Drink Tank

Cop the facts: Lockout laws save lives

As someone who campaigned strongly for the introduction of the alcohol restrictions in the greater Sydney ­region, it may come as a ­surprise to hear I actually agree with many of the calls from the anti-lockout law ­campaigners.

Unfortunately, however, many of the measures being called for have been tried and tested and haven’t worked to the level we need them to.

Before the introduction of the modest alcohol restrictions, successive governments tried a wide range of measures to curb the carnage.

No government wanted to pick a fight with the powerful alcohol lobby, but they also knew having innocent people being killed and injured on our streets couldn’t continue.

Before the New South Wales Government finally decided to listen to the evidence and the calls from the community and emergency service workers for action on alcohol-fuelled ­violence, we had massive and ongoing police operations in areas like Kings Cross; increased responsible service of alcohol inspectors; education campaigns; CCTV cameras.

Unfortunately, none of those things made the difference to the culture of alcohol and violence that the modest alcohol measures have — not even close.

The only thing that evidence shows works is the ­modest suite of measures we currently have: reduced ­trading hours, lockouts and ­restrictions on high alcohol-content drinks.

And Sydney isn’t the only global city to have decided that modest alcohol restrictions are a much better alternative to ­allowing alcohol-fuelled ­violence on the streets.

Plenty of international ­cities, many of which have reputations for their cultural ­diversity and night-life, have introduced ­restrictions on ­alcohol trading hours, including the whole of California, which has 2am “last drinks”.

Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego are hardly ghost towns.

Other international cities with reduced licensed trading hours include Boston, Ottawa and Toronto, which all have 2am closing times.

Dublin has a 2.30am last drinks call.

The cities that have gone the other way also help highlight the effectiveness of ­modest alcohol restrictions.

When Amsterdam, for ­example, recently increased its trading hours from 3am to 4am on weekdays and 4am to 5am on weekends, they saw a 35 per cent increase in ambulance attendances.

These figures aren’t just statistics — they’re people.

They are our brothers, sons, daughters, innocent people whose lives have been halted, and in some tragic cases cut short, by alcohol-fuelled ­violence.

Our licensed venues are still open until 3am in the greater Sydney region — hardly the attack on our rights some make it out to be.

Responsible businesses are still thriving and simple changes to the way some other people run their businesses would mean that we can have our cake and eat it, too.

Of course we all want Sydney to have a vibrant night-life and live music scene. But we also want it to be safe, and there’s no reason the two ­cannot coexist like they do in other cities around the world.

First published on The Daily Telegraph

Scott Weber

Scott Weber is the President of the Police Association of NSW.

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