Adelaide Festival

Interview: South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill Talks RCC And All Things SA

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill met with Glam Adelaide in the lead up to the March 17 state election for a chat in the Royal Croquet Club. We chatted about the future of the RCC, small bars, food trucks, music and enticing young people back to South Australia.

They say Adelaide fits all of its festivals into Mad March and while there’s a bit of license there, there’s no doubt that this is the period that our city comes to life. Broadly speaking, what is the impact of the Fringe, Festival, WOMAD and the Adelaide 500 on our economy?

It’s massive. It’s really worth in excess of a hundred million dollars to our economy, with literally tens of thousands of visitors, a lot of them from interstate and overseas. It creates this real buzz in the city, the weather is really good this time of year, so it’s the coming together of so many different things and is really very defining of Adelaide.

Sitting at the heart of it is the Adelaide Festival, which has always been a world-class cultural event, but there are so many other things which swarm around the edge of it. Depending what your tastes are, if you’re a rev head, or into the fine arts and everything in between, it’s really an eclectic mix of offerings.


There has been a lot of noise around the Croquet Club in terms of its involvement with the council and the SA Government after a notoriously ill-fated venture in China. Can you clarify the relationship between the venue, which is clearly become part of the fabric of the Fringe, and the SA Government, as it stands today?

It’s positive now. Obviously, the Adelaide City Council has been a strong supporter of the Royal Croquet Club and they invited us to support the club.  We wanted to do that because they are some young guys trying to strike out and do something exciting. Obviously, they ran into some difficulties in China but I think they are putting that behind them now and it is great to see them come back and put the venue back on. If would have been a shame not have this Pinky Flat area as part of the Fringe and so it’s great that we’re back here again.


Nick Xenophon, in a much talked about TV ad, suggests that SA Best will entice young people back to South Australia and stop them leaving. How has Labor helped entice younger workers and if you are re-elected, what will your Government do to bring back young voters?

The critical issue is there are two things. The first is the vibrancy of the city, and you’ve got have a buzzing place, but it has to happen all year round. Now we’ve got the great new stadium, the Riverbank precinct and all around us, we are looking at iconic buildings: the new convention centre, the medical precinct, the new Festival Centre and then this incredible bridge that joins it all together. Add to that the live music and the small bars.

The second thing is great jobs and we’ve been working to get some exciting new companies into town. Tesla are really putting us on the map for high tech energy solutions. Technicolour are recruiting now, they want five hundred (essentially) artists who have digital capabilities to work in the visual effects area. There’s Boeing in the software and defence sector and now, of course, Sonnenbatterie, making batteries in South Australia – another new high tech company. There are so many different offerings over a really broad spectrum of jobs.

So, with great jobs, a vibrant city and affordable place to live, there’s every reason to come back to South Australia if you’ve left, and every reason to stay if you’re thinking of leaving!


The small bar revolution we’ve seen in South Australia has really enlivened the west end of the city, particularly the Leigh and Peel Street precinct. What was your thinking around cutting the red tape for small bars and do you think it defies the stereotype of Labor not doing enough for small business?

It is a stereotype, I mean we were in there smashing the old monopolies. People had it all sewn up in South Adelaide in terms of liquor licensing. We wanted to smash that open by introducing some opportunities for some young people to have a crack and get into the business without being deep-pocketed by the vested interests. Our political opponents opposed the small bars but we ended up winning that argument and now we have a hundred of them. They’re all interesting, they’re different, they’re unique and they’re really enlivening the city. There are lots of smart bright young entrepreneurs with great ideas, whether it’s the new coffee shops opening up around the place, the small bar venues or the live music venues. They’re all trying new things in new ways.

We also took on the vested interests by really loosening up things for the food trucks. Food trucks have really been a new dynamic way for young people to test the market without having to buy a brick and mortar business. It allows people to try a business model, get something up and running and then leap into a more permanent fixture. These are ways of incubating young talent.


There’s been a lot of recent announcements around the revival and renewal of Port Adelaide, particularly with the expansion of Pirate Life and the renovated Port Admiral Hotel. What is the Government doing to inject fresh life into the economy into that part of the city?

The big decision we did was to take back that failed development back into Government. So we took back the waterfront development as it was threatening to sterilise the whole Port. What we did was we went back to what should have happened at the start, putting people at the centre of it. So we looked at the strengths of the local community, for instance, there’s a great local arts community there. There’s a bunch of people, much like in the city, who are young entrepreneurs wanting to have a crack.

We put the Laneway Festival in, which is such a very exciting event. It’s extraordinary to see the quality of the acts and the ease of getting a great drink, having a great feed and then being able to stand up close to a great band is just extraordinary.

We are also putting a rail spur down there, right into the heart of Port Adelaide, so you’ll be able to catch a train right down there. Of course, there’s also Pirate Life opening up that brewery which has caused other things to happen, like with The Port Admiral Hotel, with the Clever Little Tailor and the Low and Slow guys going down there and opening things up. That is one of the most exciting new pubs in Adelaide!


How is the Government going to build on South Australia’s vibrant arts sector, should you be returned for another term?

We did something really important in arts, during this last term. We really elevated live music and created the Music Development Office. We were informed by some of the things that were happening in Austin, Texas. We looked at the South By South West Music Festival and looked at Hybrid World which deals in arts and tech. the Music Development Office is really about treating live music as an industry.

We had the Ellbourne Report, with Martin Elbourne who runs Glastonbury, coming and helping us think about live music. When we looked at his report and all the recommendations that we are working through, it could have been a report into the challenges facing the manufacturing industry. We saw exactly the same issues and challenges needing the same Government support. When we saw that we thought we have a Department for Manufacturing, why don’t we have an industry development office for music? That’s why set up the Music Development Office. Becc Bates and the team there are doing a great job, encouraging live music and getting rid of red tape. We’ve got rid of all the crazy entertainment consent laws that used to be embedded in our liquor licensing laws, making it easier for artists to perform live music. So we’ve been supporting people with grants and getting behind great local musicians.


Finally, what are you looking at checking out most at the Royal Croquet Club today and during the festival season?

I’m told We Live By the Sea is fantastic. Somebody told me it’s the best thing they’ve ever seen. I’ll be down here and down by the Garden of Unearthly Delights, just trying to take in as much as I can. It’s a bit busy though as we’re in the middle of an election campaign, but it’s a bit of a relief from the politicking!

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