18 September 2013
(Second Reading Debate, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
The Liquor Amendment (Kings Cross Plan of Management) Bill aims to reduce alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour in the Kings Cross late-night precinct.
It is just over a year since the tragic death of teenager Thomas Kelly, who was punched in the head in Kings Cross in a random attack. We know that there are countless other incidents which do not end in death but which cause hospitalisation and injury and ruin people's lives. The City of Sydney reports that about 60 per cent to 95 per cent of anti-social behaviour in its local government area occurs in Kings Cross. Professor Gordian Fulde, Director of St Vincent's Hospital's emergency department in Darlinghurst, is on record saying that 95 per cent of people who present at the emergency department with violence-related injuries have sustained them because of alcohol. Local residents see the evidence of that when they return home at night and on the streets the next morning. I live in the area and have seen first-hand the impacts of alcohol-related violence. Kings Cross has 193 licensed premises, of which 19 trade 24-hours a day, and many others trade into the early hours. Its reputation as a place where people can access alcohol late at night and at a range of venues means that it attracts event-sized crowds from across metropolitan Sydney every weekend.
City of Sydney statistics for 2010 indicate that close to 6,000 people per hour move through Bayswater Road and Darlinghurst Road on Saturday nights, congesting the footpath, which, mixed with intoxication, creates serious risks of conflict. The evidence points to the need to treat Kings Cross as a major event each weekend. I support the Government's action to address this problem. The Liquor Amendment (Kings Cross Plan of Management) Bill will give police the authority to ban someone from licensed premises in the Kings Cross precinct for 48 hours if they are likely to cause a public nuisance or a risk to public safety. The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority will have authority to issue Kings Cross precinct banning orders for up to 12 months to people who have committed a serious alcohol-related violent offence or who have been issued with three temporary banning orders within 12 months.
To enforce these banning orders, the bill requires all Kings Cross licensed premises with a patron limit of more than 120 that trade after midnight to install identification scanners. The bill makes it harder for an intoxicated person removed from one venue to move on to another venue nearby and continue causing problems instead of leaving the precinct and going home. I support this aim. Getting people who are intoxicated and causing problems out of the precinct is an important factor in reducing alcohol-related crime. Kings Cross police commanders have repeatedly informed the local community that moving on more people from the area is leading to fewer arrests and reducing violence. The proposed banning orders need to be monitored closely. Unlike move-on orders, which are issued by police, banning orders will predominantly be enforced by venue security, and this could create conflict or be open to abuse. A 2010 Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research paper entitled "The Nature of Assaults Recorded on Licensed Premises" showed that 63 per cent of incidents occurring on the footpath outside a premise involved an individual refused entry or evicted. The paper showed that 19 per cent of incidents on the footpath involved a person refused entry assaulting a security guard, another staff member or a police officer and 13 per cent involved a security guard assaulting a person refused entry.
I have concerns about patron privacy, particularly for my constituents who live in the area and will be subject to regular scans when they go out to dinner during the week and to lunch on weekends. While the bill will require privacy training of staff and security who operate identification scanners and require licensees to have a privacy management plan or policy, it is not clear whether there is opportunity for personal information to be misused. Most operators abide by the law, but some nightclubs are known to be linked to criminal activity that can involve security and staff. I agree with the Kings Cross Liquor Accord and local residents that identification scanners should not be required at times when there are few risks of violence and antisocial behaviour. I note that fine dining restaurants will be excluded. Identification scanners will operate every night after 7.00 p.m. and during the day on weekends—the times when locals use venues for dinner and lunch.
Kings Cross, Elizabeth Bay, Rushcutters Bay, Potts Point, Woolloomooloo and Darlinghurst residents wanting to eat at venues in their neighbourhood during the week and during the day on weekends will have their data regularly scanned and stored. This is an invasion of their privacy and I hope that this will be one of the issues looked at during the review of this legislation, which will occur within the first 12 months. It will be a huge impost on venues because they will have to hire additional staff at times when there are few risks and they will have to turn away dining customers if they do not have identification. The Bourbon, for example, has three entrances, all of which will require staff to operate identification scanners at 7.00 p.m., which is their dinner time, and on weekends during their lunch time. High-risk venues such as nightclubs are not open outside of the times when problems arise and will not oppose this legislation, but other venues that are used by the local community will suffer. The bill should target high-risk peak times based on Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data when violence and antisocial behaviour occurs. Imposing scanners on the local community outside these times is going over the top.
Places such as backpacker hostels may have fewer than 120 patrons drinking on premises, but that has recently become an increasing problem. The commander of the new Kings Cross Local Area Command has told me that these places often turn into beer gardens and are responsible for antisocial behaviour in Kings Cross. As the Government continues to look at issues surrounding Kings Cross, I hope it also addresses issues around backpacker hostels turning into beer gardens where there is no responsible service of alcohol and the abuse of alcohol is causing great distress to my local constituents. I understand that it is the Government's intention to have scanners in place by the October long weekend so that they are ready for summer when more people are attending venues, intoxication is widespread and responses are needed. That is very soon and the Government should consult further with police and industry before the system is implemented to ensure it is done properly and with appropriate protections.
The bill includes some very positive provisions, including mandatory requirements for Kings Cross venues to display hours of operation at their entrances, which residents and local representatives have been calling for for some years. This will help inform patrons of closing times, as well as local residents who are concerned about licence breaches. Requirements in the bill for licensed premises in Kings Cross to record and report alcohol sales on a quarterly basis will help the Government to understand what is happening in the precinct and to further address problems. Serving alcohol to intoxicated patrons increases the likelihood of alcohol-related harm. While it is an offence to serve alcohol to someone who is intoxicated, a walk down Darlinghurst Road on a Saturday or a Sunday morning before sunrise proves that it happens frequently. Many local residents ask whether responsible service of alcohol conditions are being monitored and enforced.
We must ensure that all licensed premises operators work to prevent intoxication, that they support the responsible service of alcohol and that they are good neighbours. We should have a late-night liquor permit system, as proposed by the City of Sydney. If liquor licences were issued only for a set period with the need to renew them every one or two years, there would be strong incentive for good management and the prevention of violence. We need to address the saturation of venues in inner-city hotspots. The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data shows a link between alcohol-related violence and the density of liquor outlets and it concludes that limiting density would reduce assaults. My electorate includes the central business district, Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, and Kings Cross, and it has the largest concentration of licensed premises in Australia. The liquor freeze in Kings Cross and Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, has helped to prevent expanding outlet density, but we need permanent tools that allow councils and licensing authorities to refuse new proposals for licensed venues in areas that already have more premises than can be safely sustained.
I look forward to seeing the results of the trial program of the Environment and Venue Assessment Tool on George Street at the end of the year. The program aims to identify factors that can be used in assessing liquor licence applications, including available transport and density of liquor licences, in order to ensure public safety. I hope it proves useful in preventing saturation and is expanded to other areas. We also must ensure adequate transport is available to get patrons home late at night from areas in the inner city. This is especially important before summer begins. The trains in Kings Cross stop running before 2.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning and do not commence until after 5.00 a.m. NightRide buses only operate every half hour and are less likely to be used than regular train services. I request that the Government consider expanding late-night public transport options so that Sydney can work properly as a global city. Having intoxicated people wandering the streets waiting for transport creates an environment that encourages conflict, violence, noise and antisocial behaviour.
This bill aims to make Kings Cross a safer place at night and on weekends, and I support action to achieve that goal. However, I stress that responses to alcohol-related violence must go beyond punitive action against troublemakers. We have to look at changing our binge-drinking culture and providing entertainment alternatives to binge drinking. The Government must work with the Commonwealth and other States and Territories to address alcohol advertising and taxation and our problematic cultural attitudes towards alcohol. Everyone should be able to have a good night out without the threat of violence and antisocial behaviour.