It was only just a month ago that social media and all of Sydney was ablaze with outrage over Mike Baird’s use of misleading statistics in an attempt to prove whatever point he was trying to make about the success of Sydney’s lockout laws. The weekend following saw 15,000 people march in the Keep Sydney Open rally, with #CasinoMike well and truly trending at that point. With Baird shouting down pill testing, and Brisbane adopting lockout laws, it’s been sad times for issues surrounding music and nightlife in general. With another 13k people attending the Reclaim The Streets rally happening this Saturday afternoon (March 19th), there’s now even more to get angry about.
Check our photos of the Keep Sydney Open rally here
Monday night saw supporters for and against the lockouts meeting at Sydney University’s Institute of Criminology, with discussion from health professionals, academics, and statisticians. Dr Don Weatherburn – who you’ll remember debunked all the stats that Mike Baird had falsified a month ago – of the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), gave his impressions on the rate of assaults post-lockout.
According to the report, since the lockout laws were introduced in March of 2014, rate of assaults had dropped in the CBD and Kings Cross by 45%. They also addressed however, the obvious reasons for this, which are the steady decline of assaults since 2008, and the huge decrease in foot traffic in both of those areas. Nighttime foot traffic in Kings Cross is down 84%, and that fact hasn’t been addressed in any reports in favour of lockout laws thus far.
“In the CBD things go as you expect with no change in assaults prior to the lockout time but a significant change [after] 1:30am. The fact you are getting these reductions outside the lockout time may suggest fewer people are going to Kings Cross. Even if we admit the lockout laws are responsible, we don’t know what element generated that effect – was it the lockouts, earlier closing or the publicity?” – Dr Don Weatherburn
For many of us, this isn’t particularly new information – if you’d actually been paying attention to all the statistics, this has been clear for a very long time. What was upsetting though, and again obvious for a while, was the clarification that though instances of assault had not increased in all areas outside of the lockout zones, they had significantly in Pyrmont, where The Star is located.
Since the lockouts were introduced, we’ve been seeing more and more brutal assaults happening at The Star, with the casino constantly claiming that everything is fine and there’s nothing to worry about. In a statement to news.com.au, a Star City spokesperson claimed that, “The Star receives more than 11 million visitors per year and our safety record is strong. The number of incidents to visitors is one to 200,000 plus. At The Star, we witnessed a downward trend and a decrease in the number of assaults for calendar year 2014 to end of calendar year 2015. These are figures that are agreed with the casino regulator each month.” Actually you know what, you’re right The Star. Stastically speaking, that’s not very bad at all actually. I mean, the fact that only a few people have committed assaults and the majority have done nothing wrong shouldn’t mean that those not responsible have to suffer right?
Violence at The Star has gotten so bad that it’s been classified by BOCSAR as one of Sydney’s assault hot spots. Is that enough for the state government to recognise the fact that it’s worse than any of Sydney’s other vibrant nightlife areas ever was? Or will the casinos continue to stay in the pockets of government until it’s become even worse? Well, that’s where everyone else comes in.
Though it’s been announced that the government will hold a “night-time economy roundtable”, including a panel of business owners and anti-lockout groups, and promising that “all relevant aspects of the laws, including the geographical areas to which they apply will be examined”, there’s still work to be done. Peaceful protests and marches like Keep Sydney Open and Reclaim The Streets need the support of everyone and anyone who knows that this isn’t right. Are we going to let this get swept under the rug? Fuck no! Are we going to go kicking and screaming until something changes and people prick their ears up at the truth? Fuck yes!
Reclaim The Streets, this Saturday, 3pm, Town Hall. Be there if you care.