NSW residents support lockout laws

NSW residents support lockout laws

BY HEATHER McCORMACK

A recent poll has found that two thirds of NSW residents are in favour of  lock out laws, including the restrictions on bottle shops selling alcohol after 10:00PM.

Although primarily aimed at the Sydney CBD, the alcohol sale laws have had an impact throughout regional NSW.

Differences of opinion over the  controversial lock out laws have created a stronger divide than the borders of the lock out zone. The laws, introduced two years ago in response to a number of high profile alcohol-related assaults, prevent pubs and clubs in the Sydney CBD and selected surrounding areas from allowing new patrons to enter their premises after 1:30AM. They cannot serve any alcoholic beverages after 3:00AM and bottle shops throughout NSW are banned from selling alcohol after 10:00PM.

An estimated 15,000 people turned up to a February rally organised by activist group Keep Sydney Open to protest the lockout laws. The hashtag #KeepSydneyOpen trended on Twitter and Instagram, with many attendees of the protest sharing pictures of the crowd and the creative banners that called for abolition of the laws.

But a Galaxy poll found that two thirds of NSW residents are in favour of the lock out laws – including the restrictions on bottle shops selling alcohol after 10:00PM. The issue is deeply relevant to NSW voters: more than a quarter of NSW respondents to the poll said that alcohol related violence had affected them in some way and almost one in six indicated that had personally been the victim of alcohol-related violence.

One in six respondents to a NSW Galaxy poll has been a victim of alcohol related violence

One in six respondents to a NSW Galaxy poll has been a victim of alcohol related violence

Supporters of the legislation point to a reduction in hospital presentations and assault charges as proof that the lockout laws are working. But Keep Sydney Open say that declining assaults aren’t the whole story. Foot traffic in the Kings Cross precinct – one of the areas most affected by the lock out laws – has decreased much more dramatically than either assaults or hospital presentations. And alcohol consumption has been declining since 2001, according to government figures.

eep Sydney Open cite the National Drug Strategy Household Survey showing that alcohol consumption and risky drinking has been in decline for a number of years.

Keep Sydney Open cites the National Drug Strategy Household Survey showing that alcohol consumption and risky drinking has been in decline for a number of years.

The view of Keep Sydney Open is that violence and alcohol related harms were already on their way down before the introduction of the lockout laws. Keep Sydney Open say the lockout laws have reduced the number of people on the street, but the people who are left are still getting into fights. And these results, they say, have cost the city its vibrant nightlife – 40 businesses in the lockout zone have closed so far, which could equate to up to 1000 jobs.

Assaults and hospital admissions in the lock out zone have fallen, but not as dramatically as the number of people moving through the area at night.

Assaults and hospital admissions in the lock out zone have fallen, but not as dramatically as the number of people moving through the area at night.

The same Galaxy poll that found widespread support for the lockout laws also found that other policies to tackle alcohol-fuelled violence were even more popular. These included more police, harsher penalties for violent crime, and increased late night public transport around the Sydney CBD. These are the policies advocated by Keep Sydney Open and the focus of much of their public advocacy.

With the cost of alcohol-related harm at $36 billion every year and 70,000 people suffering harm from their own or other people’s drinking, all stakeholders agree that action is needed. The NSW government has recognised the division, inviting both pro-lockout advocates and representative of Keep Sydney Open to participate in a “night time economy roundtable”. Discussions commence March 31st and continue through April and May before feeding into an independent review of the lockout laws. Former High Court Justice Ian Callinan, who is due to present his findings in August, leads this review.

 

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