It’s fun to go to a protest where there are signs that urge people to “SAY NO TO THE NANNY STATE”. A less convincing sign that was displayed at last night’s protest against Victoria’s new 2am lockout was one that pictorially argued that Saddam Hussein = John Brumby, implying that the former Iraqi dictator was, in fact, a better than average Labor premier.
Crappy phone camera shot: crowd gathers at Treasury Gardens at about 5:30pm.
There was a degree of success yesterday before the protest: some forty-seven licencees were granted temporary exemptions to the 2am rule. However, they had to agree to some fairly onerous extra regulations, such as doubling their security, and agreeing not to advertise or promote the fact that they were open for new customers after 2am. This could provide a compromise position for the licencees and government to agree on, but the government has indicated that it wants to push on with the lockout regardless.
Brumby is playing up the effect drunken violence has on ruining lives. Sure, but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence to suggest that a lockout is the correct policy solution. Three people were stabbed in brawls in the city last night. But conspiciously, they were stabbed before midnight – a 2am lockout would have no effect on this incident. It’s hard not to agree with another placard held up last night: “POLICE NOT POLICY”
My IPA colleague, Tim Wilson in the centre of the photo whips up the crowd with his blue megaphone. When he told a reporter that he was from the Institute of Public Affairs, the reporter was pretty confused.
The media has reported about 3000 people turned up to the protest – that seems about right to me, but I’m hardly a protest veteran. Having marched to the Victorian parliament (30 minutes before the organisers actually wanted them to) the speeches when we got there were unfortunately a bit lacklustre. One speaker, a Greens candidate for (I presume) the Gippsland byelection made the strange decision to focus his five minute speech on windfarms and carbon emissions, rather than liquour licences.
Outside the Victorian Parliament.
Members of the Socialist Party were handing out flyers when we turned up that maintained that the key issue with the lockout was war, racism and capitalism. Most of my IPA colleagues were smart enough not to take one – I absentmindedly accepted the flyer because I was distracted looking to get a NO 2AM badge. No dice, unfortunately.
But for the most part, the protest did well to keep on message. I don’t think the vast majority of those who attended were otherwise politically-minded – the idea of a late-night lockout offends a lot of people who hold no strong views on baby bonuses, FuelWatch and infrastructure spending. It would be great if more of these people could become activated in a libertarian direction, but I’m sadly skeptical.
Certainly the Liberal Party missed the opportunity to push an anti-Brumby message – imposing a late-night lockout was, embarrassingly, a key Liberal policy for the last election. Still, the chance to take sides with both partiers (by opposing the lockout) and law-and-order folks (by demanding more police on the streets) against the Labor government was depressingly, and, to my mind foolishly, discarded.
The protest was worth it, but it was hardly a massive blow for liberty – the issue now rests with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Crossposted at www.chrisberg.org.