East vs west: Sydney’s social divide during the pandemic.
Reports Jordan Baker and Amelia McGuire for the Sydney Morning Herald.
Commentators said resentment over lockdowns was not a major factor in most of the region’s federal election results, although Labor’s Kristina Keneally, who ran for Fowler in the Liverpool area, said lockdown anger cost her the seat. But any residual anger is more likely to be directed at the state government, which goes to an election next March. Asfour says the different rules revived the sense of east versus west. He predicts the government will be punished at the ballot box, despite its targeted spending on western Sydney and the distance from old decisions created by a new premier.
“Do you think the people being crash tackled to the ground and handcuffed for not wearing masks will forget?” he says. “Or what about the mourners waiting in their cars at Rookwood cemetery who were arrested by police? I believe the community made their position clear at the time but, having said that, they won’t be forgetting what happened to them in a hurry.”
For one group, COVID-19 restrictions remain alive, a distressing issue. Of the 61,500 fines relating to a breach of a public health order – including 1600 issued to children – the Redfern Legal Centre estimates about three quarters were not paid. Many who received them believed them to be invalid. “Because the orders changed so much, sometimes twice in a day, it was very difficult for those administrating law and issuing the fines to keep up,” says senior solicitor Sam Lee.
The hardest-hit areas were disadvantaged ones. Walgett, a rural town with a high Aboriginal population, had the highest number of offences per capita. In Sydney, it was Mount Druitt. Fines get more expensive when they are not paid. Now, many are proceeding to the enforcement order stage, which can result in the suspension of drivers’ licences, car registrations cancelled, or wages being garnished. “I have people on the phone who are in tears,” says Lee. “And they may have not been in breach of the law at all because it was so badly administered.”
One woman, who wants to remain anonymous, let her daughter’s friend take shelter in her house while she waited for her mother after rain interrupted their bushwalk last August. One of her daughter’s friends told her police officer mother, and the next thing the woman knew, there were officers at her door giving her a $1000 fine. “It was a real betrayal,” she said. She lodged an appeal but did not hear back. Recently, her licence was suspended. Now she can’t drive her sick father to his medical appointments.
Read the full article here. (25 June 2022, Sydney Morning Herald)
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