Keep Sydney Open (and White?): Why You Shouldn’t Vote for KSO This Election
By Dominic Causley Todd
The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the USU or the Pulp editorial staff
Reading Keep Sydney Open’s (KSO) policy page is at first a wonderful experience, bringing warmth and happiness to the reader’s heart. They’re advocating for the end of the lockout laws, police and government corruption, as well as legalising pill testing, growing our night time economy, and protecting venues and spaces such as the Sydney Opera House. KSO also advocate for protecting tenants against no-grounds evictions and other exploitative tenancy laws. Yet this party is far from a millennial, leftist wet dream: on closer inspection there are underlying issues of xenophobia, racism and exploitation.
There was a significant backlash when KSO announced that they were going to preference the Sustainable Australia Party (SAP) and for many this was the warning sign that KSO are not who they say they are. Preferencing the xenophobic and racist SAP does not seem to align with the doctrines KSO have been spouting since the movement began. KSO have long been telling us about how they want a vibrant, lively, welcoming and safe Sydney. This cognitive dissonance of siding with SAP raised warning signs that KSO aren’t as welcoming as they appear.
This is a common theme amongst single issue parties. They will build an entire platform on which to get themselves elected based around one ethics-based policy issue (e.g. Animal Justice Party or the Voluntary Euthanasia Party) and will lightly touch on other key issues in the election to give the air of legitimacy. Once elected the party will then vote in ways that seem completely out of character on issues that seemingly aligned with their values. This is what we will see with KSO. They appear to be very left leaning and welcoming but, as this preference deal suggests, will likely vote with the Liberals and Conservatives on matters like Immigration and penalty rate cuts once in parliament.
Keep Sydney Open as a party are a façade, capitalising on the disenfranchisement of the NSW population with the lockout laws to gain influence and kick start their own individual political careers. Their stance on penalty rates is the first sign of this. KSO has been campaigning incredibly hard within the hospitality community, for obvious reasons. Venues would like less restrictions and more people going out, and therefore hate the lockout laws. KSO has been hammering the idea that they exist to help these venues and the hospitality community, yet just 3 days before the election came out and supported the Liberal’s cutting of penalty rates. Outside of issues within the music and hospitality scene, KSO are yet to actually oppose a single Liberal Party policy, and by showing their support for SAP’s immigration stance they openly support two key Liberal Party mantras.
It’s naive to run an entire election campaign on an issue such as this. They don’t meaningfully address climate change, they support the current penalty rates, they support a party that opposes the accepting of refugees and asylum seekers, but they’re going to fight for your right to party. Of course, they do not address the fact that these parties and festivals take place on stolen Indigenous land. They do not address the suffering of Indigenous people in NSW. They do not address the privatisation of hospitals, highways, and transport. And due to the fact that their candidates are almost solely upper middle-class white men who believe that not being able to get a shot of Jägermeister after midnight is the biggest problem facing NSW, it’s pretty obvious that they’re not going to stand up for these issues in parliament. The inherent racism and privilege in this stance is a billboard stating that KSO are not going to fight for what is important and are willing to make deals with parties with abhorrent policies to achieve their single objective.
I strongly believe the lock-out laws need to end, pill testing needs to be introduced and the crackdown on festivals needs to be stopped. However, I also believe that the ecological disaster facing the Murray-Darling needs to be addressed, the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples in prisons, schools, and any other public system needs to be addressed, and that the selling off of our roads and hospitals needs to be addressed, as does the funding cuts facing public educational institutions. KSO is only going to address one of these issues at the expense of all others, and quite frankly that’s not where our priorities should be.