Barry O’Farrell’s ‘Lock Out’ Laws Punish The Majority For The Actions Of A Few Dickheads

Does this mean I can’t have a wine with my Golden Century duck pancakes at 3.15am?

Brisbane and Melbourne have already imposed lock outs in contained nightlife precincts (3am and 2am, respectively) and yesterday Barry O’Farrell announced the New Sales Wales Government is planning to follow suit. The O’Farrell government is effecting a new set of laws specifically intended to curb alcohol- and drug-related violence, largely prompted by the fatal king-hit assaults of Sydney teenagers Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie.

The measures set to be passed in parliament next week include a lock out prohibiting licensed venues in the CBD entertainment precinct from allowing patrons to enter or re-enter their premises after 1.30am until the close of trade, as well as legislation prohibiting licensed venues from trade in alcohol after 3am. Because anything Brisbane and Melbourne can do Sydney can do better?

The new legislation has been conceived with the best intentions and as a means of preventing violent – potentially fatal – incidents from ruining or taking more young lives. However, imposing a lock out is a knee-jerk reaction that doesn’t really address the root cause of the type of violence the NSW government is aiming to prevent. Alcohol and drugs do not cause violence; people cause violence. It’s trite cliche but it’s true. Bad behaviour is caused by people and the buck should stop with them.

Absolutely there’s no denying that alcohol can fuel the consolidation of rage into physical action, and any substance capable of lowering inhibitions can potentially cause uncharacteristically YOLO behaviour – and unfortunately sometimes that includes violence… However, the perpetrators of substance-fueled aggression make up the tiny minority in a population of young people who want to go out to dance and drink and meet girls/boys on a Friday and Saturday night. That tiny minority end up forcing the hand of politicians at the expense of the majority’s freedom. And that’s fucked.

For most of us the laws will act as a general fun-handbrake and a grim reminder that Australian politicians are involved in even our leisure time, but the industries that keep the after-hours culture breathing and blinking are facing a significant economic flow-on effect. Several aspects of the proposed legislation – like the lock out, the 3am alcohol curfew and a freeze on liquor licences awarded to new venues (except for small bars, casinos, restaurants and tourist accommodation) – are going to punish the businesses, vendors and entertainers operating in the area.

Pedestrian spoke to Martin Novosel of Purple Sneakers, a blog that also presents parties and club nights around Australia, who explained the practical implications of the new laws.

“The venue we support in Sydney is World Bar, located in King’s Cross. More specifically, we present their Friday and Saturday night parties Mum and Cakes. Both of these events have very strong late night attendance [and] they generally close at 5am. These are the sort of places that don’t start to get properly busy until midnight,” Novosel explains. “So for a 1:30am curfew to exist is critically cutting down hours of operation, and therefore revenue, and therefore the ability to keep putting on great DJs, electronic music and live acts.”

Novosel also pointed out that the incidents involving Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie did not happen inside venues at all. “What happens when all the people who have been locked out after 1:30am are now on the street?” he says. “I dare say most of the violence that the government is trying to prevent already actually occurs on the street. Sounds to me like this law might end up aggravating the situation, not easing it.”

The proprietors of CBD venue Goodgod Small Club echoed the sentiments in an op-ed published by FasterLouder earlier today. They wrote:

“We’re also concerned that these measures will only serve to aggravate
issues with violence in parts of the city. There’s a lot of complicated
reasons why young men behave violently, but frustration plays a key
role. The 1:30am lockout and the 3am trading halt are likely to create a
spike in irritated, angry people on the street. Which, unlike the
generally safe environment of venues, is the scenario in which the
tragedies that inspired these new laws took place.”

The O’Farrell government is introducing proactive reforms to target offenders of these type of assaults, with new sentencing to include a mandatory minimum sentence
of eight years in jail for fatal one-punch attacks involving drugs or
alcohol, as well as increased mandatory minimum sentences for reckless
wounding (three years), and hopefully these measures will take some kind of preventative affect.

Maybe further efforts in prevention should be considered before simply enforcing a blanket shut down. Free water stations in venues, for example. Shuttles to various areas of the city to avoid incidents of taxi-rage. Shifting the pubic perception of binge-drinking and its potential consequences through an awareness campaign… There has to be alternative solutions.

Unfortunately, there’s no known solution to fuckwits.

Yesterday Mr O’Farrell said that “This is not about penalising responsible drinkers,” Mr O’Farrell said. “It is about attacking the irresponsible acts of those who allow themselves to be intoxicated, whether by drugs or alcohol.”

And as a result the rest of us have to take the consequences whether we like it or not.

If you don’t support the lock out laws you can join this petition to influence a moratorium.

Photo: Lisa Maree Williams for Getty Images