Alcohol related violence has been an ongoing and persistent issue in Australia. Prolonged drinking of alcohol or binge drinking can impair a person’s judgement and increase a person’s aggressive behaviour (Galbicsek, 2018). Policy has been consistently developing throughout the years in an attempt to reduce the harm that is caused by alcohol and to ensure a safe environment for both individuals and society. Previous attempts to reduce this harm by developing alcohol related policy can be seen through total alcohol prohibition in the 1800s on the Victorian Goldfields (Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy, 2001).
Another early attempt at alcohol restriction in Australia mid twentieth century include a time restriction whereby all drinking establishments were required to close at six pm. However, these restrictions caused an hour of frantic drinking between the time people finished work and the venues closing time which was described as the ‘six o’clock swill’ (Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy, 2001). This shows the need for consistent policy reform as evidence indicates that previous attempt to curb alcohol related violence have been unsuccessful. More recent attempts at controlling alcohol related violence in Australia can be seen through the introduction of lock out laws in Newcastle. The most substantial restriction in Newcastle became effective from March 2008 and encompassed 14 liquor establishments having an 1am lockout where no new customers will be permitted into the venue and a closing time of 3am for 11 of the venues where previously they closed at 5am and the remaining 3 premises to close at 2:30am instead of their previous closing time of 3am (Roth and Angus, 2015).
Venues will also not be able to sell alcohol 30 minutes before the closing time (Proudman, 2008). A 2010 evaluation into the restricted closing times revealed that alcohol related assault had dropped by 34% in the intervention area (Roth and Angus, 2015). There were concerns that the alcohol related violence was shifting to other areas such as Hamilton however statistics show that assaults dropped from 21% to 20% indicating that the introduction of lock out laws has reduced the number of alcohol induced violence in Newcastle’s CBD without causing a shift to surrounding areas such as Hamilton (Roth and Angus, 2015). By 2015 the average 99 late night assaults by quarter was halved. The ‘Newcastle solution’ (McCarthy,2017) played a significant role in the introduction of Sydney’s lock out laws that were introduced to Sydney CBD Entertainment and King Cross Precinct. However, the introduction of these laws in 2014 were largely spearheaded after the deaths of Thomas Kelly in 2012 and Daniel Christie in 2014.
Thomas Kelly died from a traumatic brain injury after a one punch attack by intoxicated Kieran Loveridge (Benny-Morrison, 2016). After his death Kelly’s family, along with the help of the media, brought to the public’s attention seriousness of alcohol related violence that occurs in Sydney’s CBD and Kings Cross. Daniel Christie also tragically died as a result of a one punch. Shaun McNeil punched Christie who fell backwards and hit his head on the ground. Both of these tragic deaths sparked a debate surrounding the alcohol related violence in Sydney that resulted in the introduction of one punch mandatory sentencing and the introduction of lock of laws in Sydney. The Liquor Amendment Act 2014 introduced 1:30am lockouts at hotels, clubs, nightclubs and karaoke bars in Sydney CBD and Kings Cross Precinct, a 3am cease of alcohol service in these venues, a freeze of new liquor licences and approvals for existing licences and the closing of bottle shops after 10pm across NSW among other restrictions.
While the results from the lockout laws in Newcastle provide support for the policy introduced in Sydney, there are significant differences between the two locations. Firstly, the number of assaults were much larger in Sydney and secondly drinkers in Sydney only have to travel a short distance to reach a destination that is not restricted by the lock out laws. However there has been a significant reduction in alcohol related violence in both Sydney CBD and Kings Cross.
The largest and most substantial reduction occurred in Kings Cross where the number of assaults decreased by 49%. In Sydney CBD there was also a reduction although not as large of 13% (Donnelly, Poynton and Weatherburn, 2017). While there has been a reduction of assaults in the area where the lock out laws applied, there has been an increase of 12% in assaults in areas that exists just outside of the lock out zone including The Star Casino in Pyrmont.
Furthermore, evidence suggests the in the distal displacement area which includes areas such as Double Bay, Bondi, Newtown and Coogee, have experienced a 17% increase of alcohol related assaults (Donnelly, Poynton and Weatherburn, 2017). Don Weatherburn, Director of the Australian Bureau of Statistics stated, ‘It is a matter of concern that we’ve seen major reductions in assault in the target areas, but there’s been at least some spill-over into other parts of Sydney’ (Raper, 2017).