse these conditions on a liquor licence where:
live or recorded amplified music other than background music is provided; and trading hours endorsed on a licence extend beyond 1 am."


"These conditions......are designed to reduce the potential for the conduct of the venue to have an unacceptable impact on the amenity of the surrounding area and to minimise the occurrence of anti-social behaviour in and around the licensed premises."

Unfortunately, the imposition of these conditions all too often has an unacceptable impact on the expenses of the premises. If a premises hosts one three hour music event per week, then it faces a cost of $12000 to $16000 per year (based on a $30 to $40 per hour rate per crowd controller, who must be there extra half hour before and after gig). If there are four gigs per week, then $48000 - $64000 per year. etcetera.

S.L.A.M. and FG4LM want music to be de-linked from security conditions. While it is acknowledged that security is a necessity in many situations in contemporary society, it is demanded that other criteria be used to determine how security is applied to licensed premises.

Current situation
The Age reported on 21 January 2010, that:

"A spokeswoman for Ms MacLellan said, apart from higher fees, requirements on live music venues had not changed since 1999. But many of those conditions, such as minimum security levels, were being properly enforced for the first time."

When it was pointed out to Ms MacLellan that, in numerous individual cases, requirements had in fact changed, she replied:

"The quote in the Age is of course truncated from what was said. What was said was if the conditions were imposed then they are the same conditions as those put on in 1999 i.e. security, cameras, RSA training and notices. The option such as done with the (example)..... is to deal with other issues on a case by case basis."

The Liquor Licensing statement implying that there have been no changes other than proper enforcement continues to be presented in the press.

Further spin includes that "the campaign has been scaled back as it looks like some of the issues are being resolved." and that the rally is "not a protest, it's a celebration of live music". Neither of these is correct.

License conditions
Below is the full wording of the licence condition in question:

When live or recorded amplified music other than background music is provided:
  • The licensee shall install and maintain a surveillance recording system able to clearly identify individuals, which shows time and date and provides continuous images of all entrances and exits, bars and entertainment/dance floor areas. The surveillance recording system must operate from 30 minutes before the start of the entertainment being provided, until 30 minutes after closure. A copy of the recorded images must be available upon request for immediate viewing or removal by the Victoria Police, or a person authorised in writing by the Director of Liquor Licensing, or otherwise retained for at least one month. The position of the cameras will be to the satisfaction of the Licensing Inspector.
  • Signs, as described below, are to be displayed in all areas subject to camera surveillance. Such signs shall read: "For the safety and security of patrons and staff this area is under electronic surveillance".
  • All staff engaged in the serving of Liquor will complete a "Responsible Serving of Alcohol" training course, approved by the Director of Liquor Licensing within 2 months of this condition being imposed, or of commencing employment.
  • Crowd controllers, licensed under the Private Security Act, are to be employed at a ratio of 2 crowd controllers for the first 100 patrons and 1 crowd controller for each additional 100 patrons or part thereof. One crowd controller is to be present outside the premises to monitor patrons arriving at and departing from the premises. Crowd controllers are to be present from 30 minutes before the start of the entertainment being provided, until 30 minutes after closure.

Thanks for your work, small venues - and I just want to add the point that if a premises has these conditions, they operate at all times, not just late at night.

See you at the rally

~ Robin

Madwoman At Large

The main change I've made in the past few days is to update my pages on Sue MacLellan in the light of Tom Hawking's excellent article in Inpress this week, Feb 3, page 19: LEAVE OUR PUBS ALONE.

See Sue MacLellan.

This woman has had ample opportunity to become familiar with how her decisions have impacted Victoria's music culture. She has been having visits from those affected for months.

Saying a quiet Saturday afternoon music performance with an audience of 10 people requires expensive security guards is either monumentally stupid or there is a hidden agenda—whether it's to bolster the gaming industry or simply to bolster her ego I don't know. Perhaps she believes she is being a "strong woman" by refusing to take in any information.

Whatever the case, as Tom Hawking points out in his article, the point is that one person should not have such extensive powers, and should not be unaccountable. Even Brumby can't sack her!

I expect you know by now about the S.L.A.M. rally on Feb 23. A band will re-enact AC/DC's video of riding down Swanston St on a truck singing Long Way To The Top. Here's the rally's website: S.L.A.M (Save Live Australian Music)

At the moment it is the RocKwiz band playing—would be good if AC/DC make it, won’t it?

See you there!

Cheers - Robin

Talks Fail

Unfortunately talks between music representatives and Sue MacLellan (Wednesday) and Tony Robinson (Thursday) got nowhere. Apparently MacLellan offered that operators could apply to have their risk conditions removed (this is already in place anyway but not reasonable), but the group says the link between music and violence should simply be dropped.

And Tony Robinson doesn't seem to be able to influence Sue MacLellan.

By the way, did you see the cover of Inpress this week? ha ha ha ha ha

inpress cover sue maclellan

I have heard that MacLellan is upset about it. Well… lots of venue operators and their staff and musicians are upset with her, and they are facing losing the businesses they have spent years building up, and their livelihood, creative work and culture, whereas Sue isn't.

I've made quite a few changes to this site in the past few days: I've updated the Information page, Liquor licenses page, Government attitude page and Sue MacLellan's attitude.

I've heard things are going to get BIG this week - here's hoping for a resolution.

Cheers - Robin

Government Caving In?

There have been quite a few signs the government is changing its tune. I hope they are, and that it goes further than a cosmetic "we saved the Tote".

I've updated the following pages, with information and links from the past few days.: Government attitude, Sue MacLellan’s attitude and the Links page. You’ll find Jon Faine’s radio interview of Sue MacLellan about fees in there.

Cheers - Robin

Government Attitude

I've added a section to this website today about the government's attitude to the damage they are doing to Victoria's music culture.

The new section is here: Government attitude

There are pages about Premier John Brumby, liquor licensing boss Sue MacLellan, and also about the debacle being endured by Swords Wine at the Vic market.

I've also added some info about changes to venue capacities, on the Pubs page.

An item in Crikey yesterday suggested the government were about to change their ways, and start being realistic about license conditions.

Here's hoping for a quick resolution.

Cheers - Robin