Cops, Not Liquor Regulations, Reduce Street Violence

Article excerpt

The emphasis on lockouts and alcohol laws is a distraction from tackling late night violence, argues Tim Wilson

On one of its websites, the Queensland Government is remarkably honest about its attitude towards law-abiding businesses - 'the ability to trade is a privilege, not a right.'

According to politicians and the press, late at night, Australian cities are transformed into 'warzones', where alcohol is fuelling violence and thuggery around urban pubs, bars and clubs.

The response of state governments across the country has been to impose 'lockouts' upon licensed venues - bans on entering venues after a certain hour. The venues may remain open, and those inside can still purchase alcohol, but no new patrons can enter.

But lockouts don't work. They needlessly hamper late night businesses and the freedom to trade without having any significant impact on late night violence.

Queensland has had a state-wide lockout in place since July 2006. Adelaide already has voluntary lockouts. Perth is considering them. The Victorian regional centres of Ballarat, Bendigo and Warnambool also have them. And this year the Victorian Government trialled a 2am lockout from June until September.

Queensland has the dubious title as the lockout leader. The statewide introduction followed localised lockouts in Mooloolaba and Mackay in the late 1990s, Cairns in December 2002, the Gold Coast and Townsville since mid-2004 and Rockhampton since mid-2005.

But the results have been weak. Before committing to the statewide lockout the Queensland Government introduced a twelve month trial in July 2005. By October Queensland Police had already reported that there was 'no significant change in the number of reported crimes.'

The WA Government is considering the introduction of a lockout in Northbridge and the Perth CBD. Rather than imposing a blanket lockout for pubs, bars and nightclubs the current proposal is to introduce a lockout for venues two hours prior to closing.

The South Australian Government is now awaiting the results of Melbourne's 2am lockout to decide what path it takes. Voluntary lockouts are already operational in Glenelg, Whyalla and Hahndorf.

Fortunately it looks like the South Australian Government is interested in evidence that they work. SA Consumer Affairs Minister, Jennifer Rankine, said earlier this year 'it's really important to have proper evidence that shows that a lockout has a significant impact.'

But not everyone in South Australia is exercising the same judgement. …