February 9, 2021
Today’s announcement repealing the lockout laws and appointing a new 24 Hour Economy Commissioner is the final piece in a puzzle that let’s Sydney declare to the world that it is open. This could not come at a better time.
While the lockouts were introduced in the face of serious safety concerns in 2014, we now know they had unintended consequences. The controls were focused on a small cohort of people attending venues in the early hours of the morning. But their very real impacts on Sydney’s vibrancy and its reputation reverberated across the city’s cultural sector, and night-time and visitor economies, fuelling a widespread perception that Sydney was dead at night. These sectors have been hit harder by Covid-19 than any other.
We commend the Premier and her team for their willingness to take bold and appropriate actions to reset Sydney’s nightlife and support the rebuild and recovery of these key sectors, and in doing so to help Sydney live up to its promise.
What has changed
Today’s announcement by the Premier removes the last remaining elements of the lockout laws, from 8 March:
Today the Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, has also announced a new 24 Hour Economy Commissioner has been selected to lead development of a ‘neon grid’ across Sydney – Chair of the Night-Time Industries Association, Michael Rodrigues.
Safety and policy actions
It’s important to remember the repeal of the lockout laws is just one step among many we need to take to support the recovery of Sydney’s cultural, night-time and visitor economies, which is why it’s significant the 24 Hour Economy Commissioner has been appointed to lead these efforts.
Our 2018 report, Sydney as a 24-hour City, brought together the diverse stakeholders on this topic, presenting a sensible way forward with a broad whole-of-government approach to articulate a vision for the night-time economy across Greater Sydney and implement a governance structure to deliver the vision. From this report, the formation of the Night Time Industries Association was crucial in delivering a better understanding of how a vibrant, yet safe, 24-hour economy was possible.
The new Commissioner’s leadership will be critical in coordinating efforts needed to plan our city so it functions more effectively at night, with licensing and regulations that enable rather than strangle enterprise. We will also need to brand the city’s night-time offer better, making more of our major events and unique precincts, to present Sydney as a rival to New York, Berlin or Tel Aviv as one of the great global night-time destinations.
Opportunity to attract and retain talent
More than 40 per cent of Sydneysiders belong to what renowned urbanist Richard Florida called the ‘creative class’ – speaking to Committee for Sydney members today – including tech developers, designers and others in high demand as our city looks to rebuild and recover from Covid-19. These globally-mobile people can and should be attracted to Sydney.
For this group, a vibrant nightlife and creative culture ranks above almost anything else. By enhancing Sydney after dark, we can help make the city an attractive place for people to live and work, and support the competitiveness and productivity of the broader city and state.
What today’s announcements mean is the end of the combative “safety vs fun” debate for Sydney. It’s timely recognition that Sydney can have a vibrant 24-hour economy without sacrificing people’s safety and wellbeing, and an important step towards rebuilding Sydney’s crucial cultural, night time and visitor economies.