It was an unusually balmy autumn night in Kings Cross last Wednesday week. A group of musicians had gathered on the chairs outside the Piccolo Bar in Roslyn Street for an impromptu jam. The music was by no means loud and hardly noticeable amongst the usual cacophony of passing traffic and pedestrian banter. Nevertheless, almost on the stroke of ten o’clock, two ‘Mighty Morphin’ City Rangers appeared to shut down the very sociable get together and enquire as to whether any of the participants had a busking licence.
The Council of course have made a real hullabaloo in previous weeks with their cultural largesse towards encouraging live music in the CBD and surrounds – a program providing funding to numerous clubs and venues. It seems that whilst the one hand giveth, the other in the form of an overzealous Council bureaucracy, taketh away.
That’s Sydney in 2018 folks and it’s not getting any better. Here’s a bit of wishful thinking. The year is 2100 and the State Library has an exhibition of early documents from the start of the century and amongst the most curious items is a ‘busking licence” ($47 for 12 months), issued by the City Of Sydney Council. In what we hope is a far more enlightened time those viewing the display can hardly maintain their mirth, wondering how such a degree of regulation could exist. Perhaps we today would have a similar chuckle if we sighted a permit to water a horse in George Street from the early 1800s.
Those with a Mephistophelian view of local council politics might well envisage a secret chamber, hidden deep within the bowels of the Sydney Town Hall. Here a group of the most cold hearted, almost sociopathic bureaucrats gather regularly to conjure new rules and regulations, designed not only to impinge our basic freedoms but flood the city’s coffers with the revenue from a truly Orwellian list of newly demanded licences and on the spot fines.
In Singapore you can supposedly be fined $500 just for feeding pigeons and selling chewing gum, let alone actually chewing it can land you in gaol. Even failing to flush a toilet at Changi airport is purported to be a punishable offence. What then can we expect from those dastardly rule makers who seek to orchestrate our everyday lives in Sydney?
With all the talk about climate change a ‘flatulence’ fine is certainly on the cards and look out if you ‘let go’ in any of the CBD’s newly designated non-methane zones. Power Rangers equipped with start of the art olfactometers will be everywhere and if a hot Indian curry is your lunchtime choice, just make sure you contain yourself until you are safely at home. The law will also apply to dogs and if you are walking your mutt, make sure you are equipped with not only a pooper scooper but a can of air freshener to dispel any unpleasant smell.
It’s against the law to involve any animal in a busking performance and a new permit will be required for anybody walking in the Council precincts with a bird on their shoulder. Your pet parrot or cockatiel will need to be photo ID’d and the so called ‘pirate’ regulation will allow rangers to remove it immediately from your person if you do not comply. Confiscated birds will be detained for 21 days and returned on the payment of a $100 fine.
Don’t laugh because things could even get worse than Singapore when the Council decides to put meters on park benches throughout the city. You’ll need a ticket just like you do to park. If the ticket runs out and you overstay your lunchtime relaxation you’ll cop a nasty fine. Doze off in the afternoon sun and you’ll will be loaded into a Council vehicle and ‘towed’ away. Fail to pay the fine and you may never be seen again!