Sydney, it's time to face your addiction / by Tom Oliver Payne

The New South Wales Government is desperate. It ignores ongoing advice from friends, family and experts to seek alternatives. It fights all obstacles in its path for more. It cares only for the short-lived gratification, euphoria and high, to the detriment of healthy decades ahead. I guess when life feels is so good right now, why would it care?

That’s right Sydney-siders, our government is addicted - really, seriously addicted. Its habit is making us all broke, destroying our relationships and killing our bodies. Its habit isn't Chrystal Meth, Coke, or even Heroin, but is something completely legal. In fact, we’re all users. Some of us have managed to maintain control, but others of you are addicted too. Many of you make excuses for your habit: you blame it on where you live, what you do for work, and even your kids. 

But I’m telling you now - before it’s too late - we can fix this problem. We can wean our city off this addiction. We can be healthy again. It may take time, but the first step to recovery is admitting there's a problem.

 Sydney Harbour Bridge, 1932. Photo courtesy Sam Hood.

Sydney Harbour Bridge, 1932. Photo courtesy Sam Hood.

Before his death, my grandfather spoke of the days before it was like this. There were always users, but very few addicts. Reminiscing on his youth, he spoke of healthy communities: people were active, everyone socialised, and there was far less fear in our streets. In fact, parents didn't even accompany their kids to school. But as our leaders became addicted, so too did the rest of the city. The dependence is now so strong, that entire communities rely on it. These are, unfortunately, the poorest and most vulnerable.  

 Sydney's newtown in 2017.

Sydney's newtown in 2017.

Many of you pretend to believe that same old compulsive behaviours won’t cause further pain. I’m afraid you’ve swallowed too many lies and slander. Deep down, we all know we must seek alternatives. Why wouldn't we? Despite the State’s attempt to make substitutes less enticing, they worked well in the past, and can surely work again.

I recently heard that cities abroad are getting clean, so I hold onto hope for us. Apparently in London they are taxing users within the city centre. In Paris, they're restricting them entirely. I read that in New York alternatives are now so popular, that addiction is also fast disappearing. I’d never have believed it before, but even Los Angeles - the biggest junkie of them all - is now quickly on the mend. In recovery, these cities have looked to role models: Copenhagen and Amsterdam have been happy to assist. 

Each day I hope that our government will seek help. Only then can Sydney wean off its ugly, ugly addiction to the car. 

Feature image (1894) courtesy Royal Australian Historic Society. 


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