In front of a packed gallery at 4.30pm today at NSW Parliament – filled with people invested in the #KeepSydneyOpen debate (see photos from the rally earlier this year HERE) – Newtown Greens MP Jenny Leong, alongside Independent MP Alex Greenwich and Greens MP Jamie Parker officially presented the 12,000+ strong Keep Sydney Open petition for a brief but powerful 20 minute debate that may not have brought NSW Premier Mike Baird (#casinomike) into the room, but saw those who voted through the rushed legislation in the first place admit that they should have sought public consultation.
ALP member for Maroubra, Michael Daley, reminisced about “the haste of the legislation”, and admitted that “the lack of consultation (by the Barry O’Farrell Government) has led to the concerns (of the public)”, after essentially saying that the laws seemed like a good idea at the time, something Greens MP Jamie Parker later reflected on, reminding the room that “all the major media outlets were in support of the laws…”. Daley’s comments today, however, reflects the change in attitude from many MPs since community pressure began.
Meanwhile, the speeches from Leong and Greenwich – which included a clever M83 “Midnight City” reference from Leong – focused on the damage the laws have done to Sydney’s nightlife economy, remarking how though violence is down, it’s only because there’s no one left on the streets, while “venues were seeing some 40% reduction in sales, and live entertainment (bookings) reduce by some 15%”.
Leong went on to put the petition down to a simple premise: “…we are going to fight for our right to party late in the night… if we want to. We don’t want Mike Baird to tell us when to go to bed”. Her passionate address saw the gallery erupt in applause before being told to respect the rules of the room, “There will be no further clapping in the NSW Parliament!”. The rule was respected for the remainder of the debate, but the message from those attending – myself (not so partial) included – had already been made clear.
Greenwich, meanwhile, reflected some of the many measures that the Keep Sydney Open petition has recommended in place of the laws, for instance suggesting that “venues which promote rich culture and entertainment and don’t contribute to violence should be exempt (from the laws).”Both Greenwich and Leong reinforced that addressing violence is important, but there are better ways to go about it than blindly punishing all venues. “They are punishing our entertainment venues… There are better ways than this to stamp out anti-social behaviour”, said Leong.
Greens MP Jamie Parker extended the public’s feelings of frustration that led to the popular #casinomike hashtag, “The casino exemption has enraged people because it proves the legislation reflects power, not policy.”
In a brief address in Martin Place after the debate, Leong told supporters that this debate would never have happened without the Keep Sydney Open petition and the public pressure, remarking that Baird and the Liberal Party had no intention to run a review of the lock out laws before this campaign began. She asked supporters to keep their voices loud, because “even if the review recommends to keep the lockouts in place”, community pressure can help convince the party to ignore the findings, as has often happened with high profile issues in the past.
Tyson Koh, who founded the Keep Sydney Open movement, also spoke to supporters, thanking them for the remarkable results of the petition, and went on to promise that if change isn’t made by those in power, another rally would be organised within the next few months. The message from all seemed to be just that: the conversation is just beginning, and it’s never been more important for supporters of Sydney nightlife to keep their voices heard.
For more about Keep Sydney Open, and to sign the petition – which remains open – visit their official website.
Headline photo by Belinda Diaplo.