The fight for Sydney’s life is stepping-up next year. The people behind the Keep Sydney Open movement are hoping to launch a political party to roll-back late night lockout laws. The passion for this issue seems disproportionate given we aren’t stopping streets about our inability to pay rent or buy a house.
I wonder why there is so much passion for this topic. While access to cultural venues and a vibrant city is important, perhaps it's not about that.
It’s much like that mug you asked your flatmates not to use. You like the mug. You always want it available because it's bigger than the other mugs. You don't have to leave your laptop as often when you're writing. But there's that flatmate who used it one time and you hit the roof. It's so typical of him to do that. You had a huge argument and it was devastating to the flat dynamic.
But it was never about the mug, was it? It was about how it's so typical of him to do that. He leaves his stuff around the living room and he leaves dishes in the kitchen. You've mentioned these things, or at least glared at him, and he said 'oh yeah, sure, I'll do it soon. There's just a supply problem at the moment with the amount of land available for housing.'
The bigger battles are complicated, multi-factoral, and drawn-out. Whereas the mug is so cut-and-dry, and perfectly demonstrates abuse of power. You asked him not to use the mug but he did. Because fuck you.
They locked you out of venues to win a few votes because fuck you—you have no social or economic power, and this was a demonstration of that reality. You aren't a member of a church who would send an angry letter. You aren't a member of a union because what is that. You aren't part of a local community action group because signing a petition at change.org is how real change happens (it's in the name).
An incisive commentator noted the curious choice of Belmore Park for the Keep Sydney Open protest late last year. The place had become home to Sydney’s destitute and now it was hosting concerns about access to late night cocktails. But the choice of location has more poetic resonance than perhaps even the organizers realized.
Excluded from society by monied interests, both of these groups had lost their homes. One lost cultural homes for their community, the other lost actual homes. The cause was the same systemic abuse of power by one group over another which has been accelerating inequality.
A more incisive commentator noted that curtailing nightlife was the straw that broke young people after another intergenerational acquisition of space. Everything has been put out of reach and this was the most blatant.
The cliff-dive into the Mariana Trench of wages relative to productivity (if you’re reading this and are a worker, research says you're owed about an extra 60% of your salary), combined with the meteoric rise in housing, electricity, and education costs, means Gen Y and Z have been left out in the literal cold.
We’ve had so much taken from us, especially when compared to the world we were promised. Baby boomers promised 'if you work hard and study hard, you'll be able to afford a life like ours.' And even Captain Planet said, “the power is yours.” Lived experience tells us you need to work a couple of jobs simultaneously, be given money for a home deposit, and change careers constantly to be in earshot of the lush-life boomers with regular jobs fell arse-backwards into (#notallboomers). And let's not start on the monumental destruction of the environment which younger people have been overwhelmingly against.
In 2016, Labor released a paper on growing inequality and its plans for decelerating it. 'Growing Together' says inequality is the worst it's been in almost a century. The damning document focuses not on the misleading figure of unemployment but 'underemployment'. The underemployed are people who can only find at least 1 hour of work a week. Combining the unemployed rate and the underemployed rate makes for an alarming 14%. Incidentally, a similar number to those in poverty; get ten Aussies in a room and 1 to 2 of them will need change for the bus.
The meticulousness of the 142 pages makes a persuasive case about how unfair things have become using the best research available and provides detailed microeconomic reforms. Keep Sydney Open's policy list includes, "Greater diversity after dark including food, retail, cultural and recreational offerings." It's like if when Marie Antoinette mythically said, 'let them eat cake', Sydneysiders responded, 'where's this cake?'
Sydney's lockout laws are a symptom of real politik where politicians can so easily walk over our unorganized generation. Forming a single-issue, single-electorate, single-election political party isn't enough. We need to join the broader fight.
There's no cake. It's not about the cake. Go for the whole enchilada.