The hottest of hot topics in this state for the past couple of weeks has been the government’s push to implement stricter lock-out laws, and tighten the rules around sales and service of alcohol. Premier Palaszczuk has made clear her willingness to die in the ditch over the issue, and without doubt her declared motives for so doing are admirable. She’s determined to reduce the instance of alcohol-fuelled violence on our streets, and who could argue against that?
The question is, is this the best way to do it? If Queenslanders are so badly behaved when they drink alcohol that we need to be locked out of licenced premises to avoid murdering each other on the streets, is a restriction on trading hours really going to make any difference to our obviously deep-seated violence issue? Perhaps there’s no easy answer to that question, but the anecdotal evidence suggests closing pubs early is no panacea for the illness. Lock-out laws in Sydney’s King’s Cross have done little but push the problem out into the suburbs to less central locations, where policing is correspondingly less concentrated. And meanwhile the drinking goes on, and the abhorrent alcohol-charged violence continues.
There’s no doubt the new laws will have a detrimental effect on hospitality and tourism sectors in Queensland. If the result is a safer community, then perhaps it’s a price that is worth paying. But to invest in the vain hope that altering the trading hours of nightclubs is going to somehow solve an ingrained culture of violence among young Australians is at best cavalier, and at worst dangerous folly. Violence will continue to be an issue, albeit at an earlier hour, and meanwhile the decent hardworking adults of our state trying to make a living will be the ones copping the hit.
We’re having a debate about trading hours, but in truth it’s a larger debate about government oversight of every aspect of our lives. As Mark Steyn so aptly put it on Q & A the other night (his tongue planted firmly in cheek), ‘When you live in a country where a grown man can’t ride a bicycle through a park without wearing a helmet, you can’t be allowing people to go out drinking until 3 in the morning.” Most Queenslanders probably rarely venture out after midnight into the depraved depths of Surfers Paradise or the Fortitude Valley’s night-club scene, just as most Sydneysiders invariably give King’s Cross a wide berth after the witching hour. But we live in a free country and, after all, we’re supposed to be grown-ups. As long as we continue to allow the State to treat us like children, our rights will continue to be limited.
About the Author: Chris Nyst
Chris is one of Australia’s best known and most experienced lawyers. He co-founded the prestigious Griffith University Innocence Project, is an adjunct professor of law and a regular guest lecturer and speaker on corporate regulation, criminal law and advocacy. He is also an award-winning novelist and filmmaker, and former director of Screen Queensland.