Australian Politics & Current Affairs
By Nick Kenny
“Kings Cross was a wonderful place. Nothing since then, London, Paris, Hollywood or New York has been quite so wonderful. And although I lived on the edge of destitution, I had never been happier in my life.” Peter Finch, 1916 – 1977.
The anti-alcohol crusaders are at it again, with one of Sydney’s most classic and iconic neighbourhoods about to be bombarded by a fresh wave of prohibitionist policies. This week, clubs and pubs in King’s Cross will have a blanket ban on serving drinks during their final hour before close, and shots and doubles will be illegal after midnight.
More troubling, however, are the imposition of I.D. scanners at the entrance to every venue, and every establishment will be required to fork out the salaries of two professional fun police, also known as “R.S.A. marshalls”. The job requirements are to take up space, chaperone grown adults, and dish out evictions to anyone they don’t like the look of. That’s right – you are being watched, your presence is being recorded, and you’d better behave.
As if that’s not enough, anyone ejected from a venue will be automatically denied entry to anywhere else in the entire clubbing precinct. The age-old unspoken rule “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” no longer applies. If just one R.S.A. officer doesn’t like the look of you, say goodnight.
This dramatic shakedown is the result of nothing but a pot-stirring media, which claims we have an “epidemic” of alcohol-related violence throughout the land. Going by media reports, you’d think booze had just been invented and we’re drinking ourselves into an Armageddon of savagery and bloodlust. The reality is the opposite – alcohol consumption in Australia has been decreasing steadily for two decades now, a trend which few other OECD countries have felt.
There is no “epidemic” of binge-drinking. What we have, instead, is an epidemic of rabble-rousing by a select few interest groups, each with their own warped agendas. Let’s break them down:
The NSW Police
Since when did it become the domain of the police to dictate the law rather than uphold it? If anyone else in society was complaining that they can’t do their job properly, they’d be laughed at all the way to the Centrelink office. This mob have become soft and lazy over the years, preferring tasers over physical restraint, or using a dozen officers to restrain a single teenager.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch has tried to justify this outsourcing of public safety by claiming the following nonsense: “Those who stay out after midnight are going to become one of two things – they are going to be a victim, or an offender”.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been in The Cross after midnight, but it would have to be close to a hundred. Not once have I been in a single altercation, nor have I been the victim of any crime, other than the occasional robbery by a Five Dragons pokie. I can count on one hand the number of “fights” I’ve seen, none of which were more than a push-and-shove.
Murdoch goes on, saying: “Whether it’s [young men] marking their territory, or just trying to prove how tough they are, [the violence] never used to happen. People used to go out, have a drink, have a good time, and go home”. Sorry? Are we talking about the same King’s Cross here? If this bloke honestly thinks there was ever a time when The Cross wasn’t infamous for being a debaucherous jungle of booze and mayhem, then it’s high time he hung up his boots, hit the retirement village, and make way for an Assistant Commissioner who doesn’t have Alzheimer’s.
Ask anyone who has lived in, or frequented the area for the past generation, and they will testify that violence in the past was much, much worse than it is today – and the statistics support this anecdotal evidence. Yes, assault figures over the past decade clearly show a decline in violent activity. Clearly, Assistant Commissioner Murdoch isn’t one to let the truth get in the way of stringent injustice.
The NSW Liberal Party
This win-by-default crew, headed by the most inspiring and charismatic Bazza O’Fazza, latched onto alcohol and binge-drinking like flies to shit once they knew they could score political points out of it. The former ALP government’s close ties to the Australian Hotels Association were easy fodder for the 2011 election, but now old Baz has to come good on his promises.
Wanting to “see first hand what the police have to deal with”, he actually paid a few visits to The Cross. How gutted he must have been to see not one incident the entire time. Undaunted, he had a yarn with the locals and the police to seek their advice. Naturally, any experienced pollie knows that random ideas from strangers and war stories from timid probationary constables are the cornerstones of evidence-based policy.
The Bored Mothers’ Society
This particular mob, whose only enjoyment in life comes from thwarting the excitement in the lives of others, is one hell of a political force. Acting under a self-righteous veil of “community values”, this pack of screechers can be found at the forefront of practically any protest group, community meeting, government lobby, or online forum. Their propensity for telling society at large to shackle everyone and everything, either to protect their precious brats from some imagined threat, or simply to relieve their own frustrated, middle-aged boredom, knows no bounds.
From behind their suburban picket fences, miles away from the action, with Tracy Grimshaw backing them all the way, they preach their Nanny State agenda. The most frustrating part about this group is that they actually believe they are doing society a service by demanding that the government holds the hands of its citizens the same way they do with their children.
Let it be known – forcing a child to do what is good for them, and protecting them from their own naivety, are acts of commonsense. Forcing a grown adult to behave only in the manner that you deem suitable, and presuming you know how they ought to be living their lives, are acts of despotism and conceit.
Ah, the locals. Poor guys. How unfortunate it must be to live in such a high-rent, high-demand area in the city, with waterfront views, only to have it ruined by wanton drunken chaos dozens of floors below you.
This lot are no different than the yuppies who moved next door to Luna Park, only to complain about the noise levels. I refuse to believe anyone could be so stupid as to sign a lease in The Cross without knowing what sort of area they were moving into, so this can only be put down to pure arrogance.
Demanding the world around them change to suit their comfort needs wherever they go? Sorry, but The Cross was here first. It’s been the red-light district since well before they were born, and they know it.
It’s not as if they don’t have options either. If you rent here, move. If you own here, lease the bloody thing out to someone who appreciates this colourful place in all its degenerate glory. If you can afford to live in The Cross, you have options.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The Cross is… The Cross. Always has been, always will be. It’s a confined area of sin and seduction where the young and the carefree go to let off steam and blow a week’s pay on all sorts of lecherous activities.
Some of you might not want a bar of it, and that’s fine. You’re more than welcome to visit one of the hundreds of other suburbs in Sydney. But there are plenty of us, much like the late actor Peter Finch, who prefer a break from the monotony of the “family friendly”, PG-rated life that dominates the rest of Sydney.
Don’t expect the wowsers to stop at these new ideas. Like most radical changes enforced from above here in Australia, steps are taken gradually so we don’t get too upset all at once. Our steady slide into the clutches of the Nanny State has only just begun. O’Farrell has already declared that his government will continue to crush the life out of King’s Cross with 1am lockouts if these proposals “fail”. You can bet your last schooner that this, and other such mockery, will be on the cards before you know it.
No one wants thuggery and senseless violence on the streets. But the reality of The Cross is being skewed by emotions and propaganda. Untested, draconian policies are being tossed about with no evidence to support their effectiveness, and the rights of the overwhelmingly peaceful majority are being trumped by noisy interest groups and ignorant decision makers. “Break out the sledgehammers”, they say, “because we’ve got ants to kill”.