Drink Tank

Public safety should not be a popularity contest

The imminent likely adoption of proven and modest alcohol harm prevention laws in Queensland and the retention of similar earlier last drinks measures in Kings Cross and Sydney CBD cannot degenerate into a popularity contest.

Newcastle successfully united against the enduring industry false prophets of gloom and doom attempting to derail our landmark life and cost saving alcohol law reforms. Sadly this has not stopped them spreading their hysteria, scaremongering and false information in Sydney and Queensland. We have heard all this nonsense before.

Not only has the modest two hour reduction in last drinks time reduced the alcohol toll in Newcastle by more than 50 per cent since March 2008, it has transformed Newcastle’s nightlife into a much safer, more inviting, diverse and vibrant place. Kings Cross has benefited from a 45 per cent reduction in assaults with similar measures introduced in February 2014.

Newcastle’s night time economy is now far more prosperous.

A 110 per cent increase in the numbers of smaller bars and licensed restaurants since 2008 translates into more job opportunities for our younger people. The New South Wales Premier has identified similar early increases in Sydney.

The predictable industry fear and smear campaign devoid of concrete evidence is being perpetuated by the Queensland Opposition and proliferated in Sydney by groups who put their own individual interests ahead of the greater public good.

The adoption and extension of modest earlier last drinks and one-way door policies has and will continue to prove a triple win for public, police and patron safety; the community in terms of substantial police and health cost savings and more jobs, and the overall industry itself – no longer dominated by irresponsible booze barn business models serving unlimited quantities of grog to thirsty patrons till 5am.

The triple win outcome debunks the dominant industry ideology that’s it’s either business profits or public safety and the two objectives must be “balanced” or trade-off.

The Newcastle experience and “global” cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco prove effective and modest earlier last drinks measures and a safer and vibrant nightlife with more jobs can comfortably co-exist. Our smarter venues and young people quickly adjusted to earlier last drinks.

The success of critical public safety laws like seat belts, speed limits in school zones and drink driving blood levels depend in part upon political statesmanship to retain them and their uniform and consistent application across the whole of New South Wales.

All Novocastrians must support our besieged Premier’s defence of sensible and proven alcohol harm prevention measures based on our home grown conditions. Some of this attack is coming from within his National Party coalition ranks.

We must defeat by reliance upon the evidence of own city’s achievements – the barbarian barrage of bullshit from those guided by self-interest and greed seeking to return Sydney streets and ultimately Newcastle, back to the drunken blood bath where drinks were dear and life was cheap.

Public, patron and police safety must remain above politics and pub profits.

This article was first published by The Newcastle Herald

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”.

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