After the absolute shitstorm generated by New South Wales Premier Mike Baird’s farcical social media justification of his own state’s lockout laws a fortnight ago, I sat back thinking perhaps this would serve as a wake-up call for Queensland politicians who have been hell-bent in following #CasinoMike’s path and pushing identical laws through in our Parliament as soon as possible.
Baird’s merciless public dragging was facilitated by everyone from prominent Sydney musicians to social media commentators and even some of the victims of ‘alcohol-fuelled violence’ themselves. Yet it evidently wasn’t an obvious enough reason for Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to scale back on these arbitrarily sweeping reforms or even pause for thought. Today, she has bartered a deal with the two members of Katter’s Australian Party currently in State Parliament to finally push through lockout laws somehow even more draconian than the ones currently crippling Sydney’s nightlife and culture.
With the introduction of those laws, not only are Palaszczuk and the Labor Party of Queensland staring down the barrel of the exact same typhoon of public scorn and fury Baird is still trying to recover from, they’re more importantly shoving Queensland as far backwards as they can when the opportunity to push it forward was right there for the taking.
Queensland, a state full of the proudest and most parochial residents imaginable but one that has consistently been considered an also-ran in Australia behind New South Wales and Victoria and their more internationally prominent capitals of Sydney and Melbourne. A state whose own capital city of Brisbane has been looked down upon by outsiders for years as little more than a country town deluxe.
Having moved to Brisbane from Far North Queensland in 2008, I can attest that it has come a long way even in that time. My eyes were wide enough when I first moved down here and there were more than just two pubs in Main Street to go to, but after living here a while I more frequently heard how flaccid Brisbane’s nightlife was in comparison to its counterparts in Sydney and Melbourne. That perception experienced a radical change in the last few years though, with night spots across the city as diverse as they have ever been and new establishments opening frequently and absolutely thriving.
Places that have opened their doors in recent years here where you can eat, drink and dance to great music until all hours. Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall in Caxton Street and its sister bar Sonny’s House Of Blues in the Inner City, Brooklyn Standard in South Bank, the Bearded Lady in West End.
Places like the Woolly Mammoth, the Triffid and The Foundry in much-maligned Fortitude Valley, too. These have swiftly become live music institutions affording local acts a stomping ground and those from abroad the opportunity to play to the city where previously their ‘national’ headline tour would consist of only Sydney and Melbourne.
Those are just some of my personal favourites but there are dozens more I haven’t listed. They have all contributed to what is currently the richest cultural tapestry and after hours scene we’ve ever had, and one the city of Brisbane should be proud to stack up there with any other city in the country.
Instead, just when Brisbane is finally getting good, Palaszczuk would prefer to put a sleeper hold on it, one that isn’t just going to send us home before our bedtimes, but will cost jobs and livelihoods. A vice grip that could potentially close doors on some of these places before they even have the chance to truly flourish, and outright prevent others from opening in the future and making Brisbane’s nightlife even more fresh and vibrant than it is now.
I’d hate to rile up the residents of everywhere north by giving Brisbane most of my focus; their cities and towns and their voices on this issue matter just as much as those in my own city. I simply feel as though I’m not nearly educated enough to speak much for people living in places like Cairns, Townsville and anywhere else in Queensland whose nightlife and atmosphere I’ve not enjoyed as extensively.
I will say from having friends and family living in both of the aforementioned though, these are also cities that have been emerging culturally in their own right in recent times. Cities that these lockout laws are going to slam that same window of opportunity to emerge straight shut on, regardless of whoever’s fingers are currently in the jamb.
In pushing these laws through, Palaszczuk seemingly remains blissfully ignorant of all of the hard work by the forerunners of Queensland’s music scene at her own peril. She’ll no doubt soon be hearing from some of them in the same manner Mike Baird heard so resoundingly from in Flight Facilities, Nina Las Vegas, Alison Wonderland and many others. Artists who cut their teeth on the way to international stardom and huge careers gigging in previously popular Sydney nightspots, most of which are now closed because of his lockout laws.
To list a few of the names Queensland has produced in the last few years who might have a word or two for Anna? Artists like Violent Soho, Dune Rats, DZ Deathrays, Emma Louise, The Kite String Tangle, The Amity Affliction, Kita Alexander, Art Of Sleeping, Last Dinosaurs, The Belligerents, Drunk Mums, The John Steel Singers, The Medics, The Jungle Giants, Jeremy Neale and Velociraptor are just some of many names who have helped carry Queensland’s contemporary music scene to the forefront of Australia and the world.
Where are future artists like these to get their chance to shine on a national and international stage without the opportunity to pay their dues in the same pubs and clubs that have helped launch careers in this state for decades?
The sheer number of friends I have in bands still in their infancy currently doing that exact thing, friends in bookings and public relations for artists, friends who are working their way through uni studying to become doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers or whatever they want to be, funding themselves solely through the bar jobs these laws could decimate. Friends who are also music journalists who spend a significant chunk of their time reviewing live music, friends who work hard all week for the chance to go out and blow off some steam watching a band or catching up over drinks, all watching helplessly as Annastacia Palaszczuk fucks with their dreams.
Does this sound like somebody who is, as she says, ‘committed to increasing employment and devoting more resources to mental health’? What utterly patronising drivel.
She’ll no doubt peddle the same cherry-picked and wholesale bullshit statistics Mike Baird was tarred and feathered for, and there’s little need to argue why those statistics are meaningless when so many others have already articulated it far better than I can. There’s also little need to call further attention to the abhorrent exemption casinos are set to be given from these laws and why attacking one human vice by enabling and downright encouraging another is positively sociopathic.
I don’t even want to delve into how truly moronic the second part of her plan is: to bar people from nightclub precincts on the basis of previous drug offenses, apparently at the judge’s discretion. Not when we live in the same universe where a drug offense in this state could be someone caught peacefully having a joint at a festival or busted for driving with drugs in their system from over a week ago. That’s an issue that could have its own column devoted to it.
I myself am a one-time victim of what Palaszczuk and the Labor Party would call ‘alcohol-fuelled violence.’ Walking back from a night out at the pub in my hometown of Atherton, Far North Queensland in 2012, I was set upon and beaten by two men who approached me on the pretense of needing directions. They didn’t take my wallet or my phone or anything of tangible value to me, they simply kicked the ever-loving shit out of me. By some miracle I hit the gutter back first instead of with my head. They left me lying in that gutter with a bloodied and broken face.
They walked away laughing.
Never once, not when I lay in the hospital afterwards all stitched up and in shock, not in the weeks and months following, where I spent almost every waking moment looking over my shoulder or paranoid the next person I encountered on my own was going to try and assault me – not as I still lie awake some nights all these years later unable to sleep for reliving the whole horrible event, never once did I think alcohol had a fucking thing to do with it.
These two neanderthals and others like them who assault people on their nights out have issues far more deep-seated and personal that certainly weren’t planted there by the blanket scapegoat of alcohol.
And for those who do genuinely feel as though alcohol can induce violence that would have been non-existent otherwise, let me ask you this: what’s to stop it from happening earlier than 2am? Or in literally any other location?
Nothing. Because it’s not about the time of day or the venue or the suburb. It’s about the person.
The police I spoke to from a hospital bed that same night said they knew exactly who these two men were, but that I would have to identify them myself via a photo lineup. By the time they came to me with that lineup, over a year later, I had done almost everything in my power to suppress the memory of that night and I couldn’t identify them.
Why did those two men walk away laughing? Because they already knew they were getting away scot free.
Yes. Queensland is a state that, rather than putting resources into identifying violent offenders, shifting the focus to their individual actions and imposing harsher penalties on them as a deterrent for the kind of disgracefully antisocial behaviour these lockout laws are seeking to curb, has instead decided it’s far easier for them to simply paint us all with the same brush and send us to bed early without an argument.
A state telling it’s own good, responsible citizens along with the violent minority that they all can’t be trusted to be out drinking past 2am. That they all can’t be trusted to responsibly enjoy anything considered hard liquor after midnight or buy anything from a bottle shop past 10. All of this coming from a bunch of middle-aged politicians who probably haven’t ever enjoyed a night out at any of our
war zones flourishing entertainment precincts, nonetheless insistent on ruling them with an iron fist and enforcing their view of what’s best upon us.
If the figurative tumbleweeds blowing through the ghost town that is Sydney after dark are an indication, Queensland is about to turn into an entire ghost state. But that’s going to be their loss as much as it is ours.
The people of Sydney have my sincerest commiserations for the utter joke of a situation they find themselves in, but the mistakes of Parliament in New South Wales represented Queensland’s biggest chance in years.
With Mike Baird and Sydney’s reputation presently in tatters both here and overseas, Annastacia Palaszczuk had a golden opportunity to propel this state forward as one of Australia’s most attractive places to live and visit, a state that promotes growth everywhere from Brisbane to the Far North as a cultural haven and, most importantly, a state that has the spine it takes to resoundingly back the 99% of its own citizens who aren’t miserable dickheads prone to punching people on a night out.
With that opportunity in her hands and the rest of Australia and the world watching, she has this morning looked us all dead in the eye and flung it straight into the abyss.
There’s a storm coming, Casino Anna.
Image: Lady Lex/mycitylife.com.au