Speech on the Petition to Keep Sydney Safe and Open

More than one hundred Sydneysiders joined the Member for Newtown and NSW Greens acting spokesperson on Liquor Laws Jenny Leong MP for the parliamentary debate on the petition to keep Sydney safe and open.

The petitioned was tabled by Ms Leong and signed by nearly 12,000 NSW residents. It called on the NSW Government to:

  • commit to developing innovative policies that ensure a diversity of venues and late-night entertainment options with consideration of safety, public amenities, transport, security and density issues
  • recognise the value and contribution that live music, night-time culture, and creativity make to Sydney and its residents, as well as its global reputation
  • put an end to the Kings Cross and CBD lock-outs and rule out implementing further lock-outs in Sydney
  • acknowledge that alcohol-related violence is not inevitable and that through responsible planning and government initiatives Sydney’s nightlife can remain vibrant and accessible to all

The full debate including speeches from the Greens Member for Balmain Jamie Parker and the Independent Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich can be found here in Hansard.

A playlist of the songs referenced in the speech can be found below, along with high res photos.

Ms JENNY LEONG  ( Newtown ) ( 16:29):

I stand here with all of my people, or at least a good few of them in the gallery, to present this petition to keep Sydney open, which demands smarter solutions for our city—solutions that will keep Sydney safe and open. Nearly 12,000 people have signed this petition—a huge number—which shows the dedication and passion of Sydney's music, arts and creative communities, venues and businesses within Sydney as well as Sydney locals. The tragic nature of the incidents that took place in our city that the Government used as justification for the introduction of these laws are undeniable. Let us be clear: There are serious concerns about alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour that need to be addressed in our community.

The thousands of people who have signed this petition to keep Sydney open know there is a need to address these concerns. They do not want to be unsafe on Sydney streets, but the answer is not to punish everyone. The answer is not to say that we want to lock down our city and our nightlife. We do not want to see extreme violence or even drunken dickheads and drunken behaviour on our streets. But we know that punishing everyone for the offensive behaviour of a few, for shutting down our vibrant nightlife and local businesses rather than targeting the specific problem, is not the answer. The Greens had been advocating smarter solutions for dealing with alcohol-related violence, regulation of the liquor lobby and the zoning and density in our city long before the Sydney lockouts were introduced.

We opposed the imposition of the lockouts at the time because we saw—and we know—that it punished the whole community rather than addressed the specific problem; it shut down our nightlife and our city. But just like the thousands of Sydneysiders who have spoken out against the lockouts—many of whom I acknowledge in the gallery today and I thank them for being here—we have been ignored by the Government. They will note the attention being paid by the Baird Government in the Chamber right now to the thousands of people who signed this petition and to the tens of thousands of people who spoke out on social media about this. Why has the Government refused to trial alternative measures? Why have we not seen the introduction of 24-hour transport on weekends to assist people who want to get out of the city? Why have we not talked about zoning restrictions that limit venue size or venue density? And why, oh why, are the casinos exempt? Perhaps Casino Mike has the answer for that one.

We have seen successive New South Wales governments minimising constraints on the alcohol industry and instead punishing the people. How convenient that the lockout boundaries happen to miss Sydney's existing casino, The Star. One may have noticed that they also conveniently etch around Barangaroo, the site of the city's next gambling hub. It is not hard to see why the Premier has been nicknamed Casino Mike. The Government is punishing entertainment venues, small bars and people who just want to be up all night for good fun. I agree the statistics show that there are now fewer violent incidents in the lockout zones, but that is because our streets are empty. It is because the Government has shut down our vibrant nightlife and our after-hours city is now a ghost town. There are better ways to stop drunken violence and antisocial behaviour. There are ways to address this and keep our vibrant, pumping, exciting city a place where people can visit and lose themselves to dance, just like it used to be. Do you remember?

We do not want a Midnight City—no offence to M83; we want to be city with all-night disco parties where we can dance the way we feel. I need to give a shout out to everyone who has done tremendous work in collecting signatures for this petition—12,000 and they are still coming. I expect we will see another debate in this House very soon to keep Sydney open because the signatures keep coming in. It is impossible to name everyone who has been a part of this campaign, but I acknowledge the work of Tyson Koh from Keep Sydney Open, along with the Keep Sydney Open volunteers. I thank the many musicians, artists, local businesses and local venues, many of whom rallied to collect signatures for the petition to establish this discussion.

Although it might be a stretch to say that we built this city on rock 'n' roll, nobody can deny that our music, arts and creative communities provide our city with a beating heart and they are suffering under the punitive lockout laws that were enforced across Sydney's central business district, Kings Cross and Oxford Street. Our music, arts and creative communities, and the locals who fight for them, are not ready to give up. We will fight for our right to party late into the night if we want to and the New South Wales Government must not stop the thousands of people who signed this petition, the thousands of people who rallied on our streets and the tens of thousands of people who engaged on social media to share their opposition to the lockouts. 

We love the nightlife; we love to boogie and we know that there are integrated solutions that will keep our streets safe. While these days I might be going to bed early, we do not want Premier Mike Baird to tell us what time we should go to bed. The Greens do not support the Sydney lockouts as we believe they place onerous restrictions on every member of our community. Hundreds of thousands of people have made submissions to the lockout review and these people must be heard. The Baird Government must pay attention to them. We must let it happen. Do not lock Sydney down. Keep it open; keep it safe.

High res group shot

High res shot of Jenny Leong and Tyson Koh

Here's a playlist of the 10 songs referenced in the speech:

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