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Alcohol plans target trouble-makers not closing times

The government believes there are better ways to address alcohol-fuelled violence than shutting clubs early.

The government believes there are better ways to address alcohol-fuelled violence than shutting clubs early. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

Changing the players, not the game, is how the government hopes to tackle alcohol and drug fuelled violence across the state.

Premier Campbell Newman said he believed the changes he hoped to implement in Queensland, which put an increased focus on personal responsibility, penalties and regulation, would ultimately work better than restricting trading hours for licensed venues.

The Police Union, members of the Queensland Coalition for Action on Alcohol and the Opposition had been lobbying for a plan which mirrored the Newcastle solution - a raft of measures which included not just reduced trading hours, but 'last drink' alcohol restrictions and tighter lock out curfews. NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell introduced similar changes to pubs and clubs in Sydney'sCBD earlier this year, following the 'one-punch' death of teenager Daniel Christie, on New Year's Eve.

But Mr Newman said he didn't believe those same reforms would work in Queensland.

“We’ve had a good look at that. Queensland is a tourist location and this is actually a point of difference. You can come here and enjoy this great state," he said.

"We advertise the Gold Coast. As far I am concerned a great part of a holiday is being able to go out and enjoy some nightlife. We don’t want to be a place that kicks people out and shuts down early.

"... I have already seen some problems with what’s happening interstate. You can go and have a look yourself. They are concerned about their jails just filling up."

Under the draft 'safe night out strategy' released by the government on Sunday, the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation, which had previously been criticised by state's Auditor-General, will be given increased powers to carry out "covert" operations to check licensed venues are complying with responsible alcohol serving regulations and enforce penalties for non-compliance.

"There will be things in the liquor licensing regulatory framework which will involve mystery shoppers so we’re literally going to go and test whether venues are doing the right thing," Mr Newman said.

"We will be making sure that we have the compliance people out there and we will make sure that places that serve alcohol comply with their obligations under the liquor act."

The definition of 'unduly intoxicated' will be amended to include patrons who may be under the influence of illicit drugs, putting greater responsibility on bar staff and licensees not to serve them. 

Police would be given greater powers to remove those they judge as overly intoxicated from the streets, either by committing them to a 'sober safe centre' - a drunk tank - if they are in the Brisbane CBD, or through increased penalties for public nuisance and refusal to leave a licensed premises.

The plan will be open for consultation and comment for a month.  Mr Newman said he wanted "Queenslanders to get behind us".

"... This framework is about targeting people who do the wrong thing and letting other people enjoy a great night out. It’s also about saying Queensland is a place where we want people to be able to let their hair down, enjoy a great night out. We are not making judgments on peoples’ partying or drinking habits,” he said.

“It strikes the balance between education, setting the right standards, having tough but fair laws, having the police involvement, the liquor licensing people, the licensees themselves.

“... We want to change the culture. We want people to be able to have a great night out."

Outside the licensed areas, the plan calls for a compulsory education program to be included in the school curriculum.  If approved, this year's program would be quickly pushed through to target Year 12s before they headed off to Schoolies.  In future years, the program would form part of the lesson plan for Years 7 to 12.

Matthew Stanley Foundation founder, Paul Stanley, who's 15-year-old son was killed outside a house party in 2006, questioned how effective teachers would be in getting students to listen.

Mr Stanley said taking his message to schools through the foundation and the N2C (no second chance) campaign, he had learnt the difficulties of appealing to the students and believed safe drinking messages needed to start in primary school.

"The one thing I really want to see is the education part of it is done well, so the kids aren't getting bored before they get in the door," Mr Stanley said.

"They are not going to listen to teachers, just the same as they don't listen to police officers when they go in there, they don't listen to their parents. They might listen to me for a while.

"... What we have to be working hard on is getting to the kids young, and then reinforcing the message across their entire lives."

The government hopes to have its new laws in place by August, and extended the moratorium on late-night trading hours decisions until August 31, when the new legislative framework was in place.

Included in those decisions is whether to allow late night trading to clubs, pubs, hotels, nightclubs and restaurants outside of designated entertainment districts.  

Under the proposed reforms, the Commissioner for Liquor and Gaming would have to give "greater weight" to recommendations from the police about public safety when considering an application to extend trading hours.  The government also envisions giving communities a "greater say", through their local council when a licensee applies to extend its liquor licence trading hours.

Applications would be considered on a "case-by-case basis".  The draft strategy is available here.

17 comments so far

  • Put breath testing equipment on the doors of clubs and pubs. If you're too drunk to drive a car then you shouldn't be admitted to a licenced venue.

    Ken of Brisbane
    Date and time
    March 24, 2014, 10:59AM
    • and all the pubs will be empty.......0.05 is a low limit, ok for driving, but ridiculous for entry to a licensed premise.

      Date and time
      March 24, 2014, 2:32PM
  • So instead of taking steps to prevent alcohol related violence, Newman has buckled to club owners and opted instead for heavier punishments for people who get so drunk they stop worrying about consequences. Another brilliant strategy from a man who will be remembered as a brilliant premier.

    Joh For PM
    Date and time
    March 24, 2014, 11:03AM
    • User pays, and it is a growing trend.

      no beer, no fear.
      Date and time
      March 25, 2014, 7:22AM
  • Don't agree, with the Premier. "Queensland is a tourist location", one just has to see the tourists at Circular Quay to know that this is no reason to justify different rules to NSW. It seems absolutely ridiculous to have to keep venues open until 5am. Driving through the valley Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights, with so many young people milling, wobbling and staggering down the footpath is just frightening. One has to be concerned about the drunken people walking in front of the car. It is a shocking look for any city be it tourist or not. Earlier closing hours would have to be a start in my opinion.

    Date and time
    March 24, 2014, 11:05AM
    • Yes, and everyone should be forced to go to church at 8am Sunday morning.

      Date and time
      March 24, 2014, 4:30PM
  • No easy answer to this one. The LNP mantra of personal responsibility and regulation is the obvious right wing response, They have power right now, so it's their turn to try and fix the problem. The ALP failed, so lets give this mob a go.
    However,if Newman is playing the 'Tourism' card as his reason for retaining extended hours, why doesn't he use his 'Absolute Power' and introduce Daylight Savings, at lest for SEQ. That is what our Tourism industry really needs.

    Date and time
    March 24, 2014, 11:34AM
    • Is he really saying the Gold Coast is a bigger tourist destination than Sydney?

      Date and time
      March 24, 2014, 11:36AM
      • Will you wowsers PLEASE shut the hell up? I am sick to death of hearing you lot whine on about opening times, I, or anyone else as a responsible aultt, should be able to stay out dancing and drinking as much as I bloody want, and not have to be treated like a child because *some* cannot control themselves, so YES, we punish those who do wrong and let the rest of us play and have fun as we wish. you lot can go bugger yourselves back to church and pray to your imaginary god for guidance. the government is doing what it SHOULD be doing in this case.

        John Douglas
        Date and time
        March 24, 2014, 11:37AM
        • Surely you are missing the point. The question that still is deserving of an honest answer is...are political parties from all sides in the financial thrall of those proprietors of those establishments who think it is alright to party until 3am?

          From this question all other issues stem...parents who either encourage this aberrant behaviour or who couldn't care less and those from a Generation, some of whom think it is alright to take offence at the smallest slight and who will lash out; not forgetting the odious mantra of many under 30 year olds who will argue in the most lurid of language that they will do what they damn well want to do so 'get stuffed'.

          And Mr. Douglas, setting aside your stereotypes for the moment; I am not a church goer just a practical human being who sees naivety in the eyes of many younger people who deserve to be cherished and protected from the more predatory elements within an industry that is just out to make a buck!

          Date and time
          March 24, 2014, 12:46PM

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