A state's addiction to crime
One of the pleasures in public life today will be the Oscars, streamed live from Los Angeles at absurdly self-indulgent length. Local interest is provided by a strong Australian contingent for honours, including best picture (The King's Speech) co-produced in Australia, starring a brilliant Australian actor (Geoffrey Rush) playing an intimate to King George VI, with another brilliant Australian actor (Guy Pearce), playing another British monarch, King Edward VIII. Ironies abound.
The sentimental favourite among the Aussie nominees is Jacki Weaver, who plays a sweetly murderous grandmother in Animal Kingdom, a superbly crafted Australian drama (with Guy Pearce again) by first-time feature director David Michod. The film, which Michod also wrote, and Weaver, in particular, have received so many award nominations and critical acclaim that it is easy to overlook that the film has a hole in its heart.
The hole in the heart of Animal Kingdom is its script, where the drama is created by violence, not by depth or originality of the characters. It is the same hole in the heart of Australian cinema generally, where the local production line of world-class actors, directors and cinematographers has never been matched by a comparable stream of world-class scripts.
This reflects the Australian film world, like the tax-subsidised Australian arts world in general, being a preachy monoculture that conforms to the safety of well-worn ruts. Animal Kingdom is no exception. The opening scene is a normal-looking suburban mother slumped on a couch. These are the first lines of dialogue:
Paramedic: ''What's she taken?''
Young man: ''Heroin.''
For the umpteenth time, an Australian film has trawled the criminal underclass for colour while portraying elements of the police as murderers with no honour code, unlike the crims they chase.
As it happens, I've been thinking a great deal about the way NSW has taken on some of the flavour of a police state. The context is the run-up to the state election. I'm wondering what the Coalition will do about the police after it wins office on March 26. In NSW, we have the worst of both worlds, where the cops and the government are tough on hundreds of thousands of non-criminals going about their daily lives, while giving a free pass to real criminals.
This dysfunction is exemplified in Kings Cross, where the NSW government is complicit in the heroin trade while, as a result of this complicity, the police have all but given up arresting junkies in the Cross.
Darlinghurst Road has become entrenched as a place where drug and alcohol abuse flourishes. Meanwhile, just down the hill, on busy New South Head Road, the police stop thousands of motorists who are causing no problems. At this checkpoint, the presumption is guilt, the selection process is random, and the probable cause is non-existent.
Checkpoints, random stops, speed cameras and speed traps. This is the real face of the NSW Police. The force has been turned into petty bureaucrats charged with gouging revenue from taxpayers, while looking the other way as the heroin traffic flourishes in plain sight. Our legal system and state bureaucracy have turned the thin blue line into a bleached corps of tax agents, social workers, stress-leave jockeys and second-job jugglers, leaving a few hard units to do hard investigations into hard crime.
Look at Kings Cross. It used to be one of Australia's most sophisticated, cosmopolitan and pleasant precincts. Now it is a bogan paradise, a cathedral to bad taste, a product of the power of the alcohol, heroin and poker machine industries that have enjoyed unprecedented power or tolerance for 16 years under the Labor patronage machine and pork factory.
In the Cross, the core of the rot is sponsored by the NSW government itself. It is the blandly named Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, conveniently located on Darlinghurst Road opposite the entrance to Kings Cross railway station. Never have so many lies been fed to the public in support of this policy quagmire.
The argument justifying the centre is that has cleaned up the drug trade and saved ''hundreds'' of lives. This is propaganda worthy of North Korea. The reality is the opposite. The centre is directly responsible for hundreds of drug overdoses. It has created an environment where the most reckless and self-indulgent people in society - junkies - know they will be bailed out of their own risks.
The result is stratospheric rates of drug overdoses and interventions, which are then counted as lives saved. This is the basis on which more than $25 million in public funding has been requested and justified by the drug-legalisation lobby. Anyone interested in the non-North Korean view of this social experiment can find a blistering, highly detailed counter-view on the website of Drug Free Australia .
One of the leading figures behind Drug Free Australia, Gary Christiansen, told me: ''The number of overdoses in the [Kings Cross] facility have been a staggering 35 to 42 times higher than the rate of overdose experienced by clients [drug-users] before they registered to use the room. Testimony by former clients in the NSW Hansard indicates that the overdose numbers are so high because clients experiment with higher doses of heroin and poly-drug cocktails, using the safety of the room as a guarantee.''
As for the wider matter of dysfunctional policing, the opposition has announced that it finds the use of speed traps to be overbearing, deceptive and intrusive. Yesterday it announced it would review the entire process if elected to government. This is encouraging.
Another telling benchmark will come after March 26, when the new government decides what to do about the tax-funded heroin honeypot in the heart of Sydney.
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