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Punch Drunk: Cut late-night drinking, ACT government told

Police data shows cutting late night trading hourse of licensed venues helped decrease all alcohol-related offences across the ACT.

Police data shows cutting late night trading hourse of licensed venues helped decrease all alcohol-related offences across the ACT. Photo: Andrew Quilty

The government has been urged to consider cutting late-night trading hours of licensed venues, as part of an overhaul of liquor law that does not simply ''tinker at the edges''.

However, any changes to the closing times of pubs and clubs face fierce opposition by the hotel lobby, who warn it will simply spill drunken revellers out onto Canberra's streets.

The ACT government is reviewing the effectiveness of its liquor reforms, introduced in 2010, which included risk-based liquor-licensing fees, a new specialised police team, and tougher powers for regulators. Police data show the measures have helped cut all alcohol-related offences in the ACT, but have failed to have any impact on drunken violence in Civic, Canberra's main nightclub precinct.

If anything, alcohol-related assaults in Civic have risen since December 2010.

Solicitor and Newcastle-based community campaigner Tony Brown has joined the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Association to urge the ACT government to go further with the reforms.

Mr Brown was instrumental in the 2008 Newcastle intervention, a police-led initiative to combat the city's alcohol-related violence problem, which was the worst in NSW.

The intervention had late-night trading hours for pubs reduced from 5am to 3am and 3.30am, and 14 specific venues were targeted with a 1am lockout and other preventative measures. That was linked to a 37 per cent reduction in the night-time assault rate, according to a 2010 study by the University of Newcastle and the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

Mr Brown said the ACT had a real chance to lead the way with liquor reform, given the territory's high level of ''common intelligence'' and progressive politics.

''The simple take-away measure from Newcastle is that the adoption of proven, cost-saving, evidence-based measures based on prevention of alcohol-related harm are the most effective,'' he said.

''What's been shown from research here in Newcastle and in Norway is that for every one hour reduction in late trading hours, you can reasonably expect between a 17 and 20 per cent reduction in alcohol-related violence and consequential harm costs,'' he said.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell said on Sunday he had no stance on the reduction of trading hours.

''I don't have a view on that issue at this time, but it will certainly be an issue that can be considered as part of the review,'' he said. But the Australian Hotels Association's ACT branch said simply reducing trading hours was not the answer.

General manager Brad Watts said it would lead to crowds of drunken, frustrated patrons spilling out onto the street, an unregulated, uncontrolled environment.

Mr Watts said there was evidence to show that the Newcastle intervention was not the best solution.

''Even in Geelong - they tried it in Victoria as well - and there was actually an increase in violence because everyone spilled out onto the streets and they were all fighting for cabs and transport home and whatever else,'' he said.

''I think the ACT is a very different jurisdiction to Newcastle and Geelong, and we need to obviously have a solution that works well here.''

The Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Association ACT said the Newcastle intervention provided a clear example of a measure that could ''realistically make a difference''. ATODA executive director Carrie Fowlie said aspects of the 2010 reforms had worked well, but there were ''definitely things we can do better''.

''Trading hours is a clear indication of something we can do that will likely be meaningful in terms of reducing alcohol-related harms and violence in the ACT,'' she said.

Mr Brown said the reductions in trading hours in Newcastle had not devastated businesses.

41 comments

  • The problem is also partly related to our drinking culture, which teaches young males that to be a "real bloke" they need to drink heavily.

    Commenter
    Canberran
    Date and time
    December 09, 2013, 8:07AM
    • I'd say it has much more to do with our social culture, which teaches young people that they can violently attack somebody unprovoked, claim that they are the victim and it was entirely due to alcohol and they are normally an upstanding citizen, and get off with a 12 month good behaviour bond and no restriction of access to the substance to which supposedly caused the problem.

      Punish the perpetrators, not everyone else.

      Commenter
      Markus
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      December 09, 2013, 10:43AM
  • Lock outs Canberra wide at 01:00 and close at 03:00. Would also allow Police to gather resources to cover peak times. The work has already been done, just call NSW Police.

    Commenter
    Steve
    Location
    ACT
    Date and time
    December 09, 2013, 8:08AM
    • Of course one expects the hotel lobby to complain bitterly about such measures. They seem to forget they are the direct cause of all these problems. When you look at how much they charge for drinks these days it is an extremely lucrative business and it is high time they took some responsibility for the problems they create. The taxpayer should not be expected to foot the bill for the consequences of these people making lots of money. Their claim that it will simply spill drunken revellers out on the streets is ridiculous - that is what happens now when the clubs close. With earlier closing hours one would expect these morons to go home and finish off getting smashed and hopefully trash their own houses intead of public facilities.
      The only alternative I see would be to create a zone somewhere, like the edge of Fyshwick or something, away from the City centre, and put all the clubs there in one spot with a cheap hotel so they can sleep it off before going home the next day. It would also be easier for the cops to nab the drunk drivers too.

      Commenter
      TuffGuy
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      December 09, 2013, 8:19AM
      • You clearly have not been out in a long time. The difference between going out in Canberra, when clubs close pretty much as late as they want and revellers disperse throughout the night gradually, and going out in a city with lockouts and shut downs, where everyone is booted out at the same time is massive. The only time you have massive issues in Canberra are peak summer and easter seasons when a lot of people go out, stay out late, and there isn't enough public transport. The nightrider service should be extended to other peak times.

        Commenter
        Daniel
        Date and time
        December 09, 2013, 9:48AM
      • Daniel. It has worked in Newcastle. The fear that what you are saying hasn't shown to be true. The violence in Newcastle was horrendous. 2 hours less of filling yourself with alcohol can make a huge difference. If you want to kick on past 3am go to a mates place.

        Commenter
        go home your drunk.
        Date and time
        December 09, 2013, 5:04PM
    • Looks like an admission from Mr Watts that RSA is not working. Why would there be 'crowds of drunken, frustrated patrons spilling out onto the street' if there was responsible service of alcohol?
      Give it up Mr Watts. You don't have a leg to stand on on this one.

      Commenter
      Steve2
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      December 09, 2013, 8:54AM
      • exactly, there are already laws in place that prohibit the sale of alcohol to intoxicated patrons.
        if these laws were ever followed (or enforced) it would make a big difference.

        Commenter
        mph
        Date and time
        December 09, 2013, 10:19AM
      • Mr Watts has clearly not been to Newcastle since the changes were introduced . . . .

        Commenter
        Newie
        Date and time
        December 09, 2013, 11:15AM
    • Again. Penalise the majority for the errors of a minority. Did the RTD tax curb binge drinking? NO. Did cigarette plain packaging curb smoking? NO. Will this stop those with violent tendencies from drinking and fighting? NO. Those same people will just go 2-3 hours earlier, drink the same amount and be punching on at 11-12 instead of 2-3. The only solution to alcohol related violence is to take a stand against it in the courts. Lock violent drunks up AND give them massive community service orders. The courts need to let angry drunks know violence will NOT be tollerated and only then will there be a change in culture.

      Commenter
      J72
      Date and time
      December 09, 2013, 9:00AM

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