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

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

      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.

      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 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.

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