Today’s GrogWatch article was written by Tony Brown.
Tony is an Australian lawyer and community advocate for proven alcohol harm prevention measures. In 2008 he voluntarily led the local community in the Police-initiated case that resulted in the pioneering ‘Newcastle Model’ of effective alcohol controls, which Sydney’s current and Queensland’s impending last drinks/lockout laws are modelled upon. He is Chair of the Newcastle and Multicultural Community Drug Action Teams.
A recent article from The Conversation shows that the so-called ‘last drinks’ laws in Sydney’s Kings Cross have been remarkably successful in reducing both violence and property-related crime. The article’s author, Associate Professor Peter Miller demonstrates that early pub closing times work for Kings Cross/Central Sydney and they will for Queensland too.
The new Queensland government has announced it will push ahead with plans to introduce 3am closing time and a 1am lockout for late trading licensed venues.
The new government should be congratulated for showing the courage necessary to reform Queensland’s outdated alcohol policies. New Minister and maxillofacial surgeon Dr Anthony Lynham should also be recognised for his long-time advocacy on alcohol policy reform, as should the Queensland Coalition for Action for Alcohol for their leadership producing an evidence-based five-point plan.
The recognition of the community-wide benefits and substantial public cost savings of earlier closing times is one reason why the NSW government must be decisive and immediately adopt state-wide, modest reductions in late trading/last drinks and other proven availability and supply based measures.
If the government is concerned with the budget deficit, the adoption of these measures will not only save lives and minimise related harms (including domestic violence), but would also free up costly and substantial police and public health resources.
As A/Prof Miller emphasises in his The Conversation article, and as we know here in Newcastle, these changes are also better for responsible businesses and local residents.
There are a small minority of Kings Cross and Central Sydney rogue traders and those with unsustainable and irresponsible ‘binge barn’ business models incapable of adaptation. They’re also the ones who now are making the most noise and are unfortunately able to attract the support of a few opportunistic local politicians.
Here in NSW Premier Baird and the Coalition government are at the crossroads. They can march to the drum of the powerful Australian Hotels Association and packaged liquor industry. Or they can exemplify ongoing national leadership and reform. One strong step in the right direction would be for them to adopt the NSW/ACT Alcohol Policy Alliance’s alcohol harm prevention agenda including the funding of an independent Community Defenders Office.
In my view, waiting for the alcohol body count to rise for the rest of NSW and across the country is unconscionable. We have the opportunity to adopt proven simple alcohol harm prevention measures, which are life and cost-saving — and that A/Prof Peter Miller has above confirmed are also better for responsible businesses.
It should be a no-brainer for all governments and policy makers in Australia.