NSW Premier Mike Baird’s decision to relax Sydney’s controversial alcohol lockout laws by just half an hour has been labelled “a joke”.
While the Premier has warned that even this small change could be reversed if crime levels increase. But health advocates have said allowing bottle shops to open longer could increase family violence.
On Thursday morning, Mr Baird announced that the government would adopt the main recommendations of the Callinan Review which looked at the impact of NSW’s hard line liquor laws.
“Mr Callinan found that the lockout laws introduced in February 2014 have resulted in ‘much safer, quieter and cleaner areas’,” Mr Baird said.
“He made some common sense suggestions for changes that we are confident will further enhance night-life in the precincts without undermining the essential purpose of the laws — which is to make the CBD and the (Kings) Cross places where people can enjoy a safe night out.”
The Government introduced the so called “lockout laws” following the deaths of teenagers Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie who were fatally felled in one punch attacks. The controversial reforms, which have undoubtedly reduced assaults but have been blamed for decimating Sydney’s night-life, mandate venues in the CBD and nearby Kings Cross to close by 3am with last entries at 1.30am.
Bottle shops statewide also currently have to be closed by 10pm.
From February, closing times for Sydney CBD and Kings Cross venues will move from 3am to 3.30am and lockout times from 1.30am to 2am if live entertainment is provided.
Bottle shops and home delivery alcohol sales will be extended from 10pm to 11pm across the state.
“We want to ensure that as people go about and enjoy this great city, that it is the safe place to be and certainly the lockout laws have shown that,” Mr Baird told reporters. But anti-lockout campaigners have been quick to slam the proposal as too little too late.
Keep Sydney Open, which has organised several high-profile demonstrations against the laws, said the changes were “tokenism”. “What a joke. A 30-minute relaxation is an insult to businesses and Sydney’s global status,” the group tweeted. “Mike Baird is in for a rough ride.”
In September, Keep Sydney Open’s Tyson Koh told news.com.au the 1.30am lockout should be scrapped altogether.
“The 1.30am lockout causes the most damage and has the questionable impact on safety because when you kick people out on the street all at the same time you can potentially get more trouble,” he said. “Kings Cross will never be the way it was before.
“But it’s not too late for Sydney’s night-life, we can improve entertainment options in areas like Oxford St and the CBD to coax people back into the city.”
Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said blanket restrictions were too restrictive and well managed venues should have been exempt.
“While I welcome the relaxation of lockout laws … time will tell whether half an hour will be enough to improve Sydney’s declining night-life.
“Music and culture help civilise the night economy and evidence shows that they are suffering significantly from restrictions and the government is right to start with these venues.”
The local St Vincent’s Hospital reported a dropped in admissions relating from late night violence. On Thursday, the Director of St Vincent’s Alcohol and Drug Services, Associate Professor Nadine Ezard, said the extension to bottle shop opening times was of particular concern.
“Extending the hours when alcohol can be purchased increases the number and severity of alcohol-related problems.
“We are concerned that relaxing the bottle shop closing times creates a greater risk of alcohol-related violence — particularly family violence. “ he said.
“(Since the lockouts) we’ve seen a 44% decrease in trauma admissions to ICU involving alcohol-related assaults.”
The extension to venue opening times should only be for those bars and clubs offering “genuine” live music, Prof Ezard said.
On Thursday, Police Minister Troy Grant said the definition of live entertainment definitely did not include strip clubs but specifically did include Flume playing a gig in a Kings Cross bar.
“Famous artists who won about five ARIAs, Flume, who does wonderful music from that sort of operation is absolutely live entertainment and will be the sort of live entertainment on offer small bars will also be allowed to increase in size from 60 to 100 patrons,” he said. But Mr Baird has warned if crime doesn’t come down, the earlier lockouts could be reintroduced,
‘If we see an uptake in violence, there’s an option to revert to where we were, but at the same time, if we continue to see improvements in violence or a maintenance of violence at levels that they’re currently at, it gives us the capacity to further liberalise these laws.”
Online Source: News.com.au.