With Andy Young, editor TheShout
NSW Premier Mike Baird took to social media on Tuesday to defend Sydney’s controversial lockout laws and all but rule out changes despite the fact a review is still to happen; reaction to his post was as swift as it was scathing.
Including from within the Premier’s own public service, with Don Weatherburn, director of the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research told 702 ABC Sydney’s Mornings radio yesterday that the Premier was incorrectly quoting statistics and cherry picking convenient numbers without telling the whole story.
With the combined forces of Sydney’s hospitality industry and people who generally like to enjoy themselves turning on the Premier, venues have begun to spread the hashtag #LockOutMikeBaird with the team at Redfern’s Arcadia Liquors posting on social media that they have added to their anti-Barry O’Farrell door decorations with some anti-Mike Baird sentiments (pictured above). According to Pedestrian well-known bartender, and manger of new Applejack venture Della Hyde, Joe Worthington has also taken to social media to declare Baird is unwelcome in his bar – while also noting that the statistics thrown around by the premier are somewhat disingenuous.
With the state government due to commence its two-year review of the lockout laws, murmurings of discontent have been brewing since: a report was publish that showed traffic in Kings Cross has dropped by 84 per cent since 2010; Sydney businessman Matt Barrie wrote an 8000-word essay claiming the laws had made Sydney an international laughing stock; and restaurant and wine bar 10 William St was criticised by police over a “free wine” sign and its “wine by the glass” blackboard.
Using Facebook as the platform to defend the lockout laws, Premier Baird wrote that alcohol-related assaults had decreased by 42.2 per cent in Sydney’s CBD since the laws were introduced.
The premier wrote: “Let’s start with a statistic about Sydney’s nightlife that matters: alcohol related assaults have decreased by 42.2 per cent in the CBD since we introduced the ‘lock-out laws’. And they’re down by over 60 per cent in Kings Cross.”
He added: “There has been a growing hysteria this week about nightlife in Sydney. The main complaints seem to be that you can’t drink till dawn anymore and you can’t impulse-buy a bottle of white after 10pm. I understand that this presents an inconvenience. Some say this makes us an international embarrassment. Except, assaults are down by 42.2 per cent. And there is nothing embarrassing about that. We introduced laws to curb violence and to eliminate drinking ghettos by redistributing the nightlife across the city, making the whole city more vibrant. Now, some have suggested these laws are really about moralising. They are right. These laws are about the moral obligation we have to protect innocent people from drunken violence.”
Baird laid out his position prior to the lockout law review, which seemed to contradict the position of his deputy premier and the state’s justice minister, Troy Grant. Where Grant has said that after the review is complete the state government will have “a firmly stated position about the future of lockouts”, Baird wrote: “Over the coming months a detailed review into the effects of the lock-out laws will be undertaken. I await this work with interest. But as I’ve said before, it is going to take a lot for me to change my mind on a policy that is so clearly improving this city.”
LSA NSW’s executive director Michael Waters, told TheShout: “The Association entrusts its faith in due parliamentary process, and we sincerely hope the Premier has not already made up his mind on this issue, prior to the full review, and all evidence has been carefully considered.”
Following his publication of the post, the premier’s position was soon under fire on social media. Barrie was one of the first to respond, writing: “I am glad you finally found your social media logins. Here’s a statistic for you Mike: 927,000 reads of my article, #1 on LinkedIn Globally, #1 for reddit/Sydney, and of 950 comments, 84.9% agreed that you have destroyed the city’s reputation, small businesses, jobs or Sydney’s social & cultural fabric, 8.7% were neutral or had no comment, and only 6.4% agreed with you.”
Barrie also set up a gofundme page to send Baird a bottle of 1959 Grange. That was the wine which proved to be the undoing on former premier Barry O’Farrell.
The Keep Sydney Open group, which is campaigning against the laws highlighted key parts of the city’s entertainment precinct that are now “soulless” as a result of the regulations.
“This statement has clearly been made by someone that has very little engagement with the inner-city of Sydney,” the group said in response to Baird’s Facebook post.
“That anyone would need a report to make a decision on nightlife in Sydney is very telling. If you walked around the streets at midnight you would get a sense of how eerie parts of the city now are, and how once vibrant areas are now soulless.
“Mike, we all have the goal of making out streets safer, but unfortunately you are touting a curfew as the only way to achieve a reduction in anti-social behaviour. We know from studying other cities that you can maintain social and economic activity while reducing assaults, getting rid of people from entertaining precincts is ‘cheating’ a solution.”
The group concluded by inviting the premier to join them in the city for a night. “We invite you to have a conversation about this, even walk through the streets with us instead of dictating your limited opinion to your followers in the manner you have above. Please don’t frame this issue as an either/or fallacy when we can achieve a vibrant nightlife until all hours and safely simultaneously.”
More than 10,000 people have commented on Baird’s Facebook post since he published it on Tuesday, with many asking him to consider alternatives to the lockout laws. One comment said: “”Mike, you are out of touch with your community. The same logic can be applied to auto accidents. If you ban cars then of course the accident rates will drop. A sensible approach that solves both problems (alcohol related violence v the liberal rights of the average citizen to enjoy themselves) can be achieved. Your team needs to think harder to come up with a creative solution that pleases both camps.”
The NSW Government will be commencing its review of the state’s lockout laws later this month.
After this furore and the clusterfuck that was the police’s unsatisfying response to the 10 William St incident, someone is advertising for a new Social Media Manager on behalf of Mike Baird’s office on the Pedestrian news site. Well done, Sydney.