February 27th 2016


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY SSCA: Check out this inversion of the Parental Control system

CANBERRA OBSERVED Barnaby Joyce likely to give Cabinet a kick-along

ALCOHOL Studies confirm benefit of earlier nightclub closures

HISTORY OF TAIWAN Post-WWII Japan's loss is Chiang Kai-shek's gain

SPEECH IN PARLIAMENT Welfare of children at heart of surrogacy inquiry

EDITORIAL Syria agreement first step to ending the carnage

EDUCATION Discounting Christianity in schools denies history

WORLD CONGRESS OF FAMILIES Diversity's American dream: genderless parenthood and apple pie

ENVIRONMENT Harry Butler: a victim of deep-green politics

EUTHANASIA Legitimate denial of choice at end of life (Part I of two)

ACTIVISM Safer schools or a radical Marxist sexual revolution?

UNITED STATES Big Brother v the Little Sisters: Obama takes nuns to Supreme Court

MUSIC Oppositions reconciled in logical harmony

CINEMA Of heists and hedge funds: The Big Short

BOOK REVIEW Alarms and arms

BOOK REVIEW The human factor

LETTERS

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ALCOHOL
Studies confirm benefit of earlier nightclub closures


by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, February 27, 2016

Over the past 20 years, local government authorities in the centres of Australia’s major cities have encouraged late-night shopping and extended opening hours of entertainment businesses including bars, nightclubs and hotels. It is part of a push for what the City of Sydney calls “24-hour cities” with an urban core populated by residents, workers and visitors operating around the clock.

King’s Cross: 24/seven, 365 (366)
.

The trendy optimism of this vision has been punctured by the fact that extending the hours of bars and clubs into the early hours of the morning has led to an epidemic of binge drinking and drug taking, with very serious social consequences for local residents and an appalling increase in abusive and criminal behaviour.

Some inner-city precincts have become dangerous places to visit or live in, as a consequence. Between 2003 and 2008, both Sydney and Newcastle experienced a substantial rise in alcohol-related crime and violence.

Drinking laws

The deregulation of drinking laws in NSW saw the proliferation of late-night and 24-hour venues throughout the City of Sydney, but particularly in the areas of Kings Cross, Oxford Street (Darlinghurst), and George Street. Frequent media reports of assaults associated with the youth drinking culture led to demands for restrictions on venues, which were fiercely opposed by the entertainment industry.

In Newcastle, assaults attended by police increased by 83 per cent, with up to 65 per cent of these relating to licensed premises.

In 2008, the NSW government amended its liquor-licensing regulations, introducing a “three strikes” policy for at-risk licensed venues. This was strengthened in 2011.

A range of other measures, including a licence freeze in high-density nightclub precincts in 2009, alcohol-free zones and a network of CCTV cameras, was designed to resolve the problem. Further, NSW Police introduced a media campaign, “Take the hint. Call it a night without a fight”, aimed at encouraging people to walk away from confrontations with drunken or abusive revellers.

These measures had some effect. For example, the number of recorded assaults in Kings Cross fell from 287 in 2002 to 213 in 2012. However, the deaths of young people in one-punch attacks in Sydney’s entertainment precinct, together with calls by medical staff at nearby St Vincent’s Hospital for serious restrictions on alcohol-fuelled crime, led to calls for further measures.

In 2014, the Baird Liberal government introduced laws to control clubs and entertainment venues across large parts of the city. They included 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks for hotels, clubs and bars across the CBD entertainment precinct, banning identified “troublemakers” from entry to licensed premises in Kings Cross and the CBD entertainment precinct, bans on sale of take-away alcohol after 10pm, a freeze on new liquor licences across the CBD entertainment precinct, and introduction of a risk-based licence system statewide.

Perhaps not surprisingly, licensed bars and clubs in the precinct fiercely resisted the initiatives, some taking legal action against the state government on the issue.

However, the effects of the measures on behaviour have been dramatic. The number of observed serious and less serious incidents of anti-social behaviour has decreased by 80 per cent since 2010.

A study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research in 2015 found that there was a dramatic fall in assaults at the time the new laws were introduced. In King’s Cross, assaults fell by a third immediately. The decline in the Sydney CBD overall was not as dramatic, but continued throughout 2014, so that by the end of the year, the number of assaults was about half the level before the law was changed.

Fears that violence would simply spread to other areas not affected by the laws were unfounded. Additionally, street congestion in the entertainment precinct – correlated with anti-social behaviour – also fell sharply, as did the patronage of bars and clubs in the early hours of the morning.

There was still a large number of serious incidents, including assaults and verbal abuse, in the streets of King’s Cross where most of the open premises were licensed clubs or bars, particularly at the time when the last drinks rule was implemented.

The lesson of the study is relevant to cities across Australia. Although the King’s Cross area is notorious for bars and clubs, most capital cities have areas where there is a high concentration of clubs and bars open until sunrise. These areas have high levels of anti-social behaviour and alcohol-fuelled violence.

The implementation of earlier closing hours, together with restricting the number of licensed premises, will have a dramatic effect in reducing assaults, and improving the quality of life for all people living in these cities, particularly in affected areas.




























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