Since the mid nineteenth-century, the Melbourne Cup has been a typically proud Australian tradition. Victorians get a public holiday for it, and just about everywhere else in the country stands still, taking the afternoon off work to indulge in a few too many drinks, some light to heavy gambling, and depending on the other two, some sexual promiscuity – that’s the Australian way right? Well, it’s hard to tell. Why is it that this one event is able to take all of these vices to the extreme and still be seen positively both in the mainstream media, in the eyes of government, and (for the most part) the public – and yet we’re not allowed in the club past 1:30. Let’s compare these events side by side and see where we can get.
Having a drink shouldn’t be anything to be ashamed of. Whether it’s a few or a lot, there’s never an issue unless things get embarrassing or violent. The media pens clubbing as a way for young people to just get fucked up binge drinking, but that’s almost the exact same impression we get from The Melbourne Cup. No matter where it’s being seen – at the pub, at work, or at racing stadiums around Australia, Melbourne Cup gives off an image. Blokes walking around in suits too sloppy, women tripping over their heels and vomit in their fascinators, just watch the Melbourne Cup episode of Kath & Kim and it paints the picture perfectly. My point is, isn’t it super hypocritical to just ignore the fact that all these people are getting hugely wasted and wreaking havoc, but focus on young people doing it?
Kath & Kim – The Mango Espadrille (2004)
It’s impossible to deny the fact that the lockout laws were implemented as a result of alcohol fueled violence. Over the last two years, there have been three one-punch deaths, with Shaun McNeil only just being found guilty of manslaughter over the death of Daniel Christie in 2013. There’s no defending this violence, only condemning the actions of those that committed it and making the obvious point that these violent individuals do not speak on behalf of Sydney’s nightlife. Though there haven’t been any one-punch deaths at Melbourne Cup events in recent memory, there’s no doubt that there’s been many violent incidents. Completely aside from the violence person to person, the violence towards those who race is being completely ignored. No, I’m not talking about jockeys, I’m talking about the horses. Last year’s Melbourne Cup saw the death of two horses, Admire Rakti and Araldo, allegedly from heart failure and being “spooked” respectively. According to the Australian Racing Fact Book (2010), approx. 18,000 racing foals are born in Australia each year, though the number of horses that compete remains at around 31,500 (source). This would then mean that 18,000 horses would die each year in the racing industry, and 127 horses have already died on the track since last year’s cup (source). Why is it that the only violence that worries us is to another person? We’ve seen horses die on the track and yet we’re still willing to celebrate this tradition, have a drink and a laugh and pretend like there’s nothing horrible happening. It’s a huge hypocrisy that it’s allowed to continue while our government seems to have such a stern stance on curbing alcohol fueled violence – The Melbourne Cup is the definition of alcohol fueled violence.
Admire Rakti dying in the stall.
In light of all these horrible points being made, surely The Melbourne Cup should have been ditched or atleast fixed years ago? What on earth could have possibly saved an event such as this from the slaughter? What sort of industry would have the strength and the power to almost completely void any and all complaints? Need I ask any more rhetorical questions? Melbourne Cup is one of, if not the biggest day of the year for the gaming industry. Racing Victoria forecasted that $287 million dollars would be gambled on last year’s event (source), which most of those obviously being losses. There’s a pretty shady trend of exemption happening here. It’s in the industry’s best interest to keep The Cup “looking good” and appealing to everyone all over the country, so it’s no surprise that nothing’s ever been done about it. Likewise, with the lockout laws, there’s two major venues which sit conveniently outside the zone – Star City, the most violent venue in all of Sydney, and Crown Casino, Barangaroo, which is yet to be built yet. This shouldn’t be the point at which we start thinking up conspiracy theories, but it’s pretty obvious that people high up are scratching each other’s backs to get what they want and avoid unwanted attention.
Police called to Star City Casino.
As a country, we need to actually stick by our opinions and not just take them on whenever it suits us. If someone believes that the lockout laws are a good idea because they restrict excessive drinking and alcohol fueled violence, they shouldn’t be able to go and get faded at The Races and watch a horse get put down in the stalls. Above that, our government can’t just slap laws on a situation because they think it’ll fix it, and then not fix something which is so obviously broken. We’re not saying that we should outright ban the Melbourne Cup – this needs to be clear – there just needs to be a straight line, no exceptions, on our policies with events of this nature country-wide. This is hypocrisy manifest.