In December 2005, the Cronulla riots took place and the story went around the world. What we have now in Sydney is more serious. In Cronulla no one was killed, there were no serious injuries and the problem was quickly identified and dealt with. In Sydney now, young men are being killed or brutally assaulted.
They have been smashed in Kings Cross, smashed in Bondi, smashed on George Street and now smashed again in Kings Cross. This time the story, worse than Cronulla, is not being confronted and not being dealt with.
The magnitude of the problem needs to be acknowledged before it can ever be addressed. The shocking statistic that has to be confronted is that, despite a high standard of living and high employment, each year police are taking legal action against one in 10 of 18-year-old males in NSW. While crime rates have declined in almost every category over the past decade, assaults have not declined.
At least two-thirds of assaults go unreported. ''I am increasingly seeing a new breed of extremely narcissistic, under-fathered adolescent males … [with] no respect for authority, little exposure to tradition or ritual and few, if any, skills in anger management,'' the psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg told Fairfax Media last year. A culture of self-indulgent thuggishness is being incubated, primarily in broken families, and fuelled by alcohol, drugs and the normalisation of violence in popular culture.
On Wednesday, Shaun McNeil, 25, was arrested and charged for allegedly assaulting several people in unprovoked attacks. As a result of his alleged actions, Daniel Christie, 18, lies in St Vincent's Hospital with bleeding on the brain and a low likelihood of survival. Equally chilling, he was king-hit in almost the same place on Victoria Street, Kings Cross, where, in 2012, another 18-year-old who was minding his own business, Thomas Kelly, was king-hit; he died in St Vincent's two days later.
Kelly was one of five people assaulted by a drunken Kieran Loveridge that night. Last November, Justice Stephen Campbell of the NSW Supreme Court sentenced Loveridge to seven years in prison, with a non-parole period of five years, for his rampage. Just two months after this judgment, there has been another unprovoked rampage, in the same place, for much the same reason, and another 18-year-old lies close to death.
It was telling that the court registrar declined to allow bail to Mr McNeil, citing ''the current climate'' of media coverage, plus the ''very strong'' prosecution case. The current climate is volatile, and rightly so. Mr McNeil, it was reported, appeared to be in tears.
Well he might cry. If he is charged with murder or manslaughter, which is possible given the precarious state of Daniel Christie, a message has to be sent that changes the courts' reputation for revolving-door justice. In 2002, the community was shocked and pleased when Justice Michael Finnane sentenced Bilal Skaf to 55 years in prison for gang rape. The sentence was later reduced to 31 years, but since that trial there has not been another gang rape in Sydney in the ensuing 11 years.
Among the numerous responses that are needed to this problem is an even greater police presence and assertiveness in the known trouble spots. Kings Cross itself needs to be looked at. In many ways it has become a slum. Its underbelly is too large, its role as a honeypot for alcohol and drug consumption has become too notorious, its cluster of seedy strip-joints and drug-riddled clubs is too ugly. Kings Cross needs to be re-assessed by the City of Sydney and the NSW government. It is just too dangerous and sleazy.
On July 12, 2012, after the death of Thomas Kelly, the Herald ran an editorial calling for a safer Sydney under the headline ''Enough is enough with Kings Cross lawlessness''. Eighteen months have passed and there has been a great deal of effort. But there has not been what we perceive as a galvanising effort. The police and pubs and clubs do not seem to have a common plan. Kings Cross is as seedy as ever. Too many young men feel they can take drugs and get drunk and menace people with no fear of serious consequences. All of this has to change. The time is now.
Do you work in the medical field and have seen this kind of behaviour? Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org or 4221 2207.