A new push will be launched for earlier legal ‘last drinks’ and lockouts – like the conditions placed on licensed venues in Newcastle CBD, Sydney CBD and Kings Cross – to be rolled out across the state.
The NSW/ACT Alcohol Policy Alliance wants earlier closing times mandated for pubs, clubs and bottle shops statewide as part of a suite of measures aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm.
The coalition is made up of 47 member organisations, including high profile groups such as the NSW Australian Medical Association, NSW Police Association, Cancer Council and Thomas Kelly Foundation – a group named after the victim of a fatal coward punch on the streets of Sydney.
It will release a wide-ranging policy document ahead of the March state election, which calls for the next NSW government to reduce alcohol-related health problems and grog-fuelled violence.
Some regional centres already have restrictions in place – a “one-way door” policy was introduced in part of the Albury CBD in 2006 and in Tamworth city centre in 2014 – though the Tamworth lockout was relaxed by 30 minutes to 1am at the end of 2017 – as well as Wagga Wagga.
The move has drawn support from the health and law enforcement communities, but raised concern from business bodies that have seen the restrictions in play for a decade in Newcastle.
Tony Brown, a vocal supporter of the restrictions on inner city Newcastle venues, is spearheading the push for the NAAPA.
“Regional, rural and remote communities experience disproportionate levels of alcohol harm, with domestic assaults 12-times higher in rural and remote regions compared to NSW as a whole,” he said.
“The NSW government’s ‘earlier last drinks’ and ‘one-way door’ measures … have been powerful and effective in reducing harms in prominent nightlife precincts in Sydney and Newcastle.
“These measures must now be rolled out statewide to deal with hotspots of alcohol-fuelled violence in other areas … where there are concentrations of late-trading pubs, clubs and bottle shops.”
Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education CEO Michael Thorn said the response to alcohol-related harm was a taxpayer cost that ran into billions of dollars each year.
“Our political leaders have an opportunity to demonstrate strong and resolute leadership and tilt the balance back into the favour of the people of NSW and not the alcohol industry,” he said.
NAAPA’s policy document cited Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data that showed alcohol-related domestic assaults were up to 12.1 times higher in regional and remote NSW than in major cities.
It quoted Australian Institute of Health and Welfare research that found 23 per cent of drinkers in these areas exceeded the lifetime alcohol risk guidelines – compared with 16 per cent in metropolitan areas.
Aside from rolling out the Newcastle/Sydney CBD conditions statewide, the document called for a range of new measures to be introduced, including temporary moratoriums on new liquor licences in locations deemed to be “high risk”, a $30 million public awareness campaign over four years focusing on the long-term effects of alcohol, suspending online liquor sales pending a review of responsible service of alcohol practices and banning buy now-pay later options for the online grog purchases.
The policy platform also recommended mandated health messages on all forms of alcohol marketing, which would take up 20 per cent of the advertising space, and a ban on booze ads on public transport and other government property.
It cited Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education research that found alcohol was responsible for more than 40 emergency department presentations, 137 hospitalisations and four deaths in NSW each day.
NSW Australian Medical Association vice president Dr Danielle McMullen said there had been a “significant health benefit from the lockout laws and trading conditions” in Newcastle and Sydney.
“We have seen a reduction in emergency department presentations and a reduction in ambulance attendances late at night,” she said.