Citizens Jury into Alcohol Fuelled Violence

Citizens Jury into Alcohol Fuelled Violence

(Motion, 15 May 2014, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

I move:

That this House:

(1) Commends all members of the newDemocracy Foundation citizens jury entitled "City of Sydney—Safe and Vibrant Nightlife" in relation to alcohol-fueled violence.

(2) Acknowledges the citizens jury process had the support of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation, Lord Mayor of Sydney and the Premier.

(3) Notes the recommendations of the citizens jury relating to diversity, transport, policing and safety, education and media, lockouts and licensing.

(4) Calls on the Government to consider the recommendations of the citizens jury.

Through newDemocracy and with the support of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation, Lord Mayor of Sydney and former Premier O'Farrell, last year 43 citizens were randomly selected to look at how we can prevent late night violence. In April the Citizens Jury for a Vibrant and Safe Sydney delivered 25 unanimous recommendations covering diversity, transport, policing and safety, education and media, and lockouts and licensing. I hope the Government will seriously consider these recommendations as they are sensible. Jury members had no political agenda and worked hard on finding innovative solutions. They visited hotspots late on a Saturday night and early into the next morning. They met staff at St Vincent's Hospital and spoke to police, City of Sydney staff and experts and took submissions.

Recommendations were made to both the City of Sydney Council and the State Government, and some require Commonwealth implementation. The jury acknowledged that people want to go out late at night and want that experience to be safe. The jury recognised the need to diversify the late night economy. It recommended providing people with more entertainment options late at night that do not focus on binge drinking such as shopping, food, music, libraries and art shows. This is in line with what people tell me. Many want choices tailored to different age groups and more civilised and cultured tastes. It follows the popularity of initiatives such as the Australian Museum's Jurassic Lounge nights and the City of Sydney's Late Night Library events of storytelling, debates, live music and film screenings.

The jury highlighted that people want more late night transport options; they want to be able to get home quicker and easier. They found that while there were some transport options to specific drop-off points, transport to get them home was not always available. The jury made solving this problem a focus of its recommendations. The jury recommended running the entire Sydney metropolitan bus network between 11.00 p.m. and 5.00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. It suggested this could be funded through risk-based licensing fees—indeed such fees have now been introduced. The jury recommended further research on patronage in support of running train services late at night and early in the morning on weekends. It argues that we need to remove barriers and encourage private shuttle services as a new option to enable people to get home. These proposals are sensible and should be implemented.

The jury supports increased visibility of police and I understand more police have been present in late night inner city hotspots to coincide with the recent introduction of new liquor venue trading restrictions. This has contributed to a welcome drop in assaults. There are also recommendations for the City of Sydney to increase closed-circuit television coverage, which is important in reducing crime. However, it requires local community support because many people who live in the inner city have legitimate privacy concerns. I understand the City of Sydney is installing 10 additional closed-circuit television cameras.

There is a strong focus on education concerning binge drinking and violence, particularly for young people. The jury recommends community awareness campaigns promoted through licensed venues, takeaway outlets, social media and sporting events. It supports reducing advertising of alcoholic products before 10.00 p.m. The jury's recommendations on lockouts and licensing aim to prevent violence while retaining an exciting and diverse night scene. The jury recommends risk-based licensing, which has been introduced by the Government. It recommends increasing Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing inspections to enforce responsible service of alcohol provisions in high-risk licensed premises on Friday and Saturday nights—that is essential. 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 Sunday morning before sunrise proves that it happens frequently. Monitoring and enforcement must be increased.

Earlier this year the Government introduced 1.30 a.m. lockouts and 3.00 a.m. cessation of alcohol service in venues in the Kings Cross and Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct. The Government said it would review these provisions in two years. At the time I argued that was too long and requested an independent review within six months. The citizen's jury recommends a review after 12 months, which I feel is much better than two years. An earlier review is required because young people report that live entertainment, arts and culture are suffering. They feel alienated by a process that they say has imposed arbitrary restrictions on their entertainment. Importantly, some licensees report their takings have reduced between 40 to 70 per cent and that staff have been laid off as a result. While there is international evidence that earlier cessation of alcohol service reduces violence, there is limited evidence that lockouts are effective. The vibrancy of Sydney's late night scene is being impacted by the lockouts.

There are anecdotal reports that Newtown at night is starting to look a lot like Kings Cross. On the second weekend of the lockouts the Star casino had a massive increase in patrons attempting to enter. The link between people drinking and gambling concerns me greatly. I am concerned that the conditions are leading more people to go to an entertainment venue that is focused on gambling. My constituents in areas adjacent to the precincts remain concerned about growth in late night entertainment in their neighbourhood. These issues should be assessed soon.

The jury supported exemptions from the latest trading restrictions for venues with a proven record of good behaviour, no incidents and lower risks to public safety. Live music venues and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex venues have been calling for this as they say they are part of the solution against late night violence because they provide their patrons with a safe place to watch entertainment. The Bingham Cup will be held in Sydney in August. It is one of the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex sporting events and is expected to make a massive economic contribution to Sydney and to New South Wales.

Thousands of interstate and international visitors will be in Sydney for the event and will want to celebrate at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex late night venues. I urge the Government to consider sensible exemptions for this important event. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex venues are considered low risk, provide live entertainment, and are ACON safe spaces. Exemptions could be made for the 1.30 a.m. lockout while retaining the 3.00 a.m. cessation of service. Former Premier O'Farrell promised to table the citizen's jury report and I hope our new Premier will give it the consideration it deserves. I commend the motion to the House.

See Hansard record HERE.

Let's work together to celebrate and protect our great city!