Times are staying tough for music venues, as another bar has been subject to threats of fines due to noise complaints from neighbours. But this time the accusing party is a government official, namely Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon.

The NSW Senator has definitely failed to observe the party line of The Greens in her interactions with the bar underneath her Surry Hills office, reports The Telegraph.

The recently opened underground venue, Play Bar, with its distinct “raw, street and underground style” specialising in jazz and hip-hop nights, has been the subject of several noise complaints to Sydney City Council, made by Senator Rhiannon’s office.

Presumably a government office and a bar would be able to coexist, as one typically shuts up shop for the day as the other opens to begin their night, but Senator Rhiannon has made several complaints outside of normal office hours about the noise coming from the bar.

The complaints reportedly involved choice phrases about “being a member of parliament” and “focusing on work” meant the noise “had to stop.”

The owners Daniel Robertson and Sarah Vuong have acknowledged there is a problem with the insulation between their bar and the Senator’s office, but that steps were being taken to remedy it.

Vuong explained that “we’ve got one shot to make this work and we’ve put our life savings into this”. Adding that: “we don’t want to be closed down over an issue that we’re working very hard to solve. They (Ms Rhiannon’s office) are not being very neighbourly about this matter.” The complaints reportedly involved choice phrases about “being a member of parliament” and “focusing on work” meant the noise “had to stop.”

Senator Rhiannon is listed on The Greens website as having been active in causes of the environment and social justice for over four decades. Her main portfolios in parliament have been animal welfare, forests, higher education, international aid and development and women’s rights.

No one would be able to say that Senator Rhiannon is a bad government representative and she doesn’t seem to be being unreasonable. Her approach has been quite pragmatic, but it would be nice to see her show at least a little enthusiasm for causes that maybe she isn’t as invested in.

According to The Telegraph, Senator Rhiannon maintained that: “This is not a matter of me not wanting their business to succeed or not liking music, it’s about fixing an insulation problem.”

It’s still an interesting stance from The Greens member, considering the party’s Arts and Culture policies are quite specific in this area.

As the party’s official website states, “artistic expression and cultural engagement are fundamental aspects of social wellbeing,” and “Australian artistic expression, culture, works and institutions should be protected and promoted both within Australia and overseas.” Furthermore the party acknowledges that “Australian artists play an essential role in our nation’s cultural life and should be fostered and supported.”

The Greens leader, Christine Milne, has been championing the cause of government support for Australian music when she appeared at Hobart’s MONA FOMA arts and music festival in January, asserting that music should be a key area for government investment. “This is not a matter of me not wanting their business to succeed or not liking music, it’s about fixing an insulation problem.” – Lee Rhiannon, Greens Senator

“If anyone ever needed to be reassured about the significance of a major investment in art and culture in terms of economic returns as well as the livability of cities, you only have to look at what’s happened in Tasmania,” Milne said of the arts and music festival. MONA FOMA was also where the Greens Leader announced three new music funding initiatives, that will give the arts a $10 million boost.

As previously reported, the key areas of the proposed Greens initiative are the new Artists Fund, which would inject $3 million annually, “to assist in the payment of artists’ fees and help artists make a living from their art,” according to the party leader. Another $5 million a year is set aside for an Art and Research Development grant program to develop ‘experimentation and risk-taking’ art and music.

The final initiative is Playing Australia, a body that which sources $2 million in funding to administer grants for performing arts tours. “Reputationally [sic], its critical that [artists] are able to tour,” said Milne. The Greens will be advocating this initiative for the 2013/14 budget.

It leaves open the huge question of whether Senator Rhiannon will be a convincing advocate for the bankrolling of Australian music, what with her complete lack of support for Play Bar.

There definitely needs to be a compromise, as government work should not be impeded by music. And if the planned insulation maintenance works out there shouldn’t be a problem for much longer. But either way this is a great opportunity for The Greens representative to put her money where her mouth is and start showing Australian music, and music venues, the support that her party prides itself on.

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