lock out laws

What’s Next? Prohibition?

The Queensland Government last week announced a significant tightening of our “lockout laws”. It would seem our Government is intent on living up to Queensland’s “nanny-state” moniker.

The new laws will see licensed venues enforce a “lock-out” of patrons at 1am and last drinks called at either 2 or 3am, depending on whether that venue is considered a ‘safe night precinct’.

This legislation, passed quickly and seemingly without thorough and unbiased consultation, seems to have come as a response to the violence surrounding licensed venues, in particular the ‘coward punch’ acts that have saturated the media in the last 12 months.

The new laws have been enacted as a reaction to a minority of people who, whilst spending nights out, have reverted to violence. The decision by the government displays a complete disregard for the law-abiding majority, who are the ones that ultimately pay the price by having their freedoms inhibited. Of course there are many other ‘victims’ who will suffer from these draconian laws; namely businesses, employees of licensed premises, musicians etc.

These rushed laws raise the question of, what happens if someone now gets assaulted at 10pm whilst out at licensed venues? Will we see further restrictions?

Instead of consideration given to curbing alcohol-related violence by way of furthering education, increasing penalties in relation to violent acts or placing restrictions on those who are found to have previously caused; the Government has decided to call in the ‘fun police’ on the majority of peaceful party go-ers and further limit their freedoms as to how they can go out and enjoy their nights.

This knee-jerk reaction is another example of surface-level thinking and an attempt at appearing to address an issue quickly for the purposes of perhaps obtaining good will, but certainly, votes. No discussion has been had in relation to the lack of research supporting lock-out laws and its contribution (or a lack thereof) to a reduction in violence. There appears to have been no consideration given to what people are going to do between 2am when last drinks are called, and closing time. Does the Government consider patrons turning to party drugs, in order to curb their alcohol intake, a success?

This legislation will not have the effect it’s designed to have. There will still be the violent idiots among us, as there always have been. Unfortunately, there is no way to legislate against those unsociable thugs. They won’t stay home because of these laws. People will start drinking earlier and, instead of leaving the pubs and clubs to go and have a bite to eat and then take the opportunity to go home, they won’t leave the licensed premises. The thought of being deprived the opportunity of being able to return to a venue will be enough to stop people from leaving those venues.

If the Government were to be honest with the people of the state, they would accept that the majority of the violence in the ‘party precincts’ is caused at or around closing time at taxi ranks. Lockout laws will not stop the mass gatherings outside venues, as all pubs and clubs will still close at once, and it certainly won’t stop the angst caused at taxi ranks.

The argument that the laws are currently operating effectively in New South Wales is a manipulation of actual facts. More and more venues are permanently closing and the reduction of people in and around those precincts that are the focus of the ‘statistics’, are not taken into account.

Finally, any argument the Government proffers in relation to this issue is rendered void once we consider the total exemptions given to our casinos. If, in fact, the problem were as serious as we are led to believe and the Government is serious about tackling the ‘problems’, then why would the casinos be exempt? Casinos are a 24 hours a day money-making machine for the Government (not to mention the political donations provided), who are allowed to serve alcohol for 22 hours a day. Are we supposed to believe that the casinos are somehow immune from the behaviour, so worrying that it warrants tightening lockout laws, that apparently plagues the rest of the state?

The apparent lack of consideration and common sense as well as the ignoring of the negative effects to our local economy, businesses, jobs etc., coupled with the total exemptions to casino’s leaves us wondering what the Governments motivation really is? Are these laws simply a mechanism to funnel party-goers into casinos?

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