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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 23 October, 2019
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Strict lockout laws mean no late-night pints and kebabs for us Irish in Sydney

If you think Australia is as laid back as the tourism ads, think again, writes Barry Dunning from Sydney.

Barry Dunning Writer

LOCKOUT LAWS THAT mean you can’t enter a venue after 1.30am or grab a late-night kebab, $319 (€214) fines for not wearing a bike helmet, seven-year jail terms for protesting environmental issues – right now in Sydney it seems there is a rule for everything.

As spring struggles to make its return to Ireland, and the darkness drags on as long as the shadow boxing between Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin, you couldn’t begrudge anyone in Ireland wishing for better politicians or better weather.

I write from Sydney, Australia, one of tens of thousands of Irish who is still here years after arriving into the country with a backpack, a working holiday visa and a plan to have the craic.

Sydney has a lot going for it, with great beaches, friendly people and plenty of sunshine. There hasn’t been a recession in over 20 years.

But if you think Australia is as laid back as the tourism ads or Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee, think again. Over the past couple of years, politicians have introduced a string of laws aimed at taking the fun out of life.

It started at the end of 2013 when a young man was killed by an unprovoked “one-punch” assault in the most famous nightlife spot in the city, Kings Cross. Almost exactly a year later, another young man died in similar circumstances in the same area.

Crackdown

Despite the fact that, on average, one woman is murdered by her partner every week in Australia, the New South Wales Government chose to tackle violence in Australian culture by launching a major crackdown on nightlife in the city centre.

They introduced stringent lockout laws that mean you cannot enter a pub or nightclub after 1.30am. All venues must stop serving alcohol at 3am.

You can be refused alcohol at the merest suspicion of a staff member that you may be in any way intoxicated. And no shots after midnight.

shutterstock_227762413 Source: Shutterstock/ChameleonsEye

Since the introduction of these new laws, night-time trade in the lockout zone has collapsed. Foot traffic in Kings Cross is down 60% and many of the city’s most iconic nightclubs have closed, to be sold off to developers.

Local musicians fear for the future of live music in the city, with long-standing venues closing across the city. The state government has even implemented a lockout for kebab shops. Seriously.

While the lockout laws have hammered venues across the city centre, there has been one fortuitous exception.

In a stroke of planning that would do Dublin Corporation’s George Redmond proud, Sydney’s casino falls just outside the lockout zone (and the new casino currently under construction will also be exempted). Not only can the casino trade away, but it is now the only place to have a drink in the city centre after 3am.

Roads

Not content with curtailing people’s right to have a pint late at night, the state government has also turned its attention to cyclists. While almost every other city in the developed world is actively encouraging cycling, Sydney is speeding backwards.

New laws have recently come into place quadrupling fines for cyclists. You will now cop a $319 (€214) fine if you’re caught not wearing a helmet or carrying photo ID.

Sydney is also ripping up bike lanes, with a minister for roads who brags about being the “biggest bike lane sceptic” – an archaic approach to take in a city with cripplingly bad traffic problems and a groaning public transport network.

shutterstock_207352285 Source: Shutterstock/Taras Vyshnya

It doesn’t just stop at bikes and booze.  Laws passed recently will see potential seven-year jail terms for people protesting against fracking and mining exploration, even on their own farms.

Conservative politicians in Australia are addicted to mining companies (and their political donations) with former Prime Minister Tony Abbott (the bloke who ate a raw onion amongst many other embarrassments) on record as believing coal was “good for humanity”.

And there’s plenty more crazy laws from overzealous politicians. You have cabbies getting fined for wearing the wrong coloured shoes. There are excessive restrictions on outdoor dining in one of the sunniest cities in the world and fines for parking your car on the wrong side of the street.

Protests

Thankfully, resistance to the creeping nanny state is building.

More than 12,000 people protested on the streets recently against the lockout laws and in response to public pressure, a review of the lock-out laws is underway.  Public pressure has led to the temporary suspension of the mandatory ID law for cyclists.

Campaigns are ongoing to have fines downgraded. The anti-protest laws will be challenged in the Supreme Court.

So while us Irish in Sydney may have the weather and the beaches, I do miss the ability to cycle into town sans-helmet and ID, lock up the bike and enjoy few late-night pints followed by a kebab at Zaytoon.

And while Enda, Michael, Gerry and the rest are woeful, Ireland most definitely doesn’t have a monopoly on second-rate politicians with misguided policies.

Barry Dunning has lived in Australia since 2011, but still calls Kildare home. You can find him on Twitter here.

Read: Irishman stabbed to death while having dinner in Sydney restaurant

Read: 218 Irish arrested and deported from Australia since 2010

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Barry Dunning  / Writer

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