The following is an edited transcript of the record of proceedings from Queensland Parliament on 17 February 2016. The full statement from the Premier on the Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Legislation Amendment Bill can be viewed on Hansard pages 175-177.
The Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 presents this parliament and its members with a clear choice: we take action and do something to tackle alcohol-fuelled violence or we sit on our hands and do absolutely nothing. To me and my government, there is no choice. We will act and we will do something.
If you have spoken to the families of victims of alcohol-fuelled violence, there is no choice. If you have spoken to the paramedics and police that deal with the victims as well as the perpetrators, we must do something. If you have spoken to the doctors and nurses in the emergency wards, we must do something. If you have spoken to the facial surgeons and neurosurgeons and psychiatrists tasked with putting the victims’ lives back together, we must do something. The culture of booze fuelled bashings in the early hours of the morning must end, and this bill will help achieve that.
It is not just my government saying that. It is our police and our ambulance services. It is almost every single medical doctor and nurse you are likely to come across. It is the Salvation Army and other community groups. It is the Queensland Tourism Council, Clubs Queensland and many others. These are community laws, with a community focus, aimed at tackling a community problem.
We support the changes that work, and many of the previous government’s reforms have been maintained. But the one glaring omission in the strategy of the previous government was the question of reduced hours for the very late service of alcohol. What all the experts said, what all the evidence pointed to, was that winding back the hours for service of alcohol would dramatically reduce the incidence of violence on our streets. That is why we developed our tackling alcohol-fuelled violence study.
It has come about with consultation with the community. They want action. In fact, a recent Galaxy poll commissioned by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education found that the majority of Queenslanders—80 per cent—believe that more needs to be done to reduce the harm caused by alcohol related violence. Almost three quarters support the proposed late-night trading hours. The community is telling us it is time to act.
As the experts say, reducing trading hours leads to reduced violence, and that is what this bill achieves. We can tackle alcohol-fuelled violence by building a safer community whilst at the same time fostering a vibrant night-life in our communities. We recognise the many positive social, economic and cultural benefits that Queensland’s night time economy brings to our state. The evidence shows that in Newcastle between 2008 and 2015 the number of licensed venues increased by 110 per cent, proving that a safe precinct is a more vibrant and prosperous precinct.
Queensland cannot afford the human and economic costs of the abuse and misuse of alcohol. My government made a commitment at the last election to the people of Queensland to keep their loved ones safe when they went out at night, and this comprehensive package is designed to do just that. After extensive consultation with industry and community stakeholders, we have developed a multi-agency policy framework that will encourage cultural change around drinking behaviour, promote responsible service of alcohol practices and create a safer environment. This is the evidence-based approach our state needs. It is informed by the advice of experts in the field and the clear evidence of other jurisdictions that are successfully tackling this issue, both here and around the world.
Despite the tough nature of this debate, never once has my government wavered in its commitment to introducing these laws. I would like to pay tribute to our Attorney-General, Yvette D’Ath, who has been a tireless advocate for these laws and has helped foster the huge amount of stakeholder support. I acknowledge the member for Rockhampton, who drove the policy development process during our time in opposition. I would also like to pay tribute to State Development Minister Dr Anthony Lynham. Everyone knows his story. He left a very successful career as a surgeon to run for the Australian Labor Party in the seat of Stafford after lobbying the Newman government to do something to tackle alcohol-fuelled violence. Dr Lynham has campaigned for over a decade to see this state introduce these laws.
I would like to thank my cabinet and my caucus. We can hold our heads high and say that we had the courage to act, we had the courage to take a stand, we had the courage to say to the community, ‘We will do something for you.’
I have spoken to countless people. I have spoken to parents. I have spoken to the mums and dads across this state. I could not sit by one more day and not act. This is more than a moral issue. This is an issue that has the ability to change people’s lives. We stand by our convictions. We can go to sleep safe at night knowing that we have done something to change the community for the good, and that is what being part of the Labor Party is all about—standing by our values, standing by our morals, standing up for Queensland and saving lives for the betterment of the people in this state.