How the lockout laws are affecting Queensland

3 Apr
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Bouncers at the Sin City nightclub showing their displeasure regarding a proposed 1am lockout. Picture: Eliza Reilly

By Eliza Reilly, Bond University Journalism Student

Nine months from the rollout of the Queensland Government’s liquor laws, the Gold Coast community has experienced a reduction in wages and sales but only a minimal decrease in crime and violence levels.

The ‘Tackling Alcohol Fuelled Violence Amendment’ was officially enacted on July 1 last year, stopping clubs from serving shots after midnight and all alcohol after 2am, or 3am in the state’s 15 safe precincts.

The plan to roll out a statewide 1am lockout in February of this year was abandoned only a month earlier due to the lack of success provided by already existing measures.

Clubs are now able to apply for six late night trading permits throughout the year to counter the decreased serving hours, down from 12 permits in the initial trial period.

Secretary of lobby group Our Nightlife Queensland Nick Braban says he would be worried if the 1am lockout proposal resurfaced, should a Labor government be re-elected, despite the community strongly voicing that a lockout is not the solution.

“Economic modelling we have done based on the 1am lockout coming in proved to be the most damaging aspect of the policy from an economic perspective,” he said.

“What we have seen though in the existing reduction in hours is a decrease in pay for employees within these districts of an average of $80 per week based on the reduced hours that they work.

“We have also had a reduction of sales of 12% in these entertainment districts which covers everything from bar sales through to cover charges and ticketed events.”

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said the coast’s celebrated night life forms a critical part of the over-all economy, which is largely sustained by the more than 13 million visitors annually.

“The city is known as a fun-going, let-your-hair-down destination but with that comes a responsibility on the individual [to not engage in violence], just like anywhere in the world,” he said.

“The night economy employs thousands so the challenge is to get the balance right.”

Member for Surfers Paradise John-Paul Langbroek said he doesn’t agree with Labor’s one size fits all approach that was going to penalise many for the sins of a few as six months on, the laws have had a minimal impact on levels of violence in the entertainment districts.

“After their trial, it turned out there hadn’t been less admissions to hospital and so they [Labor Government] confected the excuse and said that because the trial wasn’t showing any reduction that a 1am lockout wasn’t going to make a difference,” he said.

Mr Braban said despite the levels of hospital admissions staying the same, a six-month evaluation report showed a slight downturn in crime levels.

“Historically we have seen a continued decline in crime for over a decade and the aim of this policy was to accelerate that trend but it’s going to be hard to accelerate that trend when the levels of crime are already relatively low,” he said.

Mr Braban said despite his lobby group’s challenging the laws, extensive interaction with the State government occurred which has led to some positive outcomes.

“There are a lot of facets we still disagree on but there have been some positive interactions in respect to particular parts of the policy,” he said.

However, despite this positive interaction, the laws have resulted in dissatisfaction and backlash from both patrons and businesses.

“Many venues have opposed the laws and they have told me so,” Mayor Tate said.

The legislation alarmingly fails to address other factors that may lead to violence, Mr Langbroek said.

“A parliamentary committee looked at the recommendations of the laws and it found that they weren’t considering drugs that were affecting people’s behaviour rather than just alcohol,” he said.

“They were blaming the venues for the actions of these people who went out and acted aggressively whereas in reality people need to assume personal responsibility.”

Additionally, a loophole in the initial trial period allowed clubs to communicate with each other and coordinate applications for late night permits to keep entertainment districts alive.

“It just shows that the Labor government brought in these laws and have had resulting problems because it was unworkable legislation,” Mr Langbroek said.

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