There are a number of things that grind my gears, and the gears of most other rational people. Political correctness gone mad, charity muggers and social justice ambulance chasers are up there. Two others that deserve a spot in the upper echelon of pet peeves would have to be conspiracy theories and reality television. Not the theories or programs themselves necessarily as they can be quite a lot of fun to mock. But more so the people that have an unhealthy obsession with them. I don’t get it. Real life frequently provides far more entertainment. Whether they someone who has been indoctrinated by youtube nutjobs or just someone who lives vicariously through whatever inane drivel is on the idiot box, they sure do get under the skin of this particular rant merchant. Which is why when researching this piece there were often times where I stopped and thought “Suuurely not”. But unlike the plethora of tin foil hat theories and reality nonsense out there, you couldn’t make this stuff up.
The Sydney lockout laws are a topic that everyone has an opinion on. I’ve been sitting on this piece for about a month now, waiting for the right time to publish it as well as deciding whether or not I should. But given what has been exposed so far, it’s only right that the band-aids get completely removed. It’s a topic that is quite emotional for many which results in rational, well thought out opinions being few and far between This piece on media hysteria I stumbled upon sums it up perfectly.
More so than any other was a brilliant opus published last week by tech entrepreneur and CEO of freelancer.com – Matt Barrie. Mr Barrie is not a club owner, is not a DJ and does not have any incentive to post something of this magnitude other than deep concern about what is happening to his city. If you have not read Mr Barries opus as yet, do so immediately. It’s over 8000 words but each one is worth it. Naturally, this brilliant piece has gone viral and has received decent coverage even from the hypocritical media outlets he so scathingly calls out. Anything for a click it seems.
I’m personally a massive statistics nerd, so when Mr Barrie got to the nitty gritty I was absolutely frothing. I was not surprised in the slightest when he revealed massive discrepancies. There is no need for me to elaborate further, these findings speak for themselves. If you haven’t read it and were not listening the first time I said it, READ THE POST IMMEDIATELY! In the last couple of hours Inthemix has dug further and received confirmation from City of Sydney that the data “isn’t exact”. Seeing what Mr Barrie had uncovered proved that something very fishy was going on, and validated the angle I had been researching over the last couple of months.
Anybody who has even slightly kept up with this topic in the news over the last couple of years has seen Ralph Kelly at some point. In 2012 Mr Kelly was hit with the most devastating news imaginable for any parent His son Thomas had been attacked by an unhinged scumbag in Kings Cross and tragically had not survived. Naturally and deservedly so an outpouring of sympathy was forthcoming and we all felt a portion of his pain. Understandably answers were sought and there was widespread anger and sadness. My Kelly established the Thomas Kelly Foundation in honour of his late son, a noble move which unquestionably had the full support of all. A foundation that would help prevent similar tragedies was something we could all applaud and get behind.
On New Year’s Eve 2013 another life was tragically cut short. Daniel Christie, another young man was killed in similar circumstances by a familiar style of perpetrator and at this point enough was enough. The media sprung in to action almost instantly, calling for an end to the violence that they claimed was an epidemic and the lobbying for new legislation begun. Never mind the proposed legislation had little relevance to either incident, something had to be done. Daniels father, Michael Christie (whose name I admit I had to google) delivered a moving tribute where he called for change, but also called for love, acceptance and forgiveness rather than hate and fear mongering. We did not hear from him again really, with Mr Christie choosing to shield his family from the spotlight and rebuild their live. One party who remained very vocal in the fight was Ralph Kelly, with the foundation determined to lead the charge for change.
Whilst good intentions were no doubt the reason for this fight, you don’t have to be an expert in policy to realise that when creating new legislation, cool heads are required. Emotion, anger and ultimately hysteria results in a distorted view of the topic at hand, a loss of perspective, perception and just bad decision making all round. Involving the father of a young man killed in the process was not only bad policy from the government, it was exploitation even. That’s what it seemed like at first anyway.
The first dozen times Mr Kelly appeared on TV delivering another sermon on the evils of alcohol it was easy to emphasise and understand his right to be angry. It was also easy to condemn the media for taking advantage of him. But when he continuously fronted up, often calling his own press conferences, the sceptical ones amongst us began to question his motives. Especially given his role as Managing Director of Hemisphere Hospitality Solutions, a company that specialised in marketing of hotels and resorts. While their clients are generally accommodation suppliers, one of the largest sources of revenue for these businesses is of course, grog. But given the potential for good, this was something that many were able to accept, even though it didn’t seem totally right.
Now, maybe it’s just me. But if I was truly against alcohol and held it mainly responsible for the death of a loved one, I would distance myself as far as possible from any company that profited from the sale of alcohol. I certainly would not retain a position as a grog salesman by proxy. But that’s exactly what we were seeing, right before our eyes. Press releases, blogs, media spots were coming at us thick and fast, and not just in the papers or on the news. But from the foundation itself. What had begun as a grieving father justifiably mourning his son, had evolved into a full blown moral assault on anything, everything and everyone that was remotely linked to the events of 2012. Mr Kelly was seemingly out for two things. Potentially revenge, and to be seen as championing change.
By this point in time sympathy was beginning to wear a little thin and when Mr Kelly began to involve his whole family in the performance, something began to not feel right. His youngest son was continuously wheeled out in to the spotlight, delivering scathing statements about the debauchery and danger of Kings Cross and the so called booze culture, declaring “Australia was an alcoholic”. Fairly impressive for a teenage private school boy from Bowral. Mother of Thomas, Kathy Kelly quickly found herself to be quite the speaker. So often she was seen stoically standing by her husband as he embarked on his moral crusade. Now she was a force of her own. None of this seemed right, and the Kelly’s not only seemed to be thriving in the public eye, they seemed to be revelling in it.
The launch of the Thomas Kelly Foundation was held in 2013. At the time nobody batted an eyelid in regards to where it was held, although back then people had no reason to. In years to come when the foundation returned for another decadent gala ball there would definitely be some questions asked. For the foundations home was also a home of gambling and vice – The Star. Not only was The Star known as one of the most violent venues in the country, it had benefited immensely from the destruction of our cities nightlife. Conveniently excluded from the lockout zone, it continued to enjoy its 24/7 licence as well as the skyrocketing patronage as partygoers and night owls had no other alternative from 1.31am.
The gala balls were lavish evenings, with guests enjoying performances from D list entertainers, as well as a sumptuous banquet washed down with unlimited booze. What on Earth was going on here? A family that had apparently been torn apart by alcohol were willingly in the casino, surrounded by rivers of the stuff. Here we had, one of the two faces of the lockout campaign, dining out on the dollar of the biggest beneficiary.
What I discovered next was shocking. Intially wanting to write a positive story about the foundation, before then wanting to offer the benefit of the doubt, I checked out the Foundations website to see what they were doing with the money raised from their constant fundraising. Their association with The Star was hard to swallow, but if the money was going to a good cause and was preventing future violence, then it would be somewhat acceptable. I mean, an event in 2015 raised over two hundred thousand dollars. Surely a lot of good could be done. Especially given their short and long term Objectives and Strategy found here
I had a look through their long list of supporters already knowing the Star was heavily involved and it was with great disgust that I saw another name, proudly displayed amongst the top foundation partners. No prizes for guessing who. Crown Resorts Foundation & The Packer Family Foundation. Alongside the NSW Government, City of Sydney Council and Macquarie Bank. All partners were apparently supporting the so called Take Kare Safe Spaces.
Pop up zones in the city and kings cross that were there to look out for people on their way home. A shame there was nobody out, and almost nobody knew of their existence. As usual, it looks like data has been fudged to make this initiative appear to be an overwhelming success. New Years Eve dates heavily pump up their numbers, and “people helped” apparently covered everything from someone wanting a free bottle of water, someone asking the time to someone who accepted one of their free lollipops. What claimed to be a large, successful campaign looked to be nothing more than a PR stunt. I’m not sure what is more concerning. The fact that so much time, effort and money has been wasted on something that appeared to serve no purpose other than posturing? Or the fact that they blatantly ripped off Young Thug & Lil Wayne when coming up with the name!
Surely something else was being done. The first statement I came across seemed fair enough – “We work with corporate partners to generate funds and create sustainable funding models with other charitable organisations and foundations who our goals” A little ambiguous, missing a word or two but seemingly admirable enough. What was discovered next, not so much.
Every dollar from all public donations received will be spent lobbying our governments at all levels. Hold up a minute here. Every dollar received. THIS IS A DIRECT CONTRADICTION TO THEIR OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGIES outlined above.
Whilst this does say public donations a search of their financial records as per their 2014 annual report (the 2015 report is nowhere to be found, despite it being over 7 months since the end of the financial year) reveals absolutely zero record of any notable expenditure other than lobbying, research expenses, administration, staff and more fundraising. There is also zero record of what any corporate dollars have been spent on, other than the Take Kare Safe Space which is also funded by the Salvos and run entirely by volunteers. The lack of accessible information is in my opinion conspicuous. I am extremely interested to see the 2015 report, but as of February 2016 it is nowhere to be found.
Essentially every dollar raised has gone not to victims of crime, not to education, not to public safety but to research, spreading that research and raising more money. You can find the results of their research here. Obviously we all know what can be done with statistics thanks to common sense and the Matt Barrie article. But all this data that was apparently compiled for no less than $66,000 is all freely available to the public. Sixty six thousand dollars, spent entirely on publicly available information and hand-picked expert opinions. For lobbying.
Lobbying what exactly? The laws had been passed, and an extensive search yielded no results of any other campaigns for education, prevention, victim assistance or anything other than denouncing the demon drink and the venues that served it. Except for the existing and future casinos. Ralph Kelly, the face of the lockout campaigns has essentially been lobbying on behalf of the casino the entire time. Not intentionally like we so often see with political donations and lobbying and nothing illegal or untoward is being suggested here. but it has become crystal clear that a man who had campaigned so hard for the destruction of Sydney night life has been fuelled by parties who stood to reap millions, if not billions of dollars as a result. He has been used like a pawn. The constant media appearances, the press conferences, the heartfelt words of children had all indirectly been for the benefit of Crown and The Star. Two organisations with billions of dollars behind them who exist only to plunder every last cent from all who walk through their doors. The fact that young people with no desire to gamble were now being forced to enter these kind of establishments and be exposed to thousands of ways to lose only adds to the sickening reality of this.
This entire campaign appears to be have been mainly funded by the casinos, with Ralph starting as a pawn but possibly evolving into a more than willing puppet. Surely you would see a conflict like that? Questions must be asked. Where has the rest of the money raised gone? Is there a war chest ready for the next campaign, which will surely be hitting our TV screens and newspapers any day now? Why has Ralph Kelly so willingly driven this campaign? If it was truly to honour Thomas then why is there so much hypocrisy? This is a man who had the audacity to publish an article suggesting sporting codes need to reconsider “unhealthy sponsorship”. Unbelievable! Nothing here adds up.
My attention was then drawn to Mrs Kathy Kelly and I quickly discovered several glowing reviews and articles about her as a public speaker. But not just any public speaker, a motivational speaker. Represented by a number of agencies, available to book for your next function or event, enquire within. Having had dealings with these firms in the past, I can tell you now it is not cheap at all to book a speaker the calibre of Mrs Kelly (yes, you read that hyperlink correctly, that is her linkedin URL). Especially not one with such a courageous story. At first glance it would be seen as a brave and generous way to spend one’s life. At first. Until seeing how far and wide her services had been advertised and spread. Here was a woman, who as horrible as it is to think, appeared to be cashing in on her own child’s death.
By this stage all sympathy was long gone. Ralph had long confirmed his media whore status, becoming the go-to guy – whenever a quote was needed, he was already offering one. All for the benefit of multi-billion dollar gambling empires. A wife who carved a potentially lucrative career on the speaking circuit. Children were revelling in the spotlight, preaching to all about things they would have no understanding of. What was once considered a loving family now more or less Australia’s very own version of the Kardashians.
Of course we can’t have the Kardashians without a notable outsider, a Scott Disick, along for the ride. Enter the other half of the dynamic duo that were the face of the lockout campaign; respected doctor, head of St Vincent’s Emergency and recently crowned Senior Australian of The Year, Dr Gordian Fulde. Of course, you might recognise Dr Fulde from his career as a celebrity in his own right, being the star of reality program Kings Cross ER.
Dr Fulde has a medical career that cannot be questioned and he has seen it all. This is beyond doubt. His public appearances were stirring and emotional, showing the signs of a man that had seen too much for one lifetime. Undoubtedly, his testimony was the other main influence of the legislation that defied statistics, reason and logic.
Until recently, Dr Fulde and his hard line stance on the myth currently known as “alcohol-fuelled violence” was easily justified by his position. That was until he appeared on ABCs popular talk show Q&A. You can watch the segment in question here, read the transcript here and read a summary here. The sheer arrogance displayed by Dr Fulde as he treated a young man asking a question with disdain was enough to make ones skin crawl. The young man in question had admittedly not asked the best question, but he’s not to blame for that and I have no doubt he was handpicked by producers who allowed him to be mocked and bullied by the Senior Australian of The Year. Here are some of the lowlights.
I’m not sure what is more disturbing here. that a medical professional appears to be advocating boozing at 4am at home, endorsing pre-loading before going out, admitting that the lockout laws are utterly pointless and have no relevance or recommending an 18 year old just go to the casino. “You can go to the casino, right”. Sorry???? To summarise –
It does not matter what time the bars are open, you can get drunk whenever you want.
You should go to the casino and experience one of the most violent venues in the country with the added bonus of exposing yourself to the risks of gambling and all the socio economic issues that come with it.
All in such a smug, belittling tone as well. This behaviour is totally unacceptable, unbecoming of an Australian of the Year award recipient. I would go as far as to say he has brought National Australia Day Council into disrepute and perhaps should be immediately stripped of his award! He has disrespected all prior recipients of the award and all Australians with his disgraceful performance. Now, now calm the hysteria – he isn’t a footy player! In all seriousness though, The only thing that makes this situation even odder is what perhaps his motivations were.
Mr Kelly & Dr Fulde and The Kelly Foundation & St Vincent’s have more in common than just being the hot headed, emotional wrecking balls that decimated a city. They both appear to have difficulty identifying a clear conflict of interest. They are both financed by, you guessed it, gambling dollars. Millions were recently pledged to St Vincent’s, and casinos have a long history of supporting hospitals in a transparent effort to make them appear to be of benefit to the community. Lives can be saved thanks to lives that have been destroyed. The ultimate irony, but something that has long been allowed to happen and will not be stopping any time soon.
So there we have it. The culture and night life of a once world-renowned city in ruins. A local government committing statistical fraud to push an agenda. A state government in bed with the casinos and an Opposition that did nothing to stop any of it. Laws that we have all known to be unjust were fuelled by the biggest benefactors this entire time. A family destroyed was somehow able to pick up the pieces and turn tragedy into fame, profit and power. A dedicated doctor finally showed his true colours and threw away his credibility in a matter of seconds. And then behind the scenes we’ve got a bunch of fat cats enjoying expensive scotch (well after 3am), smoking cigars and counting their cash. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
You could not make this stuff up if you tried.