Last weekend thousands of Sydney-siders marched from Belmore Park to Taylor Square in protest of the Sydney lockout laws led by Keep Sydney Open (KSO). KSO believes that both safety and entertainment can be achieved simultaneously, allowing Sydney to retain its freedom while making our nightlife safer and includes local partners FBi Radio, Oxford Art Factory, DJ Warehouse, Future Classic and inthemix.
Some seriously awesome, inspiring speeches were heard on the day. In particular, the passionate leader of KSO, Tyson Koh as well as The Jezebels lead singer Hayley Mary making some amazing points. Hayley talked about growing up in Sydney and our unique atmosphere - featuring everything from warehouse parties and drag queens, to classical music. Since the introduction of the lockout laws, countless artists (and many of their fans), however, have moved to Melbourne - the city fast on the rise to being seen as the new cultural capital of Australia. But as Hayley stood up, she asked an important question, why should we have to?
Sure, we could move. But Sydney is our home, and we can't just sit back while blanket rules and an illogical curfew curb our city's nightlife. People often talk about the 70s and 80s being the golden age of music/partying/and entertainment in Sydney. But Hayley's message was clear, the golden age of Sydney is yet to come!
Any person with (half a brain, or) an interest in business, culture, or economics would surely agree that in ten years time, Sydney's lockout laws will be remembered, regretfully, as a ridiculous pause in our history. A bump in the road, yes, but a bump so monstrous it's caused the ruin of untold numbers of not just pubs and clubs, but other seemingly unrelated businesses like kebab shops and even newsagents.
Why can’t we become more like Berlin, more like Paris or Amsterdam? Why can’t we become one of best places in the world for evening entertainment... while retaining a safe environment. Because, at the end of the day, how come Europe can do it, and we can't? There are so many amazing suggestions that could bring us back to vibrancy - appointing a night mayor for starters makes perfect sense; someone to navigate some of the inevitable obstacles that go hand in hand with running a night time economy while helping to grow opportunities in an economy that (like any good growing business) could clearly benefit from extending its opening hours. Not to mention the benefits of an improved police strategy, funding for anti-violence campaigns, incentives for well-run venues and encouraging more street entertainment (to help funnel out the crowds as they head home) to name a few!
Sydney used to have a thriving late night scene that could be compared to some of the best in the world. Now, walking down the previously bustling Oxford St and Kings Cross is like tip-toeing through a desert wasteland, and that's all before the 1:30am lockout even kicks in for the night.
While the recent Callinan review provides some “compelling numbers”
fancy reports are fantastic for picking and twisting the truth to suit those presenting them. Interestingly, the Callinan review chooses to ignore the fact that since 2012 there has been an 84% reduction in pedestrian foot traffic. Hold on to that stat for a minute. Because it means that, if anything, the amount of assaults per person has, in fact, RISEN in the area.
Uncanny isn't it, the way some politicians seem to dribble out unsubstantiated "facts" they evidently know nothing about. But the Callinan review and the unmentionable Mike. B don't appear to have taken into account the way these areas were already trending towards a decrease in violence over previous years. Walking around Newtown and neighbouring areas on a Friday or Saturday night, it's hard now not to see a direct correlation between the introduction of the lockout laws and an unprecedented number of dickheads who seem to spilled into these areas, and of course… the Casino.
While Mikey B and his cohorts claim there aren’t enough stats out there to support these claims, they are there... (this article shows an increase of about 13 assaults per month, and this one shows an 18% increase in assaults in Newtown). Newtown and Erskineville, which used to be somewhat of a vibrant safe haven for pretty much anyone, from hipsters to drag queens, has since the lockouts seen an unprecedented increase in homophobic and hateful attacks.
However, while the recent Callinan review identifies the Cross and CBD as being safer, it also recognises this has come at a cost to the “vibrancy” and profitability of businesses in the area. This is pretty clear walking the streets but also by the fact that many local businesses have been recording between a 40%-75% decrease in profits post lockout and so many venues in the area have closed or are up for sale.
There are two key stats from the review which were reported to have “spoken” for how the lockout laws DEFINITELY WORK
While no one is arguing that these stats are indeed a positive, one would have thought that alongside over an 80% decrease in pedestrian traffic in the area that the amount of alcohol-related injuries would have decreased by at least one third of that percentage.
The trouble with much of the media's portrayal of the lockout laws, of course, is that there is no compromise. The crux of the argument seems to have become that we can either have lockouts and less violence, or do nothing and EVERYONE DIES! The point that KSO has tried to make time and time again is that we CAN have both a safe city and an amazing nightlife!
So while the lockouts overall have been reported as resulting in a decrease in violence, has it really been the 1:30am ending that's translated to this? Or is it, more likely the decrease in alcohol accessibility? If alcohol were realised to be the real problem here, why not adapt the lockout laws to match? Why not make 1:30am last drinks with a 3am lockout?
But near all dark clouds and devastating storms, where lies the rainbow? While the KSO rally was a loud and proud protest against enacting archaic laws in a "modern" city, it was also very clearly a celebration of determination, and all that is great in Sydney culture. Thousands wore KSO t's and “Make Sydney Late Again” hats with signs reading “It's not my Baird time” and “Keep Sydney Vibrant”. Musicians, entertainers, politicians, families and kids all marched together for the same cause - our city.
On both sides of the legislation, no doubt, we all want the same thing, a safe and amazing city. There's no questioning that (unless you're Mike "The Grinch" Baird). But whatever your stance, putting half the city to bed before sunrise doesn't make a direct translation to safety. There has to be compromise, and seeing everyone take to the streets for a cause we all believe in is refreshing to see. Perhaps some further good can come out of driving people to stand up and fight for their right to a nightlife and culture. Because if they can fight for that, imagine what we will fight for next!
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