Broken faces 'the pits' for surgeon
A facial surgeon calls for an end to nightclub violence with state government plans for 3am curfews and to "come down really hard" on perpetrators.PT1M43S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2tzd7 620 349 September 19, 2013
Doctor Anthony Lynham really hopes it's not raining over the October Labour Day long weekend.
Not because he has plans. There is no wedding, or family outing planned. No landscaping or house improvement he is hoping to complete.
No, Dr Lynham hopes the sun stays out and the nights remain clear between October 4 and 7 so jaws, cheekbones, noses and eye sockets stay intact and in their correct places.
Doctor Anthony Lynham in Fortitude Valley, with scans of an assault victim. Photo: Amy Remeikis
“Rainy long weekends are the pits for us,” the maxillofacial surgeon said.
“That's because there is more violence, more assaults and we don't have the Monday, because a lot of our staff have the Monday off as well and some of the theatres are closed on a Monday, so we only have four days to catch up and sometimes we play catch up, spilling into the week after.”
Shuffling through scan images of broken and crushed skull bones “just a few from the past couple of weeks after nights out in [Fortitude] Valley”, Dr Lynham knows all about reconstructing faces.
Scans of an assault victim - a Japanese tourist - shows the broken eye socket and nose. Photo: Supplied
But it is watching his patients attempt to reconstruct their lives after alcohol-fuelled violence ferociously hits the pause button that has him riled up about reforming the city's night life.
“There is a solution at hand. The medical, police, public health fraternity have long known and long lobbied the Queensland government to introduce measures which will reduce this heavy alcohol toll,” he said.
“We know what needs to be done.
“We do need to wind the trading hours back to 3am, there is no doubt about that. But we can't have every pub in Queensland open until 3am. There has to be some control to prevent this.”
Winding back the trading hours to 3am, as flagged by an expert panel put together by the government to tackle liquor and gaming red tape and issues, would mean about 100 of the state's 6500 licensed venues would have to close earlier.
A far greater number, currently hindered by an extended-trading hour's moratorium which expires in December, could possibly open later.
The "control" Dr Lynham is advocating would be a mandatory lockout at 1am. Revellers who find themselves outside a club after that time would be all dressed up with nowhere to go. The hope is a 1am mandatory lockout would help stagger the number of people leaving clubs and pubs at once. Currently, the lockout time is set at 3am.
The 1am cut-off has the support of Police Union president Ian Leavers.
But Doug Flockhart, of Clubs Queensland, who is one of 18 members on the expert panel making recommendations to the government, is not in favour of a lockout, arguing that an earlier closing time would negate the need for one.
“We [the panel] were proposing no lockouts; I wouldn't be against voluntary lockouts, that is something individual proprietors could look at,” he said.
But Mr Flockhart, on behalf of the panel, is pushing for change.
Fortitude Valley has nine times the violence rate of the rest of Queensland. It has been a problem successive governments have struggled to solve.
But the solution could be south of the border.
Newcastle, once described as a “bloodbath after dark”, introduced radical changes to its licensed venues – earlier closing times, restrictions on alcohol shots and other drinks and a lockout among them – in 2008.
The result has been a 33 per cent drop in alcohol-fuelled violence.
It is the sort of “brave” decision the panel advising the government believes the state needs to take.
“Often decisions like this are very brave and certainly it would be very brave of the government moving forward,” Mr Flockhart said, adding that he didn't believe everyone would always agree on all aspects of the proposed plan.
“But I think the political appetite is right at the moment for change – not only in a red tape reduction standpoint, but ensuring Queensland does lead the rest of Australia in terms of being the state where you want to be and I think being able to move safely in the night time economy is a big part of that.”
But Matt Blyth, of Revelry Entertainment, which counts Valley nightspots The Met and GPO in its portfolio, believes the government needs to give initiatives like the Drink Safe Precincts – maligned by the state's Auditor-General, but anecdotally supported – a greater chance.
“The venues are very heavily regulated, you can't forget that you know,” he said.
“We work with regulators to make sure we provide the safest environment. And my main concern out of this is when you have this outflow of people out onto the streets, we are no longer in control. You take away the security, you put it on police's limited resources.”
Mr Blyth is concerned people would become “used” to the 3am early closing time and keep clubs at capacity until the bitter end, which would send 40,000 people spilling out into the streets and the same taxi lines at once.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said he would consider all submissions and a variety of solutions before making a decision, due by the end of the year.
But Dr Lynham said Newcastle proves there is already a win-win solution available.
He said the Newcastle evidence pointed to people drinking less at home before they headed out, a practice known as pre-loading, and heading home earlier.
But either way there needed to be a drastic change he said, or more people would continue to spend their Monday mornings meeting him and his team.
“Here [in today's drinking culture] you get hammered to the eyeballs, you come in [to the Valley] drunk, at your most vulnerable time, your friends are gone, you bump into someone or look at someone the wrong way and all of a sudden you are up with me in the hospital,” he said.