An open letter to the NSW Government: The lock out laws have failed. There’s only one thing that will save us now…

Seven and a half years is a long time to do anything. OK, I’m rounding up slightly – but 7 1/3 years doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. That’s longer than you’re at High School for. Longer than a University Degree (unless you realllly drag that sucker out). And that’s as long as I’ve been Editor-in-Chief of the AU review. And today, at least for now, I bow out, to focus on a few other projects and on running the business of parent company Heath Media.

I’ve been wondering what to write about as my last piece while I sit in this position (I’ll continue to contribute though, and you’ll still see my name pop up more often than you’d probably like!) – and it’s kept coming back to the thing I’m most passionate about: live music. In particular, the live music scene in Sydney that the current State Government are going out of their way to disrupt.

It’s far from new news, but I wanted to take this opportunity to write an open letter to the NSW Government in regards to the lock out laws, as my final official piece as Editor-in-Chief of the AU review. Thanks to everyone for your support of this site and hope you will continue to do so under the new editorial structure in 2016!


Dear Mike Baird and the NSW Government,

Well you’ve done it. The damage to Sydney nightlife has been achieved. Kings Cross is all but dead – though people are still hitting other people at 7pm apparently (presumably because Ice is a hell of a drug and a major issue in its own right that lock out laws do not even begin to address) – some of our favourite venues have been destroyed by the loss of business and Newtown and similar places free of the lock out laws have become streets full of the people who will cause problems anywhere they go. I’ll admit, some improvements have been cited, and I’m sure Kings Cross residents are pleased. As are the property developers who are set to replace venues with towering apartment buildings. I’m just confused why they bought property there in the first place if that’s the case.

But let’s be honest, the only reason this hasn’t been a total disaster is likely thanks to services like Uber providing a safe and affordable alternative to Taxis, free from the “changeover” period that your lockout laws forced patrons in the middle of. But wait… you’re trying to get rid of that too? Ugh.

Just like the times it failed in Melbourne, the lock out laws have done nothing to curb drinking problems, nothing to curb violence and have only fragmented the city in a different way. It’s in a way that says, “don’t look over HERE but let’s distract you by all the change we’ve made HERE!” Oh and The Star has done *really* well out of this. But you knew that going into this, didn’t you?

Well, given several MPs admitted after the fact that they didn’t read the bill they signed in to power, because they weren’t given the time, I guess it’s fair to assume many didn’t. It was, after all, a trigger happy response to pressure from Murdoch media and more influential members of the public^ – something your Government has been prone to do, cowardly and without vision, time and time again. I point to Gayby Baby as a more recent, well publicised example, but the list really does go on and on.

There is no argument that Australia has a drinking problem. It also has a problem with misogynism, domestic violence, racism, asylum seeker policies which break international law and other issues which are often encouraged by the political discourse in this country. I’d love to know what you’re doing about any of that*. But this is for another time.

The reality is, you – the generation that runs this “lucky country” – have done everything in your power to fuck up its culture. Yet you blame us. You and the generation before you were the ones that had to drink drive enough and kill enough people that laws were put into place to prevent drink driving. But no, it’s Generation Y that’s the fuck up. You are the generation who were taught by your parents and led by example that going to the pub and getting fucked up is “just part of growing up”. But no, it’s Generation Y that’s the fuck up. And that time your parents hit each other, well that’s just part of marriage.

You are the generation who put mental health issues on the back burner in favour of ensuring coal exports were on the up and up. But god forbid we try and progress new forms of energy – those damn Gen Y hippies!~ You are the generation who enjoyed free University education, an economy which allowed such thing as a “new, young homeowner” and a GST free life. But no, it’s Generation Y that’s lazy and irresponsible. *Surely* it can’t be your fault that things are so difficult to afford now.

No, let’s stop the bullshit. You failed. It’s not generation Y’s fault, it’s yours. And no amount of short sighted legislation is going to change that.

The only thing that will change a systemic problem of drinking and violence is education, and what the current generation having kids will teach their kids. And what their kids will teach their kids. It will take generations to literally breed this out of society, but that process has to start now. They have to be taught that drinking is fine, but drinking a lot isn’t something to be proud of. They have to be taught that hitting a woman or calling her a slut is not OK.

They have to be taught that we are all equal, despite race, religion, or sexual preference. And that’s in Gen Y’s hands, not yours. You’ve done your damage and we just have to hope that this next generation of parents know better than you did. But just remember – if there’s one thing we know about kids it’s that telling them they can’t have something, just makes them want it even more. And most adults are just big children – Question Time in Parliament only proves this point… why do grown men and women need to be told to be quiet, and then refuse to be quiet? What sort of example does that set? But I digress…

So, in the meantime, as we attempt to educate our Youth, do as Melbourne has done, and New York and London did before it. Don’t just remove the laws – make it easier for night life to exist. Encourage alternatives to a hard party scene. Late night wine bars and diners, small music venues, artistic spaces… These are all intrinsic of a healthy late night culture; one that doesn’t need a curfew to be told how to behave, attracting people of all cultures and age groups. Every study in the book shows that – at least in big cities like the ones mentioned – the more creativity goes in, the more violence goes down.

And if you *really* want to make money, keep people at home, off the streets and living their life in a non-violent way, then there is one other thing you can do: legalise marijuana. Have you *read* about the crazy tax that they’ve been raking in in Colorado? You’re always complaining about how tight the budget is.

Yours faithfully,
Larry Heath

^An obvious reference to the tragic death of Thomas Kelly, who became the catalyst of this expedited push for legislative change. But how that legislation was born out of an incident at 9.30pm, by a known offender, into something which stops bars from opening their doors after 1.30am made no sense then, and still doesn’t today. It’s in venues people are safest – it’s on the streets where people feel free to act as abhorrently as they desire – and this case was proof of it. I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS.

*An old hat I know, but stopping Chris Brown from entering Australia is kind of part of the problem. You think small fixes will hide the bigger issues. But a lot has to be done to fix any of these systemic and abhorrent attitudes in society – predicated and instilled by your generation and the ones that preceded it. I also realise that these problems aren’t exclusive to Australia, but we do live in denial they exist here at all, which is even worse.

~I do have to recognise that Turnbull has started to make some changes there, specifically in regards to Wind Energy. And by “changes” I mean, “fixing Abbott’s fuck ups”…


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.