New South Wales (NSW) premier Gladys Berejiklian was adamant the Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks would go ahead despite calls from the Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, to cancel them. Barilaro said: “The risk is too high and we must respect our exhausted RFS volunteers. If regional areas have had fireworks banned, then let’s not have two classes of citizens. We’re all in this crisis together.” Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore was also keen for the fireworks to proceed and Sydney city spokesman Tanya Goldberg stated: “Cancelling would seriously hurt Sydney businesses, particularly in the wake of reports of a weaker retail season, and would also ruin plans for tens of thousands of people who have come from across the country and overseas,”. It has been reported that the fireworks generate $130 million for the Sydney economy1. This demonstrates the problem. While the city council is perhaps rightly only concerned with Sydney, it is often said, plaintively, that New South Wales is not just Sydney. However, the attitude of the state government demonstrates how Sydney-centric it is too. In addition, it is also demonstrates how governments always pander to business, such that the risk of fires being caused by the fireworks pales into insignificance when business profits may be impacted.
Berejiklian initially stated that the fireworks would go ahead if the Rural Fire Service (RFS) gave their approval. She said “We’re a resilient state. And we appreciate that there’s a lot of suffering in the community in the moment… If the [Rural Fire Service], if the experts say it’s safe to have the fireworks continue, well, we should do that.”2 The RFS gave their approval. Two councils from greater Sydney, those from Parramatta and Campbelltown, have cancelled their fireworks as have numerous other town councils around NSW1. Canberra has also cancelled its fireworks.
It is surprising that Berejiklian has listened to ‘the experts’ when she wouldn’t listen to fire experts when she cut their budgets not long ago3. It is surprising that she has listened to experts given she wouldn’t when experts advocated pill-testing at music festivals. It is surprising she listened to experts this time given that she and her federal colleagues have been ignoring climate experts for decades4 with regard to the coming effects of climate change which are now manifest in the horrendous fire season being experienced by the nation. The lies that come from the mouths of politicians are sickening, are only ever self-serving, and they have become worse now they have found that they can get away with it, because our media are so hopeless. Calling many of them journalists is being generous. People die because of those lies, but there is never any remorse shown by politicians, and they are never called to account by the media.
Today, I had a conversation with someone whose friends are cut off by the fires along the south coast of New South Wales, while friends of ours further south are preparing for evacuation, and another friend in Victoria has been told it is too dangerous to evacuate as fires bear down on them. My interlocutor asked me ‘why aren’t we rioting?’ I often ask myself the same question, and I do not think it will be long in coming.