SPEECH: We Have to Stop Fake Concert Tickets (video)

Federation Chamber - Parliament House May 10 2017

I want to refer to an issue that I expect I will be making a number of contributions on. It is not an attack on the government in any way. It is establishing that there is a problem that we as a parliament are going to have to find a way of dealing with. It is what is happening to the major-production live music industry in terms of ticket sales. There has been some attention given already to what is happening with bots. Robot systems are set up, and the bots basically clean out all the tickets the moment they go online so that people are left only able to buy tickets from scalpers. The additional issue I want to refer to in my contribution today is what is happening with fake tickets, and tickets that are real but are sold multiple times. Effectively, what happens is that someone buys one real ticket, and, because a ticket can now be printed off on a computer, they on-sell that ticket to as many as a dozen people. Whoever turns up to the venue first with a ticket gets in the door. For everybody else who turns up with a ticket for the same seat the scanner says they cannot be allowed admission because it has already been used. Similarly, some people are turning up with tickets that are entirely fake.

We need to bear in mind who we are talking about. For many Australians, a ticket to a music festival or to a major performance is one of the biggest discretionary purchases they will make during the course of a year. This is a really big purchase when people make it. Simply saying to people, 'Well, you need to be more careful; you need to make sure that you're buying your tickets from someone who's reputable,' is a bit hard when all the search engines are pointing people in the same direction.

I have had a number of music promoters say to me that, when people are turning up to venues and finding that their tickets are not real, one of the regular sites they have purchased from is a site called viagogo. I have heard of incidents, for example, from Frontier Touring. When they last had Justin Bieber, he did not tour New Zealand. They had people fly from New Zealand to Sydney to attend the concert, only to find on arrival that their ticket was fake. I was at Bluesfest over Easter. One of my daughters who was with me was expecting to catch up with some friends of hers whose whole family had gone up to Byron Bay to attend Bluesfest for Easter. I asked her at the end, 'How come we never saw them?' She said, 'Oh, it turned out they had fake tickets.' I asked her to check where they had come from. The answer: viagogo.

I did the check myself, and I would encourage members to check on every search engine you can. Sometimes we get into Google bashing and things like that, but it is not just Google. You can go through Google. You can go through Bing. I even tried that DuckDuckGo search engine. Pick a major international artist, type 'tickets' and see what comes up as an early item, often the first item, telling you where to go for your tickets. Always on the first page—I went through Montaigne, the Lumineers, Santana, Midnight Oil, Julia Jacklin and Jimmy Barnes—viagogo came up as the site, and it says 'viagogo—official site', meaning it is the official site of viagogo. But if you are someone who might buy a ticket every two or three years and is not constantly out there buying tickets—and, if you are constantly out there buying tickets, it is a pretty expensive way for people to be getting entertainment, particularly if it is these major artists—you see the words 'official site' and you click through.

We need to find a way of making sure that when tickets say that they are not transferable and not to be resold we acknowledge that the site doing the reselling is acting unlawfully and, when they are selling something that turns out to not be valid, they are engaging in theft. When they have a reputation of doing this repeatedly, can we continue with a situation where the search engines are receiving advertising dollars to continue to promote sites like that?

Viagogo's official policy is that, if you turn up and it turns out to be a fake ticket, they will give you your money back. That is not much good if you have flown to be at the venue. That is not much good if you have been looking forward to going to this particular gig, thinking you have got your tickets and therefore not going anywhere else, and by the time you turn up and discover that your tickets are fake it is impossible to get comparable seats, or possibly any seats, at any of the remaining gigs if they exist.

We are talking about a consumer affairs issue that has hit the music industry and is hitting everyday Australians on one of their largest discretionary purchases. In the first instance, we should find out if there is a way of working with the search engines to get a sensible outcome here, but we cannot allow there to be a continued situation where companies effectively operating in Australia are receiving advertising dollars to direct Australians to purchase stolen or illegal goods. That cannot be a valid commercial arrangement. It is happening every day. It is happening more and more. There is no benefit to the Australian economy. There is only loss for people who love live music. Whether it is turning up to a music festival or turning up to a major artist, whether they be Australian or international, we must start acting now so that, if someone buys a ticket, they know that they can turn up and get entry to the music they love.


Tony Burke