I recently read an article entitled “Would the last person in Sydney please turn the lights out?” by Matt Barrie of Freelancer.com.
I found it very interesting and several points seemed valid, although I do not know enough about life in Sydney to be able to comment on the accuracy of a lot of his statements.
I regret that I have been unable to find the article again so cannot reply directly onto his blog, or wherever.
I certainly share his concern that people misuse statistics and I hope he buys my book How To Avoid Being Misled By Statistics Don’t Be One Of The 60% Who Are Below Average
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One thing I feel I must comment on is that he says the authorities in Sydney have introduced rules for the sale of alcoholic drinks including that they must be served in plastic glasses after a certain time at night. He sees this as a great infringement of civil liberties. His general complaint is that the authorities are overregulating everything and creating a nanny-state. A good deal of it relates to Health & Safety and alcohol.
I have often written about the need for a balanced approach to H & S and might find myself in agreement with Matt on a lot of things. It does sound as if they are getting a bit extreme in Sydney. However, I think he is overreacting on this specific issue. Plastic glasses reduce the risk of getting a glass pushed into your face by someone you have inadvertently offended and also the risk of treading or falling on broken glass. Where I live, broken glass is too commonly found in lots of places including the park where children play and dogs are exercised. Plastic glasses would be welcome. Is that a big deal?
Another point I would take up is that Matt complains that the local police chief has warned women of the dangers of excessive drinking, not only for their health but also because it makes them more vulnerable to physical or sexual assault and to robbery. Matt says this is an example of blaming the victim so typical of Christians, of which the police chief is one. I did not interpret the police chief’s advice as blaming but merely as warning potential victims. I did not get the impression he would condone the attackers, however drunk their victim.
I would also point out that in my experience Christians have often been active in victim support groups and otherwise show compassion on anyone suffering for any reason. I cannot speak for Australian Christians, but I hope they are similar to us in Britain. I know that James Jones, when Bishop of Liverpool played an important part in getting justice for the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy in the face of those seeking to blame the victims for it.
However, if Matt is right in his understanding of the police chief’s words, I will certainly not endorse blaming victims or excusing those who assault them.
Let us not encourage a nanny-state in Australia or anywhere else, but let us applaud sensible measures to reduce real risks, especially where these measures are not too onerous.