Queensland’s newly-passed lockout laws have ruffled feathers in Cairns, where critics fear the measures will hurt the vital backpacker economy and increase youth unemployment.
Cairns’ Chamber of Commerce and lobby group Advance Cairns also say the changes, which includes 2am last-drinks calls at most venues from July before lockouts at 1am next February, fail to acknowledge numerous local measures already in place to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence.
The implementation of 24-hour CCTV, on-the-spot bans and alcohol-fuelled violence committees have reduced the number of assaults in Cairns, they say.
“The proposed amendment bill is not appropriate for communities that rely heavily on the tourism industry; or those that have devised their own positive solutions,” Cairns Chamber of Commerce chief executive Deb Hancock said.
“It is counterproductive to close licensed premises early when the precinct is a safe, vibrant, well frequented area.”
The groups say transporting waves of people after 1am could also cause issues.
The city currently has no problems with assaults in taxi ranks and less than 0.3 per cent of hospital admissions related to alcohol on licensed premises, they say.
The Palaszczuk government was able to pass the bill after an 11th-hour deal with the Katter’s Australia Party.
The Queensland Coalition for Action on Alcohol (QCAA) has welcomed the laws, which also includes a ban on shots being sold after midnight.
“Modest restrictions on trading hours have proven … to be effective at reducing risky drinking behaviours and preventing alcohol harms,” QCAA chairman Professor Jake Najman said.
Cairns Labor MP Rob Pyne had expressed reservations about the bill but ultimately voted along party lines early on Thursday morning.
This article first appeared on ‘7 News’ on 18 February 2016.