Sydney-siders gathered to protest the infamous trade restrictions and lockout laws that are being seen as the cause of a massive slump in the city’s hospitality scene and nightlife.
Around fifteen thousand protesters, including hospitality business owners and staff, music fans and musicians and members of the public, marched through Sydney’s CBD yesterday as part of the Keep Sydney Open rally.
The protest began at Belmore Park at midday and ended at Hyde Park, where speeches and live music followed. Keep Sydney Open’s Tyson Koh told News.com.au the purpose was to give a voice to the many thousands of people dissatisfied with the results of the lockout laws.
“At the moment they’ve played political football with our night-life and also the vibrancy of our city, when really we can have a safe and vibrant night life at the same time.
“We have a lot of measures on the table that we know will achieve this, and we’re looking at alternative policies based on how other cities have managed to both have a vibrant and safe night life.”
The rally at Hyde Park included discussion on solutions seen elsewhere to issues of violence and alcohol, such as the 24-hour transport in Melbourne and New York, more active policing to reduce anti-social activity, and First Aid tents and street marshals to help intoxicated revellers.
“I think the premier has really misjudged the passion that people have for seeing a more reasonable way forward that protects our night-life while reducing assault,” said Koh.
“We also want to invest in anti-violence campaigns that are publicly funded, and basically strengthen our ability to target the violent people in our society rather than enforcing things that impact on the 99 per cent of people who go out and aim to have a safe night.”
The protests come as it is revealed Ralph Kelly – father of victim Thomas Kelly and founder of the Thomas Kelly Foundation (TKF) – paid himself over half of the Foundation’s fundraising last year.
The director and sole employee of TKF drew $125,000 in wages*, as the charity raised a total of $242,373 – down from $325,600 the year before.
The salary was paid with full support of the board, which included reality TV star and head of St Vincents emergency, Gordian Fulde, and St Vincents CEO Patricia O’Rourke.
Both the TFK and St Vincents have been staunch advocates, and beneficiaries, of the laws that have seen patronage drop in Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD by up to 84% at peak times, and to an increasing degree head instead to the casino.
The question would appear to lie in the definition of whether the lockout laws have worked – given their supporters’ championing of 25 per cent reduction in generalised alcohol-related incidents (including but not exclusive to violence) in light of three times that amount less people.
*As a measure of contrast, the Commissioner of the Salvation Army, Todd Bassett, receives a salary of just US$13,000 plus lodging for managing the $2bn empire.