On Sunday, thousands of people marched in Sydney against the NSW Government’s lockout laws, in a protest organised by the organisation Keep Sydney Open. Keep Sydney Open estimated the event drew 15,000, while NSW Police say it was closer to 5000.
Crikey Politics Editor Bernard Keane delivered the following speech to the crowd.
There’s a simple reason why Sydney now has these stupid, appalling lockout laws that have crushed businesses, cut wages and jobs for people in hospitality, musicians and cabbies, and turned much of the early morning city into a ghost-town.
It’s because over the summer of 2013-14 two newspapers, The Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald, ran an hysterical campaign about alcohol-related violence in Sydney. And it’s because NSW politicians didn’t have the courage to stand up to this hysterical campaign.
If you believed The Telegraph and The Herald back then, and the nanny state types, and the public health lobby that wants to turn alcohol into the new tobacco, Sydney was in the grip of an epidemic of alcohol-fueled violence and the streets of this city were awash with blood and grog. And something had to be done.
But if you look at the facts, you’ll realise this was a campaign based on lies.
We’re always told we’re in the grip of an alcohol epidemic. In fact in 2014 we drank less alcohol per head than at any time since 1963. Between 2007 and the lockout laws, Australians’ alcohol consumption fell by 10%, says the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Same story with binge drinking. Know how the media and politicians are always going on about the scourge of young people binge drinking? According to the most authoritative health survey in the country by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, binge drinking among young people has fallen massively in the last fifteen years. The only people who are binge drinking more now than in 2001 are people over 40. Maybe those scary binge drinking ads should be aimed at middle aged people.
And while alcohol consumption was falling, violence on the streets of Sydney was falling even faster. Between 2007 and the start of the lockout laws, non-domestic violence assaults had fallen over 20% in the city of Sydney. And that’s the number of assaults – during that time the population of greater Sydney grew by around 10%.
In fact, every category of violent crime has been falling in Sydney in the years before the lockout laws were introduced, except for two. Domestic violence assaults, and sexual assaults. The reports of both have been rising year on year, every year.
Funnily enough I don’t recall a media campaign about these crimes where the great majority of victims are women and kids. I don’t recall the media pushing for the NSW police to direct more resources to domestic violence and enforcing AVOs, rather than playing winelist cop in Paddington. And I don’t recall politicians talking about changing the law to make it easier to prosecute rapists and force them to spend longer in jail.
I wonder why – I’m sure it’s got nothing to do with the fact the it’s women who bear the brunt of those crimes. This is what happens when you get policies based on fear and hysteria. It means real problems, the problems that politicians and the police should be dealing with, get pushed aside.
I also wonder why Star Casino is excluded from the lockout laws. I’m sure that’s got nothing to do with the fact that from 2008, Star gave over $600,000 in donations to Labor and the Coalition in NSW. Not in a state with such a strong reputation for probity and corruption-free politics.
Fear and hysteria is what dud politicians and declining media companies have in common. If they can keep people afraid, they can sell more papers and boost ratings, and get more people to vote for them. And while they’re frightened, they won’t notice that their most basic rights are being taken away, that there’s a chilling effect coming down on where they live, that the most simple things they take for granted, like the right to go out and enjoy themselves, is suddenly a quasi-criminal activity that needs to be policed. Whether it’s the war on terror, or the war on drugs, or Sydney’s very own war on enjoying yourself, it’s always our basic freedoms going out the door.
And the great thing about today’s turn-out is that every single person here is saying they won’t be fooled by fear and hysteria and they will will resist these attempts to seize their freedoms. Thanks.