The NSW Government finds itself defending from shaky ground as public sentiment against the draconian ‘lockout’ and bottleshop laws swells – just in time for “an independent, evidence-based review”.
The past nine days have seen NSW Premier Mike Baird on the political back foot, after a LinkedIn article by Freelancer’s Matt Barrie tapped into growing sentiment against the ‘death of Sydney’ through the destruction of its nightlife.
Prompting a wave of both supportive and opportunistic media, the Premier found himself trying to explain why an openly Christian ideal-led government should be dictating people’s rights regarding going to licensed premises and purchasing alcohol.
Baird has previously stated he entered politics after the suggestion by a tutor where he was studying to be a Minister, citing it “brought together” his passions of serving God and making a difference in the community.
Responding to criticism of his motives in regards to the ‘lockout’ laws, Baird posted a rather lengthy and rose-coloured Facebook statement, claiming reductions in alcohol-related assaults of 42.2 per cent in the Sydney CBD and 60 per cent in Kings Cross, and mocking people complaining they can no longer “drink till dawn”.
“It is going to take a lot for me to change my mind on a policy that is so clearly improving this city.”
The post proved enough rope for critics. Even the Sydney Morning Herald took the opportunity to throw shots at Baird, including a response by Barrie on statistics from his article.
“927,000 reads of my article, #1 on LinkedIn Globally, #1 for Reddit/r/Sydney, and of 950 comments, 84.9% agreed that you have destroyed the city’s reputation, small businesses or Sydney’s social & cultural fabric, 8.7% were neutral or had no comment, and only 6.4% agreed with you.”
More damaging was head of BOCSAR (Bureau of Crime Statistics & Research) Don Weatherburn telling ABC radio the Premier’s number were completely incorrect; that assaults were down 20 per cent in the CBD, and 40 per cent in Kings Cross – accelerating an existing downward trend, and in the context of dramatic drops in both people numbers and alcohol consumed.
Meanwhile, Troy Grant, in his roles as Deputy Premier and Minister for Justice, has been the name at the top of recent OLGR releases pronouncing the “independent, evidence-based review of the 1.30am lockouts, 3am last drinks and 10pm takeaway liquor laws”.
Grant is stressing an “open and transparent assessment” process, inviting written submissions by stakeholders and the public, for a review of the entire situation “focusing on the facts” – and led by a pinnacle of integrity, former High Court Justice, the Hon. Ian Callinan AC QC.
Due to receive the review’s report in August, Grant says it will guide the Government’s response later in the year – and stresses that the result has not been pre-determined by the Liberal Party.
“I want to make it clear it does not have a foregone conclusion – it will be guided by the evidence and the experiences of the people of Sydney and NSW.
“Hearing from the public and all interested stakeholders will be a crucial component of the Callinan Review and I encourage anyone who has a view to express it in writing.”
The Review is mandated to assess the regulations’ effectiveness – both in terms of its impact on alcohol-related violence, and harms including that to business and community amenity.
The recent City of Sydney report seemed to prove conclusively that harm to business and amenity has been immense:
- Reductions of 80+ per cent in patronage should produce reductions of 80+ per cent in alcohol-related violence
- Lockout law advocates claim victory with a 25 per cent reduction in all alcohol-related admissions (including accidents) at St.Vincents Hospital
= net increase in violence of 369 per cent per patron
Further complicating the matter for Baird and his fellow Christian politicians, chief of staff Bay Warburton, and commissioner for NSW police Andrew Scipione, the more egalitarian side of the Liberal/National Coalition is making waves of its own.
Several NSW Nationals MPs have broken ranks over the controversial regulations, based on their unfairly affecting people in rural areas. Barry O’Farrell introduced a State-wide forced 10pm closure for bottle shops that was particularly incongruous in the context of the debate around violence on Sydney’s streets.
The Nationals suggest the earlier closing time for off-premise sales is having a negative effect on both the people and businesses of areas where there may only be one liquor outlet, and rural workers may not be able to fit work around the shorter hours.
For further information on the review being led by Hon. Ian Callinan AC QC, or to make a submissions go to: http://www.justice.nsw.gov.au/liquorlawreview
To sign Matt Barrie’s petition to Keep Sydney Open, click here.