Staring down the barrel of its first major legislative defeat, the Queensland government’s new policy to tackle alcohol fuelled violence is “comprehensive”, “better” and a “change”.
Just don’t call it a compromise.
The new policy, announced by Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath and Stafford MP Anthony Lynham on Sunday, will see a 2am last drinks policy rolled out across the state, except in designated Safe Night precincts.
The local boards in those 15 areas – which consist of the state’s main entertainment zones, including Brisbane City, the Valley, the Gold Coast and Cairns, can apply for an extra hour of drinks trading within licensed venues, but patrons who leave clubs and pubs in those areas after 1am, won’t be allowed back inside.
But that’s no longer known as a “lock out” with the government re-branding the move as a “one-day door” policy.
The change in language, Ms D’Ath said, was to tackle “misreporting” and the campaign from critics of the previous lock out laws, which would have seen high alcohol drinks banned at midnight, a 1am lockout and last drinks called at 3am.
The Attorney-General said the change, which will see last drinks called at 2am for most suburban clubs, but gaming and entertainment continue for as long as their trading hours allow, while entertainment precincts will most likely continue serving until 3am, with non-alcoholic drinks, gaming and entertainment allowable until the usual closing time, was not a compromise, but an improvement of the policy Labor developed in opposition, following eight months consultation.
“We can all go out, we can all have a good time, you can have a drink, but if you haven’t had enough by 2 o’clock in the morning, as I have heard many stake holders say, when is enough? And certainly you will hear that from the police,” Ms D’Ath said.
“At last drinks at 2 o’clock, you’ll have a grace period of half an hour when people can finish those drinks, at 2 o’clock, or 3 o’clock in those precincts. We think that is more than reasonable and gets the balance right.
“The problem with the term lockout, it was confusing people and can I say, some have used that term lockout to try to convince the community and in fact confuse their own members and stakeholders that in fact this meant we were shutting venues.
“And I have seen time and time again media reports of licensed venues saying ‘we’ll have everyone pouring out at the same time at 1 o’clock in the morning.
“When in fact, it is not shutting the doors. If you are out enjoying yourself and it is 1 o’clock in the morning and you want to continue to enjoy yourself, you are going to stay in that venue.
“So people are less likely to leave after 1 o’clock, because they know if they do, and they are in one of those precincts with those trading hours, then they are going home because no one else is going to let them in. So you are not going to have a whole lot of people leaving at 1 o’clock. What you are going to have is a whole lot of people staying inside the venues, come 1 o’clock and leaving gradually over time.
“And we know that works. The evidence is there. We have seen it with Newcastle, we have seen it with Kings Cross.”
Labor announced its policy one week after Labor MP turned independent Billy Gordon, who had previously publicly announced he, along with the two Katter MPs, would not support the lockout legislation, leaving it headed for a defeat in the hung parliament.
Mr Gordon suggested a compromise, which saw a lockout scrapped on condition of a 3am closure for all pubs and clubs, as well as an opt-out for mandatory ID scanning.
In an impressive display of linguistic gymnastics, Ms D’Ath said Labor’s new policy was not a compromise, but a “better package” following consultation with stakeholders and had nothing to do with Mr Gordon’s public lack of support for the laws in their previous incarnation.
“In my mind, a compromise is a weakening of a position and we have not done that,” she said.
“It is a better outcome.”
Clubs Queensland has publicly supported the laws, but chair of the Valley Liquor Accord and Our Nightlife Queensland Secretary Nick Braban, who has been a lead critic of Labor’s laws was no bigger fan of the new proposal.
“An 11th hour deal has been done with one sector of the hospitality industry, completely ignoring pubs, live music venues, small bars and nightclubs,” he said in a statement.
“We are astounded that the government is willing to sacrifice small business and the jobs of young Queenslanders in order to protect the pokies industry – it’s an utter disgrace.”
The government has called on the Opposition to support its legislation, which it plans on introducing to the Parliament this week, with a plan to enact it into law by July next year.
It’s still to work out the regulations, such as what the definition of high alcoholic drink is, but Ms D’Ath said that would be established during the upcoming review and consultation process.
But shadow Attorney-General Ian Walker said while the Opposition would look at the policy, it would not commit to supporting it.
“So far, it is something Labor has pulled out of its back pocket, in an attempt to patch up something Mr Gordon started last week.”
But Dr Lynham, whose political career was sparked by his passion to change the state’s alcohol laws, following a career attempting to repair the damage when it all went wrong as a maxillofacial surgeon, declared it an “emotional” day.
“This is a great day for Queensland, it is a great day for Queenslanders, it is a great day for me,” he said.
“I’ve spent a long, long time getting to this position.
“…I was introduced by my colleague as a surgeon, but I’m a dad. And when I was operating throughout those years, seeing the rapid increase and I mean a rapid increase, of alcohol fuelled violence that I saw…I had four teenage boys at home.
“So every person on that operating table, every young kid was just me operating on my son, one of my boys. So for me, it is very emotional to get here today.
“These are very modest measures, that will have a very big impact.”
Parliament resumes on Tuesday.
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