AUS­TRALIA – THE NANNY STATE

Gone are the at­trac­tive and laid­back days of ROG ² LQWURGXFLQJ D FRXQWU\ WKDW·V EHFRPH over-gov­erned to the point of hi­lar­ity.

GQ (Australia) - - IN­SIDE GQ -

Pic­ture your fa­ther in the 1980s. His shirt’s ac­tu­ally a sin­glet and his shorts ball-baring­ingly short – much like the shrift he gives to the idea of rules, reg­u­la­tions and mod­er­a­tion. He doesn’t wear a bi­cy­cle hel­met (nor would he ride a fixie, or al­low Ly­cra near his skin, frankly), he can drink where and what he likes, and he’d prob­a­bly blow the smoke from a Win­field Red right in your face were you to sug­gest oth­er­wise. It’s fair to say if you shoved him in a Tardis and dropped him into the Aus­tralia of to­day – say at the MCG in the mid­dle of the Box­ing Day Test – he’d be both baf­fled and bereft. For a start, the flu­oro vests would hurt his eyes and he’d won­der why the bar­tenders are serv­ing what looks like beer, but tastes sus­pi­ciously like wa­ter. You’d have to ex­plain what the Re­spon­si­ble

Ser­vice of Al­co­hol is and that, yes, he’ll have to raise his sun­glasses at the bar so they can see if he’s some­how be­come ine­bri­ated on light beer. Fur­ther, the se­cu­rity men’s pen­chant for at­tack­ing beach balls with knives would also give him pause. Flee­ing this ru­ined rem­nant of a on­ce­great Aus­tralian day out, he’d find a coun­try that’s put its rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing laid­back per­ma­nently to rest – a coun­try where in­flat­able pools deeper than 30cm must have a fence built around them. With a self-latch­ing gate. By law. Your dad would strug­gle with the sim­ple fact that over 35 short years, we’ve sur­ren­dered our sense of per­sonal ac­count­abil­ity – that is, the right to choose the best course of ac­tion (and ac­cept the con­se­quences) based on ex­pe­ri­ence, facts and in­di­vid­ual pref­er­ence. In­stead, seem­ingly will­ingly, we’ve traded it for in­tru­sive lev­els of govern­ment reg­u­la­tion. We’re now one of only a hand­ful of na­tions that man­dates hel­met-wear­ing by cy­clists of all ages. Depend­ing where you live, drink­ing on pub­lic land is ei­ther il­le­gal or re­quires a per­mit. De­spite in­cred­i­ble tech­no­log­i­cal and me­chan­i­cal ad­vance­ments that have made cars safer than ever be­fore, speed lim­its con­tinue to be cut, while dogs can no longer rest their heads out a car win­dow when trav­el­ling. Play­ing games of school­yard tip, mean­while, along­side per­form­ing cart­wheels and hand­stands, is in­creas­ingly be­ing pro­hib­ited. In Vic­to­ria vac­u­um­ing is banned af­ter 10pm, and, in May of this year, a group of Queens­land res­i­dents were told they’d be fined if they con­tin­ued to cut the over­grown grass of a lo­cal park – which they were do­ing to avoid in­creased num­bers of snakes. Over in Perth, re­cent laws were passed that see res­i­dents of Gos­nells face fines of up to $350, should they fail to “pre­vent the emis­sion of of­fen­sive odours” from their garbage bins. In many pub­lic parks, pic­nics for more than 20 peo­ple now re­quire a per­mit. In state and na­tional forests, fire­wood must only be sourced from a “des­ig­nated do­mes­tic fire­wood col­lec­tion area”. If you’re still smok­ing (well, you’re an id­iot), re­cent changes to NSW strata laws have seen en­tire blocks ban the habit, while oth­ers are gov­erned un­der strict reg­u­la­tions with fines of up to $1100 should smoke from a cig­a­rette, or bar­be­cue, drift onto a neigh­bour­ing prop­erty. And, back in Vic­to­ria, kite-fly­ing (or play­ing ball games) can be an of­fence should it be done to the “an­noy­ance of an­other per­son”.

Sen­a­tor David Ley­on­hjelm is many var­ied things to many dif­fer­ent peo­ple – though he was re­cently elected for a sec­ond term, largely due to his love of civil lib­er­ties and fu­ri­ous ha­tred of ‘Nanny Laws’. “His­tor­i­cally, we were a re­laxed place – many of us can re­mem­ber a time when we were pretty laid­back and govern­ments tended to leave peo­ple alone. But that is ab­so­lutely no longer the case,” Ley­on­hjelm tells GQ. “It’s em­bar­rass­ing, frankly – it comes from this lobby who think we’re all too silly to know what’s good for us.” Nowhere else has the Nanny State phe­nom­e­non af­fected more Aus­tralians than in the areas of drink­ing, driv­ing and child­hood de­vel­op­ment. At the time of pub­li­ca­tion, NSW con­tin­ued to live un­der so-called ‘Lock­out Laws’, as it has done since Fe­bru­ary, 2014. It means CBD venues, stretch­ing from “parts of Surry Hills and Dar­linghurst to The Rocks, and from Kings Cross to Cockle Bay” can’t let any­one in af­ter 1:30am, while pa­trons al­ready in­side are not al­lowed to or­der al­co­holic drinks af­ter 3am. Some sec­tions of these new laws, how­ever, seemed less even-handed, like the de­ci­sion to shut bot­tle shops, right across the state, at 10pm. Many is the bloke in Bourke who’s won­der­ing how pre­vent­ing him from buy­ing a few take-away tin­nies at night is go­ing to stop some­one from be­ing ‘cow­ard punched’ in the Syd­ney CBD. It’s worth re­mem­ber­ing, how­ever, that the law wasn’t foisted on us – at the time of its im­ple­men­ta­tion there was pal­pa­ble out­rage over late-night vi­o­lence in Kings Cross and Syd­ney city. Kids – and they were chil­dren, teenagers only just start­ing to taste adult life – were dy­ing, and there was, rightly, a de­mand that some­thing be done to curb the vi­o­lence. But it re­mains to be seen if the leg­is­la­tion that fol­lowed ad­dressed any of the ob­vi­ous Aus­tralian demons about drink­ing cul­ture, which run deeper than cur­tail­ing a per­son’s abil­ity to grab a glass of wine or schooner/ pot/middy at a cer­tain time. Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion vice-pres­i­dent and emer­gency physi­cian, Dr Stephen Par­nis, be­lieves there’s a real prob­lem with Aus­tralians and al­co­hol: “We’re deal­ing with a cul­tural prob­lem where al­co­hol is a core as­pect of Aus­tralian life. There’s still sig­nif­i­cant pres­sure, not just to drink, but to drink to ex­cess.” Robert Caval­lucci, for­mer LNP Mem­ber for Bris­bane, where new lock­out laws are also in ef­fect, agreed in a re­cent in­ter­view. “Does Aus­tralia have a prob­lem with our drink­ing cul­ture? Or is the is­sue with so­ci­etal norms around anti-so­cial be­hav­iour and in­ter­per­sonal vi­o­lence?” ques­tioned Caval­lucci. “We ap­pear to have ac­cept­able norms for sober be­hav­iour and a more lax set of the same rules when drunk. Some be­hav­iours while drunk are tol­er­ated when they’d be in­ex­cus­able if sober. “Grow­ing up in Aus­tralia means ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a cul­ture that has nor­malised binge drink­ing to the point where in some cases it’s al­most glam­or­ised un­der this sec­ond set of so­cial norms.” In any case, the tale of Thomas Kelly was one that led to the new laws, af­ter the 18-year-old lost his life on his first-ever out­ing to Kings Cross. In the wrong place at the wrong time, he came across a drunk and ag­gres­sive Kieran Loveridge – whose un­pro­voked ‘one-punch’ led to Kelly’s death. This tale runs be­yond tragic – the teen’s death cruel, sense­less and with last­ing ef­fects – Thomas’ younger brother, Stu­art, tak­ing his own life in July 2016, four years af­ter his brother was re­moved from life sup­port. A par­ent should never ex­pe­ri­ence that kind of pain, let alone twice. Sadly, the fact re­mains that Thomas was struck by an ad­dled, cal­lous and clearly vi­o­lent per­son just af­ter 10pm. And Loveridge had been drink­ing, legally, from 5pm – con­sum­ing vodka mix­ers at a rapid rate on his one-hour drive into Syd­ney. The pub­lic called for change. The AM air­waves, tabloids and TV out­lets agreed, launch­ing cam­paigns to stop the vi­o­lence, which in­cluded a 1am lock­out in the style of New­cas­tle, on NSW’S cen­tral coast. “The po­lice at Kings Cross are deal­ing with what is on many nights, par­tic­u­larly Satur­day nights, ef­fec­tively a war zone,” said then-mp Mal­colm Turn­bull at the time. “As a so­ci­ety, and I am speak­ing to [for­mer NSW pre­mier] Barry O’far­rell here di­rectly, he needs to do more, and the State Govern­ment needs to do more, to sup­port the po­lice and sup­port the com­mu­nity in that area.” So O’far­rell did more. In the days fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of the new laws, Syd­ney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the reg­u­la­tions “send a clear mes­sage that drug and al­co­hol-fu­elled vi­o­lence in Syd­ney will not be tol­er­ated”. Even Syd­ney bar king Justin Hemmes weighed in: “With­out doubt, these mea­sures will cre­ate a safer en­vi­ron­ment for all.” To­day, the Kings Cross party strip is a shadow of its for­mer self. Gone are the busy pubs, clubs and bars, in their place 24-hour gyms, up­scale restau­rants or ‘closed’ signs. By the mid­dle of 2016, the sim­mer­ing dis­con­tent had bub­bled to a boil, with vo­cal out­rage from pub­lic and in­dus­try lu­mi­nar­ies. Aus­tralian record­ing artists like Flume, Art vs Sci­ence and Gang of Youths de­cried the death of Syd­ney’s live mu­sic scene as a corol­lary of lock­out laws. Even those pre­vi­ously aboard the lock­out ship leapt over­board, hav­ing spot­ted a po­lit­i­cal ice­berg. To­day, Moore ex­plains, “It was a sledge­ham­mer when what we needed was a well-re­searched, ev­i­dence-based, flex­i­ble re­sponse us­ing trans­port, plan­ning, li­cens­ing and po­lice.” Hemmes, mean­while, has warned that Syd­ney is “reg­u­lat­ing it­self into obliv­ion”. In Fe­bru­ary 2016, Matt Bar­rie, CEO of Free­lancer, a com­pany that con­nects free­lance work­ers with pub­lish­ers, penned a scathing re­view of the laws, which quickly ex­ploded on so­cial me­dia. “A spe­cial lit­tle per­son has de­cided that there is a cer­tain time at night when we are all al­lowed to go out, and there is a cer­tain time that we are al­lowed into an es­tab­lish­ment and a cer­tain time that we are all sup­posed to be tucked into bed. There is a cer­tain time we are al­lowed to buy some drinks, and over the course of the night the amount of drinks we are al­lowed to buy will change. The drinks we buy must be in a spe­cial cup made of a spe­cial ma­te­rial, and that spe­cial ma­te­rial will change over the course of the night at cer­tain times. The cup has to be a cer­tain size. It can­not be too big, be­cause some­one might die. Over the course of the night, this spe­cial lit­tle per­son will tell you what you can and can­not put into your cup be­cause some­one might die. It is now il­le­gal to buy a bot­tle of wine af­ter 10pm in the city of Syd­ney be­cause not a sin­gle one of us is to be trusted with any level of per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity.” In the same month, Cana­dian Tyler Brûlé – the pub­lisher who launched Wall­pa­per* and Mon­o­cle magazines – con­tin­ued the on­slaught, high­light­ing lock­out laws as a pol­icy that had Aus­tralia on the road to be­com­ing “the world’s dumb­est na­tion”. “If you want to be glob­ally at­trac­tive, you do need to have bars open un­til what­ever hour of the day. And I need to be able to open a pop-up shop in Surry Hills and walk on the pave­ment with my wine glass. To me that’s ac­tu­ally im­por­tant. It’s not go­ing to bring about the col­lapse of so­ci­ety be­cause you do that,” said Brûlé. Most telling, though, is that even the NSW Govern­ment – many from the same team O’far­rell led when the laws were in­tro­duced – is now mak­ing noises about chang­ing the leg­is­la­tion. For­mer High Court judge Ian Cal­li­nan re­cently came back with his in­de­pen­dent re­port into the ef­fec­tive­ness of the laws.

Still with the Baird govern­ment at the time of pub­li­ca­tion, his rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude a two-year trial that would push back lock­out and last drinks from 1:30am and 3am to 2am and 3:30am for live en­ter­tain­ment venues. O’far­rell hasn’t spo­ken on the topic since leav­ing of­fice – un­til now. “Am I sur­prised that life has moved on? No. In part, be­cause since Jan­uary of 2014, we’ve been see­ing, on av­er­age, 43 fewer as­saults a month, over two years,” he says. “It means you’ve seen a re­duc­tion in what used to be the sta­ple for Syd­ney’s news­rooms on too many days. Let alone the im­pact it had on fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als across this city and across the state. “Of­ten there is the case that when you seek to ap­ply some mea­sures to solve a prob­lem, a year or two later so­ci­ety has moved on and that prob­lem is no longer in the news, no longer top of mind, and if they’re asked again, they might start to chafe about some of the mea­sures that have been im­posed.” How­ever, O’far­rell ac­cepts the fi­nan­cial ef­fects the laws have had on hun­dreds of in­ner-city es­tab­lish­ments. “I get the fact that there are some peo­ple out there hurt­ing. I get the fact that venues have closed. Some might have closed as a re­sult of lock­outs; oth­ers have closed as a re­sult of eco­nomics. But as some­one who goes out at night and gets out of places at one or two in the morn­ing, I can tell you I still see peo­ple. I’m not see­ing ghosts. I’m see­ing real-life peo­ple walk­ing the streets of Syd­ney in bet­ter shape than they once did.” But wouldn’t an in­ter­na­tional tourist be a lit­tle sur­prised they couldn’t buy a bot­tle of wine to take to a restau­rant at 10.01pm? “[Free­lancer CEO] Matt Bar­rie is talk­ing out of his fun­da­men­tal ori­fice when he does this, be­cause all of the tourist fig­ures for Syd­ney – in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic – show strong growth,” adds O’far­rell. “To look at bot­tle shop leg­is­la­tion – bot­tle shops can open at nine o’clock in the day. I reckon 13 hours a day, seven days a week is enough time for any­one to en­sure their cel­lar is stocked.” With hind­sight, though, would he do any­thing dif­fer­ently? “Faced with the same set of cir­cum­stances again, and faced with the same ad­vice, would I do the same? Ab­so­lutely... it was the right re­sponse at the time. And what gives me con­fi­dence about that is not just the com­ments I get on the street when I visit Potts Point and stray into the Cross, but the chang­ing na­ture of that com­mu­nity,” he claims. “Do I wel­come any busi­ness shut­ting its doors? No. But I make the point, restau­rants open and close ev­ery week in the city, they’re prob­a­bly one of the most risky ven­tures to get into.” Other than O’far­rell, find­ing some­one who’ll pub­licly say these laws are a good idea is a lot like get­ting some­one to pro­claim they voted for Pauline Han­son. Par­nis, who’s seen what a bot­tle can do to a face, and worse, is one. “We don’t live in iso­la­tion, we have a col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity to each other, that’s what liv­ing in a so­ci­ety is all about. And ‘Nanny State’ is a won­der­ful throw­away term peo­ple love to use, but no one ever com­plains about the Nanny State when they’re in a pub­lic hospi­tal and I’m try­ing to save their life,” he says.

In 2012, a pri­mary school in NSW’S Drum­moyne banned hand­stands and cart­wheels – un­less car­ried out un­der su­per­vi­sion of a gym­nas­tics teacher. Schools in Bris­bane and Mel­bourne have since out­lawed ‘tiggy’ or ‘tag’ – in the case of Mt Martha Pri­mary School, this was part of a no con­tact pol­icy, which also banned high-fives and hug­ging. One Ade­laide pri­mary school banned “mixed-sex con­sen­sual hug­ging” for its Year 6 stu­dents, be­cause it set a bad ex­am­ple for younger chil­dren, while a Gold Coast state school threat­ened stu­dents caught hug­ging friends with de­ten­tion. Other schools in Vic­to­ria have banned run­ning, and any games in­volv­ing leather foot­balls “to avoid head in­juries”. Most re­cently, mul­ti­ple Syd­ney state schools moved to can­cel ‘muck-up’ day. As for Bri­tish bull­dog, aka red rover, Jim Cooper, for­mer Pres­i­dent of the NSW Pri­mary Prin­ci­pals As­so­ci­a­tion, says it’s one of many child­hood games to have been banned the past decade. “In many schools now, they don’t al­low chil­dren to play red rover be­cause of the level of phys­i­cal con­tact,” he says. “It goes too far. There’s a cer­tain roug­hand-tum­ble that should be a part of child­hood, where you’re work­ing out your lim­its,” says au­thor and for­mer Wal­laby, Peter Fitzsi­mons. “If, oc­ca­sion­ally, some­body gets hurt in a high-five, I’m pre­pared to live with that. I’m a tra­di­tion­al­ist – I think kids should be run­ning into each other, climb­ing trees and scrap­ing their knees. I do won­der if the com­ing gen­er­a­tion will have lost re­silience or a cer­tain tough­ness.” So who’s to blame for all this cod­dling? Just about ev­ery­one, ac­cord­ing to Cooper. “Schools have to put these things in place – it’s a mat­ter of law,” he says. “It goes back to a com­bi­na­tion of things – the he­li­copter- par­ent syn­drome, de­ci­sions made by coro­ners and the om­buds­man.” Pro­fes­sor Anita Bundy, from The Univer­sity of Syd­ney, says phys­i­cal play is im­por­tant to help kids learn to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for them­selves, and their ac­tions. “By stretch­ing your­self and do­ing some kinds of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity – that’s the way kids learn those things,” says Bundy. “If they don’t learn to take re­spon­si­bil­ity at school and as young chil­dren at home, do they sud­denly wake up on their 18th birth­day and say, ‘I know how to be re­spon­si­ble and vig­i­lant, and how to pay at­ten­tion’?” But that’s prob­a­bly a moot point. It won’t mat­ter if kids have learned how to be re­spon­si­ble adults by the time they turn 18. Their de­ci­sions will still be made for them, whether they like it or not. Be­cause that’s the scary thing – try to pic­ture a time, in Aus­tralia, when you’ve grown up and had kids of your own. If we con­tinue down the path of cau­tion and leg­is­la­tion, what sort of coun­try will it be? The log­i­cal pro­gres­sion would be a coun­try in which the drink­ing age is raised, speed lim­its are low­ered, lock­out laws blan­ket the na­tion and plain pack­ag­ing ex­tends be­yond cig­a­rettes. Per­haps we should en­joy what free­doms are left, be­fore Nanny comes to put us all to bed. Early.

By the mid­dle of 2016, the sim­mer­ing dis­con­tent had bub­bled to a boil, with vo­cal out­rage from both pub­lic and in­dus­try lu­mi­nar­ies.

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