Sydney lockout laws: Inquiry finds controversial laws should be axed

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An inquiry into Sydney’s controversial lockout laws has urgently recommended the 1.30am lockout be removed.

The inquiry by the NSW Government, released today, also recommended other aspects of the 2014 laws be removed at licenced venues with “appropriate urgency”, including shots and strong drinks banned after midnight, restrictions on glass late at night and the 3am stop of service.

The long-awaited report detailed how the laws left Sydney with an “underperforming night time economy”, with Deloittes estimating the city is losing $16 billion as a result.

The legislation was introduced in 2014 in a bid to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence after the one-punch deaths of Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie.

Earlier this month NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed plans to scrap the lockout laws but not at Kings Cross where businesses have been hit the hardest.

The inquiry agreed that the restrictions remain in place in the former red light district, and recommended they be removed in Sydney CBD and Oxford St to increase patronage at venues.

“The 2014 laws were both necessary and effective at the time they were implemented,” the report found.

“They were effective in reducing alcohol-fuelled violence, but also reduced foot traffic in the Kings Cross area. However, Kings Cross is not yet sufficiently changed to warrant a complete

reversal.”

It recommended licences be transferred to outside the Kings Cross area to reduce the density of venues there.

The inquiry recommends the laws be reviewed for Kings Cross in 12 months. Picture: David Swift.
media_cameraThe inquiry recommends the laws be reviewed for Kings Cross in 12 months. Picture: David Swift.

The inquiry said further analysis and research needs to be done to ascertain which public

safety measures introduced in the last decade have contributed most to the decline in non-domestic assaults both in Sydney and across the state.

The committee found that from January 2014 to March 2019, non-domestic assaults decreased by 52.8 per cent which equates to roughly 1921 fewer assaults.

“The committee finds that due to the historical nature of Kings Cross, venue density and the

small size of the precinct, there is a high risk that if the 2014 laws were removed, violence

would increase and the rate of assaults would begin to rise again,” the report said.

It recommends a further review of the lockout laws for Kings Cross be done in 12 months after improved lighting and streetscapes, deconcentration of venues and “good neighbourhood policy” to deal with noise complaints was implemented.

The Committee recommended the current freeze on liquor licences be retained until its

review in June 2020.

It received 793 submissions for the inquiry, about 85 per cent of them from individuals.

People said the city was safer, had improved amenity and health outcomes, better conditions for emergency workers and there had been a resurgence of small business.

People submitted to the inquiry they felt unsafe with fewer people in the area. Picture: David Swift.
media_cameraPeople submitted to the inquiry they felt unsafe with fewer people in the area. Picture: David Swift.

Those who opposed the laws said they were unfair and the city was no longer interesting or vibrant, and had detrimentally impacted on the music industry and shift workers.

They also said the city felt less safe because there were fewer people and they were intimidated by more security and police.

Committee chair Natalie Ward said the city wanted to promote a diverse, innovative, world class and fun night time.

“Sydney is Australia’s only global city and remains the most popular destination for tourists,” she wrote.

“It is good to hear that visitor numbers continue to grow. However, we also heard that Sydney may be foregoing $16 billion of potential economic activity by not taking full advantage of the night time economy.

“Rather than having an economy of $27 billion, it could be worth $43 billion. It is crucial for Sydney and Australia as a whole that we reach our full potential.”

Originally published as Staggering cost of lockout laws revealed

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