Drink Tank

Time to end violence? Let’s not kid ourselves about the solution.

They simply don’t get it.

CCTVs, ID scanners and other engineering measures do not reduce the level and severity of alcohol-fuelled violence.

Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) research established CCTV has no crime prevention value relating to reducing alcohol violence.

It has limited crime detection use.

They are primarily costly reactive “band-aid” measures favoured by the industry and their political acolytes.

It is no comfort to Tom Kelly’s parents, family, and friends in Bowral that his assailant(s) may or may not have been captured on some grainy CCTV footage. Sadly, at least 3 young Australians die each week from alcohol-related events.

It won’t bring Tom back or reduce the severity of injury and harm caused to the many other young victims of alcohol-related crime and misadventure.

The NSW Police Commissioner correctly asserts the police cannot “arrest their way out of the problem”.

Equally, the mass promotion and normalisation of alcohol permeates all media from a very young age, and is closely associated with the concepts of identity, success, belonging and sport. This embeds a pervasive attitude among a significant proportion of young people of “drinking to get drunk”. In turn, this culturally inoculates them against well-meaning education programs and ironic liquor industry appeals for individuals to “drink responsibly”.

Time and time again, international and Australian research tells us that the most effective and cost-saving harm prevention and reduction measures are those that address the underlying problem and catalyst for violence – the dangerous oversupply and irresponsible promotion, sale, service, availability, and consumption of alcohol.

Restricting the availability and supply of alcohol is of course an anathema to the powerful liquor industry that continues to exert the predominant influence on the NSW and Federal Governments’ alcohol-related public health, safety, liquor licensing, and enforcement policies. It is no surprise that the liquor industry promotes the policies and a superficial narrative that:

  1. shifts all blame on patrons spruiking the importance of individual responsibility
  2. vilifies health groups as wowsers, fun police, or nanny-staters
  3. have no impact on the dangerous oversupply and promotion of alcohol
  4. shift all costs of their preferred ineffective measures and consequential failed outcomes, onto the unsuspecting public
  5. attempts to build their veneer of corporate social responsibility via tax-deductible sponsorship of kids’ sport, charities, and health research

What is disappointing is that too many in the media uncritically accept and reproduce such dross.

It is unfortunate that the vast majority of the liquor industry are stigmatised by the conduct of a very small proportion of their powerful members, although there is an increasing concentration of liquor outlets owned by Woolworths and Coles.

What is stopping us from implementing measures that work is a lack of moral courage by successive political leaders to sever their close symbiotic relationships with the liquor industry. The alternate is to heed the conclusive independent scientific evidence and listen to and adopt the advice of their own health and police experts, such as:

  1. Sensible reductions in late trading hours
  2. Reducing the strength of alcohol in drinks after certain hours
  3. Reducing liquor outlet density
  4. Effective and objective Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) measures that prevent pre-loaders entering licensed premises
  5. Urgent amendments to legislation that will enable enforcement of RSA on premises, and provide a level of immediate and transparent deterrence commensurate with the profits derived from the supply of alcohol.

One dollar invested in proven, preventative, cost-saving measures are worth thousands in the costs and harms associated with perpetually picking up the pieces and comforting grieving families.

The right way forward is going to take courageous political leadership and accountability to the electorate, including parents who care for their kids. NSW residents deserve to see people made a priority over pub profits and political patronage.

This post is in response to a Sydney Morning Herald article published on 12 July 2012.

Tony Brown

Tony Brown

Tony Brown is a PhD (Law) Scholar, Conjoint Fellow School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle. He is the Chairperson of the Newcastle and Hunter Region Multicultural Drug Action Teams. He voluntarily led and represented around 150 local residents, small businesses and concerned citizens in the complex legal proceedings initiated by the Police that led to the “Newcastle conditions”.


  • I have often wondered why when I was young we had lots of things to do as young adults that did not involve drinking of alcohol and it seems today entertainment is about consumption of alcohol. It seems that the decline of other forms of entertainment and the rise and rise of alcohol as the only way to entertain has brought with it a very eruptive society.

    It is my belief that a part of the solution to the problems on our streets at night is to have other forms of night entertainment promoted as being wholesome and worth being involved in. The whole of media find that it is necessary state that to celebrate is to have a few drinks and the more significant the event the more one should drink. This social directive needs to be changed to a more positive and healthier direction.
    It seems that a Good Government would assist in having healthy entertainment promoted and to control the promotion of alcohol as the entertainment fuel. Good policing of RSA would assist as well as the preventing of marketing of alcohol by powerful and well heeled companies. The involvement of Coles and Woolworths in this industry needs to be cut back and this can be achieved through a competition policy that will place restriction on the market share in any in single industry and also restrict market share across a number of industries.
    I have spoken of how it may be possible to be born in a Coles or a Woolworths hospital live in accommodation provided by them and all food and entertainment from their companies; have our illnesses treated by their doctors, banked and insured by them and finally be buried via one of their funeral businesses. This is a night mare to me and we must take steps to stop these monsters controlling all of our lives and I plan to next month to submit several policy suggestions to the membership of the Christian Democratic Party that will begin to arrest this creeping monster and begin the process of putting them back into a jar to stop their increasing control of all of life.

  • Professor David Hawkes produced a document over 25 years ago titled ” Conspiracy Of Silence” which indicated the more available alcohol is the more problems society has with it. At the time and even today governments and the alcohol industry are in denial around the dispensing of alcohol. Govts. need to review the alcohol industries handling of the issue. Why do people have to be out drinking to 4 or 6 am in the morning in licensed premises. Surely to goodness they can make enough money before midnight to sustain their business.
    Society is too hypocritical, when we say alcohol abuse is at epedimic proportions but continue to increase availability. As people we need to be honest in our evaluation of how to address this ever growing problem.

  • Tony,

    Thank you for writing this excellent post. Your brave stance in Newcastle has shown that we can change late-night behaviour by changing the parameters around drinking.

    There’s nothing like telling the story from a personal perspective/experience to get people listening. Well done.

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