Strange politics: Us plebs too dumb to choose when we drink?

THE same old "people die in car crashes, let's ban the wheel" argument is back from a government intent on throwing the baby (and kebab) out with the bathwater.

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird faced a well deserved social media flogging this week after talking up the merits of his late-night drinking lock-down of Sydney's CBD.

On paper, what he said was brilliant. Assaults were down 42.2% in the city and 60% in Kings Cross. Who could argue with those figures? About 15,000 people, it turned out.

A few clever amateur statisticians did the sums and decided it made sense no one was getting dog-punched to the back of the skull, since everyone now avoided the city like their creepy uncle with the ear hair.

That was businessman Matt Barrie's chief gripe when he penned an 8000-word essay detailing Sydney's demise and the death of dozens of award-winning bars and restaurants.

"You've been tricked into thinking that you have done something wrong, in some way that you are genetically an idiot, or that somehow you have to feel responsible for a couple of random tragic, yet unrelated, events that occurred in the vague proximity of having fun," he wrote.

"Two young men that would be turning in their graves if they knew that their deaths had been hijacked to beat up some moral outrage over the sort of human tragedy that sells newspapers to put up a political smokescreen, push a prohibitionist evangelical agenda, sell a suburb to developers, and boost the coffers of a couple of casinos."

Oh that's right. Two casinos, one still to be built at Barangaroo, are exempt from the laws.

But still... a 60% drop in violence in Kings Cross?

Well, it turned out Mr Baird's numbers were a bit fudged. The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research director Don Weatherburn was on the radio saying assaults had already been continually dropping since 2008. Emptying the place just sped up what was already happening.

The other part of the law, bottle shops across the state having to shut at 10pm, is mostly an annoyance. But there is still no evidence it has done anything except make it harder to get some take-home tallies when you actually want them - especially if you're a shift worker who knocks off at 11pm.

Worst of all is the war on kebabs. Someone honestly thought it was a good idea to slap a lock-out law on eating kebabs: not one delicious heart-stopping bundle of mystery meat may be sold after midnight.

Because apparently kebab shops transform into underground fight clubs when Cinderella's carriage turns back into a pumpkin. Imagine being a shop owner when that law came in.

Anyone who eats a kebab before midnight is obviously clinically insane and not the kind of customer you want hanging around the counter. This attack on freedom of choice might seem far removed, way off there in Sydney-town but state governments love to copy-cat each other, and you can bet all eyes are on how this one pans out. So what is currently only a Sydney problem could very well be gradually introduced all over the place. All in the name of the greater good, of course. Not because we plebs are too stupid to decide when and where we want a beer and some grease.

Strange Politics is a satirical column. Follow Chris Calcino on Twitter: @ChrisCalcino



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