Styles said he never wanted to weigh into politics, but Mountain Sounds’ cancellation was the last straw.
«The whole of NSW loves this festival,» he said. «Ironically, it’s one of the safest events in Australia. It doesn’t make sense. Sadly, a few years ago when Mike Baird was premier, a lot of our favourite nightclubs around Sydney had to close. Gladys [Berejiklian] is furthering his work to destroy … late-night economies.»
Styles defended his and Hyde’s decision to criticise the government a month out from a crucial state election that could see Labor catapulted into power.
«In most cases, it is better not to say anything overly politically motivated,» he said. «Peking Duk is a band people should be able to love no matter your politics. But this is not picking a side. We haven’t said who to vote for. We’ve just said no matter what, don’t vote for these guys who are trying to destroy music.
«We should be embracing music in this country and nurturing it. Not tearing it down.»
Bandmate Adam Hyde agreed, accusing the Berejiklian government of forcing festivals to «pack up and get out».
«What’s the real incentive here?» he asked. «It seems the only one trying to make a quick buck is [the government] and the NSW police force if they’re making festival organisers pay $200,000 a week for safety issues. It seems rather questionable.»
Live Performance Australia has also come out swinging, with chief executive Evelyn Richardson claiming NSW will soon have some of the most onerous festival licensing conditions in the world.
«The safety of festivalgoers is paramount, but the NSW government’s approach to festival safety appears to be designed to manage any risk by shutting them down altogether,» she said.
«Consultation with the industry has been absolutely woeful and whole sections of our industry are now being destroyed by a knee-jerk response from a government that couldn’t care less.»
The Australian Festival Association has also been scathing. Board member Adelle Robinson has described the state government’s new regulations as «rushed» and said they are being rolled out without proper consultation.
«Increased user-pays police costs and liquor licenses that are issued less than 24 hours before an event have contributed to an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty for many event organisers,» she said.
Iconic Byron Bay music festival Bluesfest has now threatened to move to Queensland for the first time in its 29-year history thanks to the new policies.
Bluesfest director Peter Noble said his phone had been running hot all day Tuesday after he released an open letter to the NSW government on Monday, indicating that Bluesfest may have to move out of the state.
«Both the states of Queensland and Victoria do not have these guidelines or anything even approaching them. In fact, they invest in music and the live arts,» he said.
«NSW needs to come an awful way along to start doing the same thing to the levels of the states surrounding them are doing. They’re falling behind, and yet they’re patting themselves on the back at the same time.»
Queensland Tourism Minister Kate Jones said Woodford, which hosts the annual Woodford Folk Festival, would be the perfect place to host Bluesfest.
«I’ve been in contact with the organisers of the Woodford Folk Festival who are confident that another event like Bluesfest could thrive at that location,» she said. «This event pumps tens of millions of dollars into the NSW economy each year and supports hundreds of jobs – I’d much rather see these jobs in Queensland.
«We’re always interested in events that support tourism jobs and stack up financially. If they’re interested, I’d be happy to sit down with the organisers to discuss a potential move to Queensland.»
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Bluesfest was «a fantastic festival» and not considered a «high-risk», so its organisers «don’t have anything to worry about».
The NSW state government has previously said its new regulations — set to commence from March 1 and mostly amount to less than one dollar per ticket — are to ensure festivals are run «as safely as possible». The changes come after several young people have died at festivals across the country from suspected drug overdoses.
Broede Carmody is an entertainment reporter at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald
Jenny Noyes is a journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald. She was previously a writer and editor at Daily Life.
Felicity Caldwell is state political reporter at the Brisbane Times