By: Taylah Felice,
Former High Court Justice Ian Callinan will provide a report regarding the future of Sydney’s liquor laws this August.
The review has received over 1,800 submissions from interested bodies and persons who have given their opinion on the future of the liquor laws.
Among these are 31 recommendations to amend current laws from City of Sydney Council.
Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore said that the government has not addressed the “real problems” across the city and Kings Cross.
She said that the lockout laws are destroying the nightlife of Sydney, and it’s hospitality industry.
“The lockout law has hurt Sydney’s cultural life and had negative impacts on businesses, including live music venues, small bars and restaurants, and many people have lost their jobs.”
Tyson Koh, campaign manager of anti-lockout group Keep Sydney Open, said that the laws are creating an atmosphere that Sydney is closed for business at nighttime.
“There are so many alternatives, but it really begins with an honest appraisal of the kinds of cultures that we are encouraging and discouraging,” he said.
Most of the submissions received for the Independent Liquor Law Review refer to the 1:30 AM lockout and the 3 AM last drinks restriction. However, many of these recommendations come from emergency service workers with concerns that current laws will be watered down.
“Prior to the lockout laws’ introduction, there was immense pressure on the Government to do something about the violence,” said Dr Saxon Smith, President of the Australian Medical Association NSW (AMA).
“Now it has done something which has been very effective. It’s surprising some people want to return to the bad old days of just a couple of years ago.”
According to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), April 2015 recorder a 32 per cent reduction in assaults in Kings Cross, and a 26 per cent reduction in the Sydney CBD.
However, BOCSAR statistics show that the number of non domestic assault incidents in Kings Cross has been on the decline since October 2008, suggesting that the lockout laws have only accelerated this trend.
It was also found that the lockout law reforms, introduced in February 2014, might be behind an increase in assaults in Pyrmont, specifically at The Star casino.
In April 2016, BOCSAR published a report concluding that almost two additional assaults per month have been recorded since the introduction of these reforms: “…the introduction of the February 2014 reforms resulted in an increase of nearly two additional assaults per month in The Star casino precinct, compared with the pre-lockout law period,” the report said.
Despite this information, Dr Smith believes that “No argument presented by the groups protesting against the lockout laws is compelling enough to put people’s safety at risk.”
“Contrary to claims by some against the important laws, there is no evidence at all to suggest that the violence is moving elsewhere,” said Scott Weber, spokesperson for the Last Drinks Coalition.
Formed in 2008 by the four major emergency service organisations in NSW, Last Drinks challenges the Australian drinking culture, addressing the issue of alcohol-fuelled violence.
“The simple fact is that fewer people are being assaulted as a result of these laws. The community safety benefits of the measures cannot be underestimated,” said Mr Webber.
To the contrary, despite data presented by medical associations and hospitals indicating that alcohol-related issues need to be addressed, Mr Koh believes that this “does not indicate that we need to put a curfew on the city and put thousands of people out of work.”
Clover Moore, Sydney’s Lord Mayor since 2004, outlined that City of Sydney Council’s submission is a package of recommendations to “encourage good venue management and support our live music and cultural sectors, while balancing the needs of residents and making no compromises on public safety.”