Crimes and punishments – postcodes and privilege

Some months have passed since a couple of incidents in the northern NSW coastal town of Byron Bay have come and gone washed from the collective media memory by tinsel, trivia and tragedy.  The incidents unsurprisingly involved players from two football codes that are ‘poles’ apart as were the punishments. How they were handled serves as a reminder of how privilege and social class still influence perception in this country. The way both the media and the organisations responded shows quite clearly that we meter out our doses of media outrage based on expectation while still tugging our forelock to the lofties.

Greg Bird on his wedding day in early December must have felt like, to quote the squeaky vocal popsmith Brett Dennen, “Like a pirate in a pawn shop with a pocketful of jewels.”  Bird’s alleged crime was to squirt between two cars and to be spotted.

Bird has been a ‘grub’ by most definitions.  Students and teachers from his alma mater Rutherford High situated at the crumb-end of Maitland in the Hunter testify to his ‘charms’.  So at approximately 7.30pm on a balmy December evening, in the car park outside the Byron Bay Beach Hotel, after saying “I do” he then “Did do”. Poor judgement we would all accord.  However the crime of attempting to urgently relieve yourself discreetly in a public place could be levelled against most if not all of us.  Having had a surfeit of golden throat charmers who hasn’t desperately tried to find a safe spray haven away from the crowds?

“It’s put a dampener on our wedding weekend. I’m incredibly embarrassed and disappointed at myself,” Bird told reporters.  Well that’s generally what liquids do Birdie old son – they dampen.  As yet it is unproven that he actually bubbled onto a marked police vehicle but he was issued with an infringement notice on the following Monday.

The Clever Chronicle recorded another incident in the same street and the same town just a few weeks later that involved the Wallabies captain, Michael ‘Right Way’ Hooper.

The Australian Rugby Union says it has no plans to take disciplinary action against Wallabies captain Michael Hooper after he was involved in an incident that drew police attention in Byron Bay.  The 23-year-old was out early on Monday morning when one of his friends allegedly jumped on a parked car.  Police said the two men were then seen pushing over a road sign, which was later repositioned without damage. 

The ARU said the star breakaway, who is holidaying in Byron Bay, was “not involved in any serious misdemeanour”. “Michael has been open and transparent with the police and Australian Rugby Union,” a spokesman said. “We don’t expect any further action to be taken in relation to Michael’s involvement in the matter.”

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The only way is to the ‘right’ – Hooper’s handy w

Look I know most of us after a few bundies try and influence traffic flow by pushing over the odd set of traffic lights or stop signs.  So in no way am I trying to determine what incident is higher on the Richter Scale of Rudeness – it’s too late as the media, the police and associated organisations have decided for us.  Birdie is a grub and ‘Right Way’ is a chap having a lark with chums after a few ales.  After all ‘Right Way’ was schooled in values at St Piles X on the north shore of Sydney – he knows good from evil, right from wrong.

Regardless of whether a sign was repositioned the criminal act of vandalism as opposed to relieving oneself between cars seems to me quite similar in terms of stupidity.  However the punishments that were determined by each of the codes and clubs were clearly a million miles apart.  Bird was fined by his Titans Club $15,000 and stripped of the co-captaincy while Hooper remained a transparent likely lad escaping any punishment.

Today the media reports on Willie Sillie Mason’s alleged anti-social behaviour, apparently wrestling with his equally dopey brother in public in NZ at the Nautious Nines Tournament.

One fan said Mason was happily signing autographs and posing for photos throughout the event and one scuffle with his brother wasn’t showing the whole picture. Another said Mason was polite and though he may have been helped out of the venue by police, the only reason was that he was getting hounded by excited fans. Mason told the Daily Telegraph that it was after conducting a promotional engagement at the tournament that he engaged in the scuffle with his brother.  “I did have a wrestle with my brother Les when I was leaving Eden Park, but that was just a brotherly wrestle and there was nothing in it,” Mason said.

The Byron incidents make me wonder how Mason’s bro-wrestle will be treated.  Will it be seen as an “open and transparent” incident of good humoured hi-jinx from two spirited boofheads or will the more likely moral tumbrel rumble for heads to roll and the feckless fool to be summarily punished?  Hopefully so for then we can all sleep soundly knowing that the crime fits the punishment.

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