In the same day that NSW Premier Mike Baird was slammed for his out of touch, pretentious and downright wrong statement he made on his Facebook regarding the effects that the lockout laws have had on Sydney and it’s entertainment precincts, Queensland State senator Glenn Lazarus has called for an inquiry into the lockout laws proposed for his state- and has come out in full support of them.
The move comes after Lazarus’ son was glassed in the face not a week before 18 year old Cole Miller was killed by a coward punch- both in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. Lazarus, speaking to triple J’s Hack, said that this was the “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, has called for the federal government to step in to create blanket rules nationwide in an effort to curb the seemingly increasing alcohol-fuelled violence rates in our entertainment precincts. Lazarus listed a few keys areas that his inquiry should look at, all of which are state-funded, such as police, transport and penalties for perpetrators.
“If the committee goes to the [federal] government with a strategy, hopefully they will show some leadership and push for it to be implemented Australia wide,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is happening too much in our society, and I believe society has bought this upon itself.”
Whilst he did touch on some key parts like acknowledging that Australia is in need of a change in our drinking culture, it seems Lazarus was a little off the mark, and a lot all over the place throughout the interview. He also said he was going into this with “no preconceived ideas”, but he did re-admit that he was a “fan” of lockout laws.
However, not everyone thinks that’s such a great idea.
Federal MP Ewen Jones, also from (North) Queensland spoke with Hack on the same segment. Jones has been one of the most outspoken politicians on the issue in the past, and has been strong in his stance that the responsibility for such violence should lay solely on the perpetrator.
“At the end of the day, who’s responsible? The person who glassed Glenn Lazarus’ son – he’s responsible,” Jones said when asked what his take was on Lazarus’ inquiry. “He’s the one who got out of control and he’s the one who should pay for the offence.”
From here, Jones re-detailed his plan to put harsher penalties on those who can’t control themselves when it comes to drinking and violence, moving to make them a “pariah” for their actions.
“Send that message to the individual that you will be held responsible yourself. Not the venue, not the whole youth of Australia, not the precinct, not the city, not the suburb; the individual,” he said. “The individual has to be held responsible.”
Now, we can get into where the issue lies in regards to what level of government should be acting on this, but at the end of the day, lockout laws are an increasingly talked about topic- it’s just that the debate still doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Jones has spoken about this at least three times (once more on Hack and once in the Courier Mail), however his alternate solutions are yet to see any real traction in the official debate (despite being one of the more progressive arguments). Programs like Hack, although great for creating discussions, only last a certain amount of time and only go so far when dealing with real issues.
In the case of Mike Baird’s response to the most recent outcry against his government’s lockout laws, he detailed a different side to Sydney. He spoke of how assaults are down 42.2%, and that small bars and restaurants are opening across the city. What he failed to mention was that assaults are so low because foot traffic in the concerning areas are at an all-time low, and I’m not sure what bars and restaurants he is talking about as his government quietly issued an announcement yesterday that there will be no new licenses granted for 12 months.
“The main complaints seem to be that you can’t drink till dawn any more and you can’t impulse-buy a bottle of white after 10pm,” he said. Not only is this insulting to so many who have fought hard to outline the very specific and real concerns about these laws, but it’s wrong as well. We can only speak for ourselves, but our main complaint is the absolute destruction of culture in the Sydney CBD, not to mention the redistribution of unsavoury types going into areas that were once openminded and safe, like Newtown. The violence hasn’t stopped, and the violent people haven’t had a sudden change of heart. They’re just not in Kings Cross anymore, and that’s all Baird cares about. Flight Facilities, Nina Las Vegas, Sampology, The Presets and many more artists, not to mention venue owners and industry personnel have slammed Baird in response on his own post. Even entrepreneur Matt Barrie, who just last week published a report titled “Would the last person in Sydney please turn the lights out?” that quickly went viral, responded with a succinct slamming of Baird’s preposterous statement, and all of these comments can be found in the very angry comments section of his Facebook (and rightly so).
It is time for governments, NSW and QLD in particular, to really listen to what their people are so loudly saying and look at alternatives. Really look at them, not just say they will and continue pushing their own agendas. If they were listening, they would have not be pushing casinos and gambling in our faces as an alternative to a late night wine with your friends after a gig. Casinos remain exempt from lockout laws in both New South Wales and Queensland, whilst at least 20 bars have shut down in Sydney alone.
As champions of local and live music here at Howl & Echoes, we cannot stress enough how important it is that these laws be revised so as to not destroy our culture and music scenes that decades and decades of hard work have gone into. Sydney’s once thriving nightlife scene is now similar to a ghost town, and Queensland as a whole still has so far to go before we can truly revel in a scene so many have worked so hard for. Please, Baird and Palaszczuk governments, listen to your communities. Don’t let us die out.
Image via InTheMix