The Queensland Parliamentary Enquiry into Alcohol-Related Violence has finished and the final report contains 68 recommendations. A number of recommendations relate to changes in approved trading hours, specifically a reduction in approved extended hours and changing the lockout from 3 am to 2 am. However, the recent publication of Government survey results supports the view held by most industry participants that there is no case for a general reduction in trading hours. The Courier Mail reported that of 10,000 survey respondents more than 80% opposed any reduction in trading hours, and an overwhelming 90% opposed an earlier lockout.
A common theme in the LJSC report is the absence of hard data about many aspects of the debate, and the equivocal results of research in others. Despite specifically acknowledging this in a trading hours context, the committee inexplicably went on to refer to ?the increased alcohol-related harm which accompanies longer hours?. There are a few things lacking in the discussion.
Firstly, the strength of the existing legislation ? there are comparatively few licences with the authority to trade until 5am (around 100 or so), and the number has declined over the last few years as a result of many factors, particularly heavier compliance burdens and licence fees.
Late trading approvals are also very difficult to achieve, yet easy to take away. Way back when post 3am trading became renewable six monthly (1994) the Honourable Bob Gibbs as the relevant Minister at the time said:
This action serves notice on all operators who trade past 3 a.m. that a line has been drawn after which trading is an absolute privilege and not a right only removable when definitive evidence can be substantiated against the particular premises. It can be expected that if in a locality it is established that the allowance of trading of all licensed premises after 3 a.m. causes additional problems in terms of street violence, disturbances or criminal activity, a general ceiling of 3 a.m. for all premises with extended hours permits will be imposed. The fact that all permits will come up for renewal on the same day should provide adequate warning to premises in several notable areas of the State that this Government is serious in controlling problems with liquor trading in the early hours of the morning.
So whilst fiddling with trading hours might be a politically appealing and expedient distraction it won?t address the core problems.
What will work?
A larger number of visible Police on the streets, and appropriate deterrent-level punishments for the tiny minority of people who come out at night and break the law. Ask anyone.