FACT VERSUS FICTION

In In My Opinion by Clyde Mooney

Click here to share this article with a friend

AHA NSW President Scott Leach has joined the chorus against St Vincent’s CEO Toby Hall’s biased editorial, which boasts low rates of violence on NYE as “success” for the trading restrictions.

The debate around the draconian restrictions imposed by former Premier Barry O’Farrell last year on Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD entered a new phase yesterday, with the CEO of St Vincent’s Hospital quoted in an opinion piece as saying “On New Year’s Eve – a night when our emergency service department is usually overwhelmed with alcohol-related injuries – our staff spoke of lower levels of intoxication and violence with not a single person admitted to intensive care…”

ScottLeach08_cropped_small_LRLeach responded to enquiries by PubTIC, saying that while the lack of alcohol-related injuries was obviously welcome news to hoteliers, the St Vincent’s CEO seems to have overlooked the fact that lockouts were not even in force on New Year’s Eve.

“These comments beggar belief when the lockout wasn’t even in on that night,” Leach told PubTIC.

“Obviously, this is more about a personal campaign rather than looking at evidence or the facts.

“There’s no mention of the fact that alcohol-related violence on licensed premises right across NSW is at its lowest levels since 1998 … that assaults on licensed premises State-wide have dropped 37.4 per cent since 2008 – with even greater drops experienced in areas like Penrith, Bankstown, Parramatta, Manly, Randwick, Sutherland, Dubbo and the list goes on…

“Instead, we have NYE being used as evidence of the lockout’s success – a night when it wasn’t even in force!”

 

PubTIC presents the following article from Hotel News February by the AHA NSW President, as further evidence of the myths surrounding the “lockout” in Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD…

 

Fact versus fiction…

As we reach the first year mark of the NSW Government’s liquor reforms in Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD, it is important to try and separate fact from fiction when it comes to this important issue.

Mythology has surrounded the imposition of the Government’s liquor reforms from the start.

The catchphrase “lockout law” is now used to describe the entire raft of measures, when in fact there is a lot more in place than the 1.30am curfew on entry to licensed venues in affected areas.

The term “lockout” has become shorthand in the public debate for many measures including 3.00am last drinks, RSA marshals, round the clock incident registers, ID scanners (in some venues), no shots after midnight, data on alcohol sales and strikes for breaching any of these offences… And the list goes on.

Bureaucrats show little interest in determining which individual measures work and which don’t.

It is the ‘1.30am lockout’ that resonates with the public – that has become the emotional pressure point. This is ironic, because lockouts are the measure that at least four professors say is the least effective.

We saw the power of the term “lockout” most recently when it was reported the State Government was going to conduct an early review into the laws. Within just a couple of hours a coalition of doctors, nurses, the police union and relatives of victims of street violence had united and called a press conference outside a hospital warning the Government to make no changes.

This despite the fact that the head of the Police Union recently said, in his own publication, that, and I quote: “… It is more important people are cut off from drinking than locked out of venues. All of our evidence-based research shows the most effective measure is the 3am cessation of trade…”

Why then his hysteria about a review of the lockout? And his calls to roll it out state-wide?

Was the rumoured early review fact or fiction?   In reality, it appears to be just the commencement of the gathering of data for the legislated review in 2016.

So what are the facts in the tragedies contributing to the imposition of the lockout/last drinks in Kings Cross?

There’s no doubt these were tragic events in the public domain with two of the most prominent involving the deaths of two extremely promising young men.

The community was rightly outraged and our deepest sympathies remain with the families and friends of the victims of street violence.

They have a right to be angry, and to ask questions, and to seek to attribute blame.

But so do we – as part of the same community.

The facts surrounding the tragic case of Thomas Kelly took almost a year to emerge through the courts.

Finally, we learned the attacker – Keiran Loveridge – was already on a good behaviour bond at the time of the incident.

He had a prior record when the attack occurred in July 2012.

The agreed facts of the case show that he pre-fuelled on alcohol on the way into the Cross and may not have even drunk at a Kings Cross venue.

None of this was known at the time – or in the months immediately after the attack.

In the tragic case of Daniel Christie, fatally injured when assaulted within ten metres of where Mr Kelly fell, about 9.00pm on the last day of 2013, his alleged attacker Shaun McNeil had been released from his fourth good behaviour bond just months before the attack occurred.

This man had been on three-years’ worth of good behaviour bonds between the end of 2006 and March 2013. This time, the fact he had been in a club in Kings Cross was released the very next day…

In the case of Michael McEwen, attacked on a Bondi Street by a thug in December 2013 – his attacker David Hona, was going into custody the day after the attack for car theft.

More recently, on the Central Coast we had yet another coward punch, the victim – Terry Clarkson – remains in hospital and we wish him well. His alleged attacker, Brett McMonagle, was subject to an intensive correction order at the time of the attack.

He has since been charged with previous assault offences.

What’s the common thread here?

These people have issues with authority.

Sydney is not suffering from some zombie apocalypse with hotel patrons wandering streets belting each other ad nauseum.

What we have are a series of tragedies by individuals with scant regard for the law.

As regulators and interest groups ramp up talk about extending measures without proper evaluation   the facts seem obvious – from just the four incidents mentioned we have four attackers with criminal histories.

Yet our answer is to curtail the freedoms of the majority rather than dealing with the actual people causing the problems.

Indeed, those with an interest in hospitality are now being told we have no right to question or have any role in formulating strategies, we have too much influence – we are being pushed out of the way by interest groups trying to marginalise us.

They perpetuate old myths – that we donate politically at the state level, that we are only after profits… these are the same interest groups, mostly, that rely on publicity and public funding to survive.

How can venues be expected to re-educate people, re-program people at our front doorsteps?

The very people committing these crimes have their attitudes ingrained before they enter a licensed premise.

When many of the measures were announced without consultation a year ago the Government was acting in a climate of moral panic – the majority were punished for the sins of the few. Blame was attributed, not on those that committed the offences but instead on the easy political target – ‘greedy publicans’ putting profit over public safety – another juicy catchphrase.

Now, armed with a full year’s data, we can begin asking measured and logical questions, that the legislation states clearly would be asked.

What does the evidence show? What works? What doesn’t?

Why aren’t people with a history of violence targeted?

Why aren’t we looking at the role of drugs like ice when it comes to street violence?

Why aren’t offenders being targeted to see if they are under the influence of drugs?

Why aren’t we now looking at measures that are proven to actually work?

How can you assess the effectiveness of a range of measures introduced simultaneously?

These are the questions that we – along with the rest of the community and especially the families of the victims – have a right to know the answer to.