Exclusive data obtained and analysed by the Future Party has revealed that, in addition to damaging Sydney’s international reputation and tarnishing the city’s nightlife culture, the Coalition government’s lockout laws have failed to achieve their objective of a reduction in alcohol-related violence. In fact, not only has the policy exacerbated the very issue it exists to diminish, but has also coincided with a spike in the number of alcohol related assaults and accidents outside of licensed premises.
The legislation introduced ‘lockouts’ for licensed venues, barring entry and re-entry after 1:30AM, and enforced final alcohol serving times of 3AM in Kings Cross and throughout the Sydney CBD. These changes were made in an effort to reduce the number of late-night assaults and attacks on inner-city streets.
However, these measures haven’t reduced violence. In an awkward irony, the changes instituted under former premier Barry O’Farrell have actually coincided with an increase in violence, a spike in pedestrian injuries and a decline in industry sales figures.
Data the Future Party received from the Bureau of Crimes Statistics and Research shows that alcohol-fuelled violence in fact increased a month after the lockout laws were introduced. Within the entire Sydney local government area there was a 52% month-on-month rise in alcohol-related assaults (both inside and outside of licensed premises) following the introduction of the policy, with the 109 assaults in February growing to 166 in March. This spike was also evident in the Kings Cross area where the number of alcohol-related assaults rose from 20 in February to 26 in March.
Total assaults increased from 29 in February to 51 in March in Kings Cross, and increased from 227 in February to 300 in March in the Sydney local government area. Although the spike is on trend with previous months, early data suggest the laws have not achieved their goal of dramatically or immediately reducing assaults.
The state-imposed lockouts have also triggered an increase in the number of pedestrians being hit by cars in and around entertainment districts. Eleven pedestrians were struck by traffic in the March-April period when the lockouts were introduced as opposed to the eight that were struck in the preceding four months. Much of this increase in accidents is being attributed to the rush towards venues at 1.30AM and rush from them at 3AM, with Ambulance Inspector James Porter arguing“more and more people are jaywalking” and “more and more people are taking risks” while intoxicated and leaving or entering venues.
Expectedly, the laws have hit hard for Sydney business owners. Cutting off a critical trade window for many nightclubs, sales have suffered, with nightclub owner Tal Chalak saying that consistently “business is much quieter”. The brunt of the changes has not only been felt in nightclubs, but takeaway food shops in the Cross as well. One takeaway shop owner told of business being down by 40% and four staff already being laid off. He warned that if the laws continued “another three to four months and we’re gone from here, everybody’s gone from here”.
Depressing late-night economic activity, the Coalition government’s policy has placed Sydney inside an embarrassing class of its own. Restricting nightlife and its raft of economic benefits – an idea unthinkable in cities such as Barcelona, Amsterdam and Tokyo that Sydney has historically wanted to emulate – the 3AM curfew has damaged Sydney’s global reputation and rolled back years of tireless promotional work by Tourism NSW.
On the eve of further changes to alcohol laws, this data suggests the laws simply are not working – violence is up, pedestrian injuries are increasing and the nightlife economy has suffered. Failing to address the underlying social and cultural factors underpinning alcohol-fuelled assaults, the policy has taken Sydney’s nightlife culture and economy hostage while doing nothing to address its core objective of curbing late-night violence on Sydney’s streets.
*Statistics were sourced from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research following a request to the Bureau made on 9/07 with the reference number 12186.