We wanna be free We wanna be free to do what we wanna do And we wanna get loaded And we wanna have a good time

That's what we're gonna do.

These often quoted lines by Peter Fonda from the film Wild Angels, incorporated so successfully by Primal Scream in their song ‘Loaded’, appears to have been the mantra that Sydney has lived by since the colony was founded over 200 years ago. Drinking and its associated knock-on effects have long been contentious issues here, with the excesses of political control first rearing its ugly head in 1808. The so-called ‘Rum Rebellion’ was less an issue about alcohol and more a spat between business and government and led to the removal of Governor Bligh on the strength of it. Barry O’Farrell please take note. These issues of excessive government interference have never ended well for incumbent politicians and they must surely realise that ALL young people are also voters. A restriction on their rights including freedom of association, the right to stay out until dawn, the right to basically enjoy themselves; are slowly being whittled away and ultimately it is at the ballot box where O’Farrell should be judged (if the younger generation can be bothered to turn up that is). Firstly, in regards to the new liquor licensing laws proposed to stop alcohol fuelled violence. I understand the broader community concerns. I am the first to lament any death at the hands of anyone, be it drug or alcohol induced or even by a 16 yearold boy with a knife in his hand. Every death is a waste of a life. Every act of violence should be deplored and we must find better ways to confront the issue. But this draconian return to a puritanical life driven by media empires with vested government interests has to stop. We are being sold a puppy here and as usual there has been a knee-jerk reaction to a situation that requires far more than a one size fits all policy. I have been a visitor to Kings Cross and the associated entertainment precincts in Sydney for the past twenty years and in that time I have definitely seen a change in the clubbing community. Back in the day, the scene was all about the music, the inclusive nature of the scene. To repeat a familiar phrase or saying, ‘All smiles. All teeth’. That has changed. The violence that we see on the streets now is not only driven by alcohol or recreational drugs but also by something far more insidious that seems to have gripped our young men. Perpetuated by athletes’ desires to be ‘bigger, faster, stronger’, Steroids, Human Growth Hormones, Peptides and their ilk are creating testosterone levels previously only seen by bull elephants on musk.

Peter Miller, author of the largest-ever study into alcohol-related nightlife crime in Australia, found overwhelming anecdotal evidence that steroid use was fuelling assaults in nightspots. Concerns were highlighted when police reported finding 13 vials of steroids at the Kingswood home of Corey Beard, 21, after he allegedly attacked 19-year-old Alexander McEwen, putting him in a coma. "Steroid use is creeping more and more into younger people," said the president of the Australian Medical Association, Steve Hambleton. "It comes with this wish to win at all costs and to attain the perfect body immediately. And it shows in the clientele in the city. Guys parading around like gladiatorial bullies searching for that trigger point so that they can prove their prowess. So that they can kick sand in the face of the average punter. So that they can prove that their muscles can destroy the opposition. Their muscles are their body armour and combined with the fascination with Mixed Martial Arts fighting, they all want to be a hero. Fear does not constrain them. When confronted by Police, they stand spread-eagled like Jesus on the cross, begging the boys in blue to ‘have a go’. And when they do, they post the footage all over the internet to prove that they have been ‘victimised’. The desire to be the ultimate fighter, to get the perfect body image, to be the alpha male; has simply overtaken the desire to go out and enjoy oneself. So this elephant in the room ie performance enhancing drugs is still not being addressed. Steroid use is illegal. HGH is only proscribed under certain medical circumstances but it is freely available from General Practitioners at a fee. Combine this with caffeine loaded drinks and alcohol and there is a lethal cocktail that truly affects users’ dispositions. Surely police resources should be focused on this pervasive trade rather than picking on the industry that has made great strides in terms of public safety. Australia’s own Bureau of Statistics supports this improvement in violence on licensed premises so the government reaction seems a little out of step. Furthermore, tossing people out onto the footpath at 3am is going to result in the modern version of the six o’clock swill and situations that will definitely spiral out of control. This is a given. A no-brainer and the result of poor planning and foresight. How are the police going to cope with that level of frustration when there are multiple incidents on the streets all at the same time? How are the hospitals going to cope? How are the transport services going to cope? Who will stop the tide of humanity flowing through Darlingurst? Won’t the police and security guards attempts to stifle this flood be likened to the futile attempts of King Canute? Additionally, how is Sydney going to compete as an international city attracting the tourist dollars and overseas DJs when it becomes as sleepy as Adelaide? The hotel and club industry in Sydney is suffering at the moment. There are more institutions closing every day to satisfy Clover Moore’s desire to turn Sydney into the bike riding, café mocha centre of the world. Where will be the vibrancy? How will we compete with cities that are open 24/7? As a modern city we are becoming second rate. Do we want to be the capital city that has nothing more than its natural beauty to attract visitors? People soon become bored with perfect vistas when there is nothing else to do. The NSW government in one form or another has got drunk on the fees associated with the liquor and gaming industry. Will all that money be returned to the industry when the owners’ business models no longer works, when people lose their jobs or when banks foreclose on their business loans? I think not.

So what are the options? Firstly, if you are young and you vote and you find this a restriction that you cannot abide, let your MP know. Your rights are just as important as the indignation of the Daily Telegraph. Organise yourselves like a political party and let your voice be heard. The moral crusaders only have the power if the rest of society lets them. It is every citizen’s right to comment on this issue but please let’s not get carried away with the emotion of the matter. There are better ways to resolve this than just by pure name-calling. That is playing into the hands of the accusers. I, as a firm believer in the rule of law, have no issue with the mandatory sentencing for violent behaviour. I support the need for societal change in regards to public offensiveness and standards. I support the desire to make people responsible for their actions and to acknowledge and recognise their guilt. However, I also believe that this approach by the O’Farrell Government will lead to the resurgence of underground clubs and raves. Where alcohol and drugs will be openly consumed with little or no security. Where the safety of patrons will be the lowest priority. This is after all how the underground dance music scene started in the UK and the British Government had to relax the licensing laws because they couldn’t police the myriad of illegal venues that sprang up on the back of the rave culture explosion. One day in the not too distant future serious thinkers will look at the real issue here. Violent behaviour and intimidation are commonly used to resolve issues in our modern world. Negotiation rarely works. From the bullying attitude of politicians towards the more vulnerable in our society, to the nightly news reels about war and hatred, the threat and use of violence has become an acceptable form of argument to resolve all issues. Until that attitude and our young men’s involvement with performance enhancing drugs is halted in its tracks, this violence will continue unabated. This problem will not go away with licensing restrictions or mandatory sentencing. Unless the demeanour and desires of our young men change at a more fundamental level, these deplorable acts, in some cases occasioning death, will still remain on the front page and it will be left up to the rest of society to clear up the mess and ask themselves ‘why’?

J B McCauley is an author and social commentator. He is a retired DJ and his opinions are his own. These comments are not paid for by anyone associated with the hotel industry and are observations on the world as he sees it.

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