Archive for October 7th, 2007

Politics, If You Can Stomach It

I’ve just finished watch three episodes of The West Wing, so I’m primed and ready to fight the good fight. And I’m hoping I can bring a few of my food, plonk and media friends with me. There are some burning issues out there at the moment that warrant our attention: you may be aware of these already, but if not, here’s a round-up, and, if so, maybe I can help make you feel a bit more agitated. Besides, I don’t get a vote, so this is how I do my part.

Save Our Bars (Yes, Still)
There’s been lots of hoopla about Sydney mayor Clover Moore’s battle to revise liquor licensing laws so that they will make financial sense to small bars and restaurants. In fact, I started this blog on a post about Facebook groups lending their support. Well, since then, both the Liberal and Labour parties have come out against the changes, clearly demonstrating that the large donations they receive from the Australian Hotels Association and Clubs NSW are more important than the wishes of their constituents. Suffice it to say, round one has gone to the pokie barons.

PokiesBut this is what will hopefully be a longer struggle, and the only way we can bring about change for us to warn our politicians that they’ll lose our votes if they continue to ignore us. It’s a big call, but it can work. In fact, there continues to be a growing groundswell of support for Clover’s initiative, and I’d like to highlight an important new one. Raise The Bar held its launch party at Surry Hill’s Café Lounge last week, and is setting out to remind our leaders that many of us would like the increased diversity and cosier surrounds that would result from a relaxation of the arcane 25-year-old licensing laws that favour large, loud, big-moneyed and gambling-funded bars. I strongly urge you to check it out, spread the word and get involved in any way that time permits.’

Here’s a snippet from an email by Raise The Bar that was forwarded to me by Pat Nourse at Gourmet Traveller: “[Raise The Bar] aims to facilitate support for the proposed changes by sending local MPs ‘a drink’. Each drink then generates a letter (handy if you’re not feeling incredibly articulate) to your local member… It’s a way we can easily get behind the changes without waving a sign or mooning the premier.”

So step up to the bar send your MP a bevvie at

Save The Tamar
The second major issue is the new pulp mill that Malcolm Turnbull has just approved, which will have a disastrous effect on one of Australia’s great food and wine regions: the Tamar Valley. From water pollution to air pollution, and a choice of financial logging gains over the equally profitable and vastly more eco-friendly tourism market, the choice is as bad an environmental idea as you can make. Again, the big parties have failed us, so it’s been left to groups like The Greens to wage the fight, and it’s instantly made me a fan of Senator Christine Milne. And yes, if I had a vote, it would be Green. Check out what she has to say.

Save Your Money
Lastly, there’s an issue that has nothing to do about food, but may in fact be the worst of all. The Howard Government has managed to spend $2 billion of our hard-earned tax money on convincing us about policies that we don’t agree on. And forget about partisan politics – I don’t care if it’s Labor, the Libs, the Greens or the Dems in power, no one should be able to waste such staggering amounts of taxpayer money. Just image what $2 billion could do for our education system, or help put Australia back in the lead with alternative energy research, fund the arts, buy more beds in homeless shelters, boost our faltering train systems, put up enough street signs in Sydney so you actually know where you are, or turn Canberra into an interesting capital city.

Normally relegated to yabbering about government excess at my local café, it has been a huge beacon of hope this week to see that someone is actually doing something about it. That’s the grassroots Get Up crew, who are asking ordinary Australians to sign a petition to ban self-interested government advertising, to which they will attach a $2 billion invoice to the Howard camp. They’ll be demanding a refund of our money that they’re using for their sole political benefit. You can add your name here, although don’t plan on buying that new sailboat just yet.

It’ll be back to the edible wonders of Australia for the next post, but for today, I’ve kinda lost my appetite.