PUNISHING hotels and clubs for the drunken behaviour of patrons by introducing mandatory closing hours would be unfair, says the Australian Hotels Association, responding to a study that high-risk drinking in NSW was out of control.
The association's director of policing and regulations in NSW, John Green, said venues had already introduced tighter security measures such as CCTV, ID scanners and security guards to curb drunken behaviour and lower the number of assaults.
''We shouldn't be ruled by the actions of a small number of people,'' Mr Green said. ''Mandatory closing of venues at a set time puts significant pressure on infrastructure. If you tip everyone out on the street at once, you put strain upon taxis, buses and trains as well as policing services.''
He was responding to the Dealing with Alcohol-related Harm and the Night-time Economy report released on Monday, which found increasing prices in bottle shops and introducing mandatory closing hours for licensed venues would significantly curb alcohol-related crime.
The Deakin University report found a culture of ''pre-loading'' on alcohol before going to pubs and clubs was leading to crime, violence, hospital admissions, assault and death, while extended trading hours meant people were drinking for longer.
But Mr Green said alcohol-related crime had come down in the past decade, indicating venues were playing their role in targeting drunks.
The chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund, Detective Superintendent Tony Cooke, agreed alcohol-related crime had been reduced.
''But it has come down from unacceptable highs, and while we've done good work, it is a continuing issue that needs ongoing, serious attention,'' he said.
The deputy director for the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Jackie Fitzgerald, said there had been a decrease in alcohol-related assaults in the past two years, with figures today of 230 assaults between midnight and 5am in licensed premises each month, about the same as in 2004.
''I'd say that improvement is due in part to the significant impact of tightened conditions imposed on licensed premises in recent years,'' she said.
The chief executive of the Australian Liquor Stores Association, Terry Mott, said stores supported responsible drinking campaigns and education, not price rises.
''Parents need to face up to their responsibility in educating young people about drinking, while personal responsibility plays a big part, too,'' he said.
''Nothing in the study proves that a minimum price on alcohol sold in stores would have an impact on those people drinking at irresponsible levels.''
The lead author of the Deakin University study, Peter Miller, said increased security measures by venues alone were not working to curb alcohol-related crime.
While people may resist mandatory closing hours in venues and a price increase on bottle-shop alcohol, he said the price the community was paying for heavy drinking was already too high.
''Once mildly intoxicated, people don't pick up on cues that another person is dangerous, they don't think about consequences of their actions and they tend to overreact to what they do notice,'' Associate Professor Miller said.