Queensland’s minority government has rammed through its lockout agenda, with the Katter Party trading hospitality jobs throughout the State for its rural constituents.
The day before Annastacia Palaszczuk’s minority government successfully introduced its Alcohol Fuelled Violence Amendment Bill to Queensland parliament, last-minute negotiations were held between Labor and Katter’s Australian Party (KAP).
KAP State leader Robbie Katter and Shane Knuth concede that the issue of violence and alcohol is not on the party’s agenda, but that they would be “negligent” to not push their interests given their situation. KAP MPs had previously suggested support for blocking the Bill in Parliament.
“The fact that unemployment in the outback is at 15.1 per cent, almost three times the average of what it is around the rest of Queensland, which is the root cause for a lot of the social problems we experience,” said Katter.
“Now the lockout laws don’t make a huge difference to Shane and my electorates but this (unemployment) does.”
Under the new Bill, Queensland will see state-wide last drinks by 2am from 1 July this year, with specially designated nightclub precincts being allowed to serve drinks until 3am.
The blanket lockout regulation will now not begin until 1 February next year. Controversially, these regulations will not include the casinos, as has been expected.
Despite the drawn out lead-up to the Bill, which saw protests and propositions by both the public and industry begging the government not to quash the hospitality industry, its sudden passing in parliament has come as something of a shock.
In a State possibly more dependent on tourism dollars than any other in Australia, there are major fears that the curfew will cause significant loss of employment and business.
Our Nightlife Queensland (ONQ), which represents late-night venues throughout the State, says industry was perfectly willing to discuss revised trading, but that the lockout “is bad policy”.
“Jobs will be lost, businesses will close, musicians will struggle for gigs, and youth unemployment will sky rocket,” said ONQ’s Nick Brabham, on behalf of nightclubs and hotels due to be affected.
“The 1am lockout drives people into larger venues … because they know they will stay open later.”
Similarly, the owner of the Torquay Hotel and chairman of the Hervey Bar Liquor Accord, Darren Carter, told the Fraser Coast Chronicle he couldn’t see a 1am lockout making a difference, while it could certainly harm the region.
“By that time of night they’re already drunk, and it’s not just alcohol that’s in their systems,” said Carter. “People may not come here if they can’t party when they want.”
The hard-bought battle for the Bill was the result of an election promise by the Labor Party in Queensland that came to be less about the truth and more about the fortitude of the newly-elected minority government.
As with the 2014 introduction of similar laws in New South Wales – now under review and the subject of much debate – the Queensland lockout laws were less a result of evidence and more about emotions and public perceptions of those in power.
The starkest difference was the party holding power. The Liberal National Party (LNP) opposition to the Bill, and whether that is based in genuine or simply bipartisan purposes, has been questioned.
Ironically, Deputy Premier Jackie Trad described the LNP’s opposition to the Labor Party’s agenda-driven Bill as a case of “politics getting in the way of good policy”.
It has not yet been revealed what was promised to the KAP in return for its shameless backflip.