“Let them watch fireworks:” Gladys Antoinette, Sydney 2019

31 Dec

Bundjalung National Park December 2019. Image by Jennifer Wilson.


The sickening irony of letting off millions of exploding flames into a city sky already thickened with the smoke of bushfires that have surrounded Sydney for weeks, and then calling it “welcoming in the New Year,” seems entirely lost on Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

According to both women, the fireworks will demonstrate that NSW is a “resilient” state that looks towards the future with hope. “Coming together as a community in times of great trouble” is another justification for persisting with a fiery celebration many other centres, including Canberra, have chosen to abandon. Some because it’s too dangerous, others, like here in northern NSW, because we suffer an unpleasant visceral and emotional reaction to the idea of fireworks at this time. It just does not seem right to celebrate the New Year in this way when people are dying, communities are being left bereft, millions of hectares of country across the state are burning, and untold numbers of animals are frying to death or living in agony.

The symbolism is terrifying. The lack of leaders’ ability to comprehend this symbolism is unnerving.


In fact, cancelling the fireworks would send the powerful message that climate change is irrevocably rearranging our lives and our expectations, and action must be taken by governments right now to address this reality. Indeed, this is a rare and brilliant opportunity to sheet home to negligent authorities the urgency of our situation, something LNP governments both federal and state seem to be slow to grasp.

“Listen, chaps. If you don’t act on climate change and with urgency, fire prevention and management, you won’t be able to have fireworks on New Year’s,” seems an accessible example of cause and effect, even for those practised in denial.

Apparently, cancelling the New Year’s Eve fireworks on Sydney Harbour would cause a loss of some $130 million to Sydney businesses. Perhaps this overnight loss might stimulate those city businesses to demand that politicians face up to the financial impact of climate change and its manifestations, on our economy. I would also love to hear exactly why Sydney businesses must be protected from loss, when across the state, indeed, across the country, individuals, businesses and entire communities are being financially destroyed, even as we watch the fireworks. Increasingly, we read of under-resourced fire brigades, exhausted volunteer firies, and inadequately resourced aerial fighting facilities, yet Sydney businesses are a protected species, indeed, the only protected species in this entire catastrophic state-wide conflagration.

Of course, cancelling the Sydney fireworks would be an acknowledgment of the gravity of our situation, an acknowledgment the Berejiklian and Morrison governments do not want to make. Even the Sydney City Council, usually considerably more aware of the peril we are facing than either government, cannot see the smoke for the fireworks in this instance, and insists on giving priority to marketing and tourism. This is a short-sighted perspective. The impact on tourism of past weeks of air quality readings, at one point the worst in the world, has apparently been omitted from the council’s evaluations. It will be interesting to see how the fireworks are reported internationally.

“Let them watch fireworks!” appears to be the slogan of leaders who think a little bit of bread and circuses will momentarily distract from the catastrophes currently engulfing much of the state. Tomorrow, however, we’ll still be burning with no end in sight, the fireworks forgotten, the fear, anger and sorrow still in our hearts, the failure of our politicians seared on our memories.

7 Responses to ““Let them watch fireworks:” Gladys Antoinette, Sydney 2019”

  1. Barry Waters December 31, 2019 at 9:46 am #

    Fireworks in Sydney on New Year’s Eve is distinctly immoral.


  2. Barbara Farrelly December 31, 2019 at 10:08 am #

    Because money talks and NSW stands for Newcastle, Sydney, Wollongong. We are going to have to move on from our addiction to money, or start factoring in the costs to the environment when we make decisions.


  3. Monica O’Brien December 31, 2019 at 2:07 pm #


    Sent from my iPhone



  4. Greg Heard December 31, 2019 at 5:30 pm #

    For these politicians, it’s all about the dollars involved.


  5. Joanne Jordan December 31, 2019 at 9:33 pm #

    There are professional firefighters wanting to help but refused because of having to pay over time. How is this using all available resources? How is paying overtime now consequential compared to the billions that will be required to fix this mess when it’s over? Why is the amusement of those in the city more important than the losses of those in the country?


  6. P Ablang January 1, 2020 at 8:07 am #

    It doesn’t send the message that we’re resilient, it sends the message that we’re greedy and want those tourism dollars! The world has sympathy for us because our country is on fire, and then we go off setting more fires off in the sky. SMH.


  7. doug quixote January 5, 2020 at 2:51 pm #

    No – I don’t agree. I doubt anyone ever accused Clover Moore and Gladys Berejiklian of being political allies.

    As the Lord Mayor said, the money had already been spent. And $10m or thereabouts apparently generates $130m for the NSW economy, pacifying most of the wowsers; but you can’t please everyone.

    The usual grumblers and naysayers came out of the woodwork – spend the money on saving the cane toad, the dung beetle, or the blowfly instead – but as usual sanity and commonsense prevailed.

    The fire authorities approved the fireworks going ahead.

    It is not a zero sum game – State and Federal governments can and must front up with more money and resources for bushfire prevention, firefighting and relief. Not to mention the disgraceful inattention and denial regarding climate change.

    Banning fireworks might seem like a satisfying sop to one’s sense of self righteousness, but ultimately it is ineffective and even counterproductive.

    Happy New Year to all.


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