QUEENSLAND CHEERS AS LOCKOUTS SCRAPPED

In Trade Restriction by Clyde Mooney

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Queensland’s government has listened to its constituents and experts from Deakin University, and scrapped plans for the introduction of its contentious lockout laws.

An already watered-down version of the ‘Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Act’ 2016 came into effect on 1 July, last year.

All licensed venues in the state were required to cease trading at 2am – with the exception of approved ‘Safe Night Precincts’ (SNPs), eligible for 3am closing with permits.

This was pronounced a “transitional period” prior to stage two, set to be introduced on 1 February, 2017, which would bring a 1am lockout across the state.

But backlash against the efficacy of so-called ‘lockout’ regulations has raged in New South Wales, in the wake of so many venues in Sydney’s CBD and Kings Cross falling victim to the reduced patronage that has resulted from the blanket laws introduced in early 2014.

After nearly three years cocooned by regulations that deny patrons entry after 1:30am, Sydney’s night-time economy has crashed, as late-night revellers choose uninterrupted nights at inner west and suburban venues without the restrictions.

Licensed venues in the sunshine state have dreaded the onslaught witnessed to the south, particularly as an agenda-driven NSW government remained dogmatically in favour of the laws.

In both states, the goal has always been the reduction of violent acts involving alcohol. Increasing regulation has seen these incidents increasingly occur on the streets, rather than within venues, who fear the reprisal if licensing police witness what they deem to be insufficient management of patrons.

But figures from BOSCAR (Bureau of Crime Statistics & Research) continue to show alcohol-related violence in venues and public places continues to fall. The latest list of NSW violent venues from Liquor & Gaming presented the best figures* since the scheme began.

Taking cues from NSW, Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government enacted a review into the first six months of its new scheme. A report by Deakin University’s Institute for Social Science Research in Melbourne concluded that introducing lockouts was “not likely to significantly change current trends”.

To its credit, the government has now backed down on the divisive solution, announcing the introduction of the 1am lockout on 1 February has “been scrapped”.

Instead, it will continue its plans to introduce mandatory ID scanners in the SNPs, aiming to have these in place by mid-2017.

The scanners will facilitate bans on individuals to precincts (and potentially beyond), meaning greater accountability for poorly behaved patrons.

The report by Deakin University also found that the regulator’s extended trading permits, allowing permit-holder venues to remain open as late as 5am, may have “compromised the impact of the Policy”. Palaszczuk has expressed disappointment with operators of venues in SNPs, on the suggestion they have been ‘rorting’ the use of these permits to ensure at least one venue in entertainment precincts remains open to service the late-night partiers.

Consequently, the number of late-trading permits will be halved, and greater restrictions placed on their use, to be kept to “genuinely special events.”

 

*The L&G figures do not report on incidents at The Star, which is controversially not subject to the lockout laws and is believed to have seen significant increases in violence since the laws were introduced.