The busking blues

Busker Andrew Finlay has had a gutful of feeling like a criminal after twice being charged with solicit donations in a public place.
Busker Andrew Finlay has had a gutful of feeling like a criminal after twice being charged with solicit donations in a public place.

A WHITSUNDAY busker has voiced his frustration at being treated like a criminal after facing Proserpine Magistrates’ Court, for the second time in two years, on Monday.

Andrew Troy Finlay was found guilty of soliciting donations in a public place and placed on a $150 bond for three months, with no conviction recorded, after pleading not guilty to the charge.

The sentence was dished out reluctantly by Magistrate Athol Kennedy who said: “I can’t see anything wrong with busking but it’s against the law and that’s all I can deal with.”

As a musician who has commanded paid gigs at KC’s, Banjo’s, the Dingo Beach Hotel and several venues in Bowen, all Finlay wants to do is entertain.

He started busking in the Whitsundays at the age of 12. He is now 29 and has only recently come up against opposition for his vocation by the police – who have increasingly backed up the Whitsunday Regional Council’s stance against busking.

“I used to do it (busk) every second weekend but it’s become more and more difficult for me in the last couple of years,” Finlay said. “I’ve been spoken to by the police more than 50 times since 2008.”

Throughout Queensland, busking is monitored by local government, with permits issued by councils to the entertainers that seek them. Without such a permit, buskers are effectively breaking the law and the Whitsunday Regional Council currently has a policy in place that doesn’t support the practice.

The Council refuses to hand out permits to anyone.

Council’s Program Manager Environment and Compliance Scott Hardy was able to confirm that the policy had “been in place for a number of years” but had no idea what was behind the initial ruling that formed the policy.

Mayor Mike Brunker was equally confused. “It must be the only town in Australia where busking’s not allowed,” Cr Brunker said, referring to Airlie Beach.

“I haven’t got any problem at all with the concept of busking so it’s a policy we could look at reviewing. “It’s one of those previous Council decisions that we’re not aware of and we’re quite happy to look at it in the future.

“I actually think it could add to the culture of the town but we’d need to put in place some controls such as time limits and guidelines.” Officer in Charge of Whitsunday Police, Senior Sergeant Steve O’Connell, had a similar view when quizzed on the way busking was policed.

“We don’t have an issue with busking,” Snr Sgt O’Connell said.

“What we do have a problem with are the crowds that mill around buskers outside licensed premises late at night because that can lead to disturbances.

“I’d have no problems with it if it was controlled.”

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