Victorian 2am lockout protest

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.

25 thoughts on “Victorian 2am lockout protest

  1. Chris; The public tend to resent the impositions of the state only for the way they are affected by them.

    The thinking is “How can they do it to me,” there is little perception of the potential argument, “What right do they have to tell us when we can have a drink.”

    The ‘right’ of the government to legislate on everything is taken for granted by mainstream Australia with little questioning of whether this perceived right actually exists or where it comes from. The fact that the government gets it wrong only leads to the question of what they should do to get it right, not whether these dickheads should be involved in what should be private decisions after all.

    For the best suggestions for dealing with a negative drinking culture, try this.

  2. Jim is right. But I also can’t help thinking, why should I be more concerned about this than attempts to ban Bill Henson’s photos?

    On the rare occasions I am still drinking at 2 am, I don’t feel the need to go changing pubs. I acknowledge the argument that it’s none of the government’s business if people want to do pub crawls at 2am, and I agree the nanny state is indeed way past its use-by date. But seriously, is the issue really that big a deal?

    I’d rather have the freedom to go and look at some photos that supposedly offend someone. Where is the protest to support that?

  3. David, I’m hardly likely to go to a new place after 2am either. But I don’t think thats the point. There was about 3000 people there is certainly did think the issue was a big deal, and countless others who I know who are similarly concerned but didn’t make it to the protest.

    In fact, I’d wage that the market for Bill Henson’s photographs is not larger than the market for partying after 2am. Certainly it is of greater popularity than some of the other restrictions on freedom we critique – banning cigar bars, firearms restrictions, etc.

    And if we are to adopt a utilitarian perspective, it’s bad policy. I think we can be legitimately angry at the state government imposing what is effectively a curfew-lite. See my argument here.

  4. But seriously, is the issue really that big a deal?

    The ‘people going out ’till dawn’ crowd is a couple of orders of magnitude larger than the art house crowd, and they have an ‘event’ every week. This is a big deal!

    If I’ve earned the right to party I like to have dinner with friends, a few warm up drinks, then head out around 10:00pm ’till the sun comes up. I don’t drink all that much throughout the evening, but I do like to change venues every couple of hours. Also, after midnight my friends start calling around to see who is still out and they’re in different venues – so we need to be able to move between venues to meet up with different groups.

  5. Jim – i agree with the idea to allow alcohol consumption in more places. Also it is time we punished the perpetrators of alcohol-fueled violence with jail time. Being drunk is not a mitigating circumstance.

  6. Well there you go. I was assuming it was an issue for the younger generation. Instead it’s old codgers like Mick.

    In the same vein, the alcopops tax affects my mother-in-law as she likes to buy her scotch and cokes pre-mixed. Unfortunately some do-gooder has decided that people need to be deterred from this level of convenience.

    I do agree with you, David, that censorship is more serious than curfews on popular nightspots even though less people will be immediately affected by the former. As someone said, when they start burning books they’ll end up burning people next.

  7. pommy; You are spot on there, jail the violent offenders. I doubt that this will happen as the lefties are running this agenda and so, having to be all touchy feely would prefer to get all of us. That also meets their elitist, condescending attitudes that drive the desire to legislate on everything as if the public are too stupid to work things out for themselves.

    David, the anti censorship cause will not achieve this type of activity until they can get as organized as us pisspots. Sorry about that mate but thats the way it is.

    I must be losing my touch, thats two of you agreeing with me, or maybe I am becoming a nicer person.

  8. Chris I think you are missing the point entirely ,,, Yes it was a little self promotion occurring with the mention of environmental concerns however I was there and rely on the entertainment industry to pay my rent, and there was NOT a five minute speech about wind farms ,,, maybe that is all you chose to focus your concerns on ,,, AND you may as well written you think that everyone of the 3000 + people are bums and will amount to nothing ,,, I am sorry your life rests behind a desk everyday with a few field trips and constant reporting to people that patronise you everyday but do not take this out on the rest of us.

    It is our right as individuals to chose whether we want mortgages and babies and if a majority of the people there are not ready to have a baby bonus then so be that what is $3000 to have a child that will cost you over $250000 over the duration of its life when you are responsible ,,,,,

    It is a shame that your opinion is SO NARROW MINDED and maybe you should have spoken to some people there ,,, there was NO RECKLESS BEHAVIOUR no drunken fools walking around it was a very civilised protest that you have painted, and as an adult we have the choice to listening to the socialists ,,, I mean they will find any opportunity to jump on a band wagon for self promotion so don’t jump to conclusions that WE ALL want to be like this minority of radicals….

    I also noticed you completely FAILED TO MENTION THAT THE CASINO HAS NO EXEMPTION,,,, what is your next article going to be about the problems with gambling that our state is facing ,,,, Oh I forgot again your position is controlled and God forbid the mention of the ever present manipulation between the Casino and the Government ,,,

    Also I too feel the greens are a little contradictory as their preference votes went across to Labour in the first place ,,, and I could foresee that once Labour took over that there are protests all the time and that the country will be in a financial crsis soon enough just like many years ago when they had power so maybe instead of maintaining a negative attitude that the people there have no brains and whit about them and congratulate the fact that we as individuals have a right to have a say and input our views especially if it going to directly affect the industry that I and many others live and survive off to pay our mortgages and well maybe in your case buy your wife fancy dinners and expensive shoes ,,,,,

    WAKE UP and if you want to live in a narrow minded shell then go and do so but as a writer sharing and influencing your opinions to a larger audience look outside of your box and start placing ALL THE FACTS into the argument not just the facts that keeps you in an over paid position of pathetic power that you feel you have and can execute !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I think your article needs some serious revising and some extra points to be added and some really stupid comments to be ejected ,,,,,

    Michelle

  9. Michelle, I think you need to read the article again, you might have missed pretty much everything Chris was saying. Either that or there are two articles and you’re posting on the wrong thread… Chris is supporting the protest, not criticising it,,,,

  10. I was just looking to read articles and this one was linked thru the age …. I still stand by my beliefs and damn me to hell for having the shits

  11. Michelle, you might have the shits but you’ve also got it wrong. Chris Berg’s post is saying much the same as you are.

    You’ll go to hell if you can’t learn to read more accurately.

  12. Michelle, I would have a second read of this post, and then go and read this: “Don’t close the door on our envied bar culture“. I’m entirely on your side on this issue. This is an explicitly libertarian website – that could be a hint.

    Althought you are certainly right, we should spend more time talking about the casino exemption, as it receives exemptions from pretty much every nanny state policy on the table. I think casino exemptions are a bad thing, to be clear. I could be spending more time talking about it.

  13. The casino exemption could be a good thing if we simply re-classified everything in Australia as a “casino”. 🙂

    Chris, you must be confused. Apparently, you are simultaneously “in power” and being “controlled” by evil over-lords.

  14. To DavidLeyonhjelm and chrisberg – You’ll find that of the 50,000 or so people in facebook groups opposing this ban, 90% are out every weekend moving from venue to venue many times throughout the night. Last night I left the city around 4 or 5, but only because I’d decided I’d had too much to drink. Normally I would be out until 7 or 8 at least.

    Perhaps there’s a lot of Melbourne culture you’re not familiar with. Getting to a club around midnight after drinks at a pub or someone’s house, and then moving to several different clubs throughout the evening, is the norm for Melbourne revellers. It’s a luxury we have that those in Brisbane don’t, due to the lock-out, and neither do those in other cities, purely because nobody else wants to and the venues don’t bother trading. Mick Sutcliffe hit the nail on the head.

    Now sorry to write so much, but here’s the important bits:
    The problems with the ban from anyone’s point of view, not just those espousing liberal schools of thought, are many and varied. One key problem is that this will spell the end of several venues. Circus doesn’t even open until midnight or 1am and makes it’s money through the morning. 161, Revolver and others all rely on the late night trade to survive. Even if the 3 month trial is all we taste of the ban, those venues will face possible bankruptcy thanks to 3 months of the same interest repayments on mortgages, with no profit to service the loans. Surely the death of small businesses shouldn’t be a government goal. All the convenience stores that operate in the city and other affected areas will no doubt cut back on staff and many of them will close if the ban goes past the trial period.

    The second key problem is that a 2am lockout means many people fighting for the same (already scarce) taxis at 2am when they realise they’re stuck in the city. That’s just thousands of people on the city streets (getting bored) with nowhere to go. For a ban that is attempting to reduce the amount of party goers roaming the streets, this isn’t a good thing.

    An early 90’s government study said that 5 factors cause nightpot violence and those are aggressive and unreasonable bouncers, groups of male strangers, low comfort (e.g., unventilated, hot clubs), high boredom, and high drunkenness. Two of those factors will be compounded great magnitudes due to the 2am ban. Consider a nightclub busiest between midnight and 7am, with no smoking area – such as Tramp, the old Two Floors Up, or Billboards. Patrons inside these venues will include large numbers of smokers who go without because they don’t want to be locked out. Everyone in the venue would’ve been inside the same room for 5 hours or more, without a chance to go out for fresh air, go and buy chewing gum or bottled water from 7-11, or have a smoke. Clubs will no longer put big name DJ’s or musical acts on at 3am as is the current norm, but instead suck patrons in with a midnight act and put poor acts on later. This all adds up to make a nightclub full of 1500 to 3000 people that are bored and uncomfortable. This will mean more, not less, night time violence. Oh and the fact that venues no longer need to have 3 or 4 DJ’s playing in a night to woo crowds means less local talent getting a gig.

    One complaint I’m hearing from those in the hospitality industry is that for someone who works until after 2am, partying is no longer an option full stop. Those who work in pubs, restaurants and clubs will be denied the ability to have any fun under a curfew state.

    Nobody likes to hear complaints without suggested alternatives, so here’s a couple: Regulate the entertainment security industry a little bit. Anyone can be a bouncer and for those who go out every weekend it’s quite clear that many fights are started by drug fuelled security staff fed-up with drunks. Instead of removing places for people to go during the night – give them more. Less people would travel from venue to venue if there was more venue capacity in the city. If 100,000 people are vying for 100,000 places in licenced venues, there will be venues that are at capacity with lines around the corner as you see now, and therefore people arriving, realising the lines are too long, and going somewhere else. If there were twice as many licences issued there wouldn’t be such a problem. But instead the government has frozen the issuing and altering of late night licences. It’s counter-intuitive.

    The problem as I see it is that the people making the laws and reading about them in the news don’t go out on the weekend and have no idea about the dynamics of Melbourne nightlife. Too many people unaware of their own city’s ins and outs are responsible for regulating us. Even those of you on this page against the ban seem to be unaware of the ramifications for hundreds of thousands of your peers. Sorry again for my verbose rant, but with so many points to address it’s hard to be concise.

  15. Jim, many of those points I agree with, and indeed I tried to squeeze many of them in my column linked above, where I explicitly tried to tackle the issue from a utilitarian, rather than libertarian, perspective. Although I am only allowed so many words in the newspaper, so obviously I couldn’t get to everything. But I did detail the under-publicized license freeze you allude to, which will only make things worse.

    I am, I hope it is becoming clear, against the lockout.

  16. This 2am lock out thing is absolutely disgusting.
    It’s well documented that Australians drink less than they did 10 years ago. This binge drinking hype is much ado about nothing and is pathetic popularity politics. Kevin Rudd and other politicians are just trying to hide their incompetence if you ask me.

    These measures may lead to more violence by putting more people on the streets at the same time.
    There is no logic to this measure. The main violent incidents that occurred in Queensland (the first state to introduce lock-outs) were the result of fights over taxis – which more people will now be trying to get at the same time.

    London has just banned drinking on the tube: It’s funny to see them partying. But worrying to see people don’t really seem to care about the ever increasing statism in the west. Sometimes I think we’re headed for another dark ages the way the world is going.
    See http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-drinking-on-tubejun01,0,2582814.story
    and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7429638.stm

    And for what it’s worth, how can you justify talking about the environment in a protest about alcohol regulations?
    Anyway, I would have thought hippies would be happy with more state controls on business – that’s their whole platform.

  17. Don’t be a dick Tim. Attributing stupid beliefs to the hippies doesn’t make anyone look good. Restrictions on businesses with unethical motives might be a hippy goal, but otherwise hippies are just people who waste time complaining about what they believe in. I’d go to a hundred different protests a week too if I didn’t have a haircut and a real job, and good on them for at least spending time more productively than other bludgers.

    I’d say we’ve just got a case of the newspapers (the Sun and Age) reporting skewed statistics about street violence and drunks, and the government responding to the newspapers view of Melbourne instead of the reality of our situation, and responding with knee-jerk bandaid solutions instead of a well thought out fix. Whether Labor or Liberal are in power, state or government, we could expect the exact same problem. In fact I’d think the lock out issue to be more a Liberal party platform.

    I hate that an important issue like this can become ammo for those saying “Labor suck” or “Liberal suck.” You’re no better than John Brumby who today said a bouncer kicking a patron in the head (at about 11pm Saturday night) was good evidence the lock out is needed. It’s got nothing to do with your politics so why bullshit? We all agree the lock out is a bad thing, why say it’s a bad thing caused by something not to blame?

  18. Chris: Thanks for your thoughts on the protest. It’s interesting to see what types of people are drawn to specific causes.

    I’ve been pondering this of late. The cause of liberty is at a bit of a disadvantage as not many people can agree with all of it’s various applications. Many that oppose the 2am lockout would, in the same breath, support the smoking ban. It’s not that they’re bad people, they just don’t see property rights in the same way as your average libertarian/classical liberal would.

    Milton Friedman said that “the great virtue of a free market is that it enables people who hate each other, or who are from vastly different religious or ethnic backgrounds, to cooperate economically.” Why is it we can’t have the same thing for the cause of liberty?

    It could be a sort of information market for freedom. A social networking system where you sign up, pick the specific freedoms you wish to defend and you are kept up to date on the latest news and activism for those freedoms. Civil libertarians get information about events and activities regarding free speech etc. but nothing about free markets. Conservatives can get information about market liberalization and nothing about gay rights. It would be sort of a granular “union of liberty” where you pick your level of participation and interest.

    The net benefit for liberty would be to gather people who want to achieve a specific cause, regardless of how they may feel on other issues, and bring them together.

    Any thoughts?

  19. lol Temujin.

    If everything was classified “casino” we could go back to playing 2-up on street corners.

  20. If everything was classified ‘casino’, then the govmint would listen to the wowsers, and start closing casinos! Govmints feel good by believing that they solve problems, or by being able to claim they solved a problem. So maybe we could keep them confused with nonimportant issues, and train them to ignore us.

  21. I agree to the 2am lockout as long as they change the legal BAC to 2.0 so i can get pissed early and go home early : ) the special number 2!!!

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