New licensing laws are under consideration in New South Wales this week, and The Sydney Morning Herald contained some interesting quotes that show just who has the power and influence. They’re subtle as a two pot screamer:

The alcohol industry is also a big political donor and,
between them, clubs, pubs and individual hoteliers – including a pub
identified last year by the Government as one of Sydney’s most violent
– pumped $1.7 million into the NSW Labor Party before the state
election. This topped big developers, who poured a further $1.5 million
into ALP coffers.

(Australian Hotels Association NSW President John) Thorpe did not
comment on future political donations, but said: “I have often said
that we recognise that democracy is not cheap.”

One thing that seems to be getting ignored, however, is live music. Or what’s left of live music.

I’m showing my age here, but I remember the excitement when David Bowie
played Surry Hill’s legendary Hopetoun Hotel. I remember seeing The
Style Council at the Espy in St Kilda. These pubs linger on, but most
of the inner city venues I would remember from 20 years ago, if I
hadn’t been so p*ssed or stoned, are gone.

And, no – I’m not a live music purist. My DJing got a mention in Vogue
back in 1986, thank you. But work opportunities for musicians
are closely linked to the sale of alcohol. The AHA has said musicians
are upset because their audiences have moved away. Audiences going
isn’t necessarily a reflection on the musos, though. It can also be a
problem with what venues can offer.

Inner city Melbourne and Brisbane’s once again funky Fortitude Valley
are grooving away thanks to cabaret/restaurant licences that encourage
venues to provide live music.

The NSW legislation defines entertainment as live music almost
exclusively, so that pubs and clubs are now totally devoted to sport
and gambling. Plasma screens require no council processes and the
pokies have a special exemption, while pool tables and video games slip
through holes in a messy tangle of regulation.

The 1996 liquor act removed cabaret licences, then let pokies into
pubs. It’s been downhill for live music ever since. Of course, if
you’re from the AHA the sound of coins in slots is music to your ears.