Weakening of lockout laws will cost lives


ASMOF is a proud member of the Last Drinks Campaign , a coalition of unions representing doctors, nurses, paramedics and police officers in NSW.

Collectively we believe that it is reprehensible that innocent members of the public and emergency service workers are exposed to significant WH&S risks because of alcohol fuelled violence.

We are united in our support of the 2014 reforms to the NSW Liquor Act which have substantially reduced the incidence of assault in Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD.

The evidence in support of keeping the current laws is overwhelming.

Research published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) in 2018, showed the alcohol restrictions have reduced the number of violent alcohol-related injuries with St Vincent’s Hospital seeing a 10% reduction in the incidence of alcohol-related orbital (eye socket) fractures between 2014-2016. This saved nearly half a million dollars in hospital, ambulance and other medical costs.

In 2016, some of the same authors found a 25% reduction in major alcohol-related injuries (such as the so-called “one punch” injuries) in the 12 months after the laws were introduced.

This research adds to compelling evidence that demonstrates restricting access to alcohol by closing drinking venues early reduces serious assaults and injuries.

A Norwegian study showed the effect in both directions when towns changed opening hours of pubs and clubs after 1am. Alcohol-related assaults increased by almost 20% per hour with increased opening hours, and vice versa with early last drinks.

The biggest and most comprehensive study internationally on alcohol-related presentations to EDs, which include intoxication and other emergencies besides injuries, found almost one in ten of all attendances were alcohol-related. That equates to half a million patients every year presenting to Australian EDs with alcohol-related harm.

We oppose the shrill assertions of the alcohol, hotel and club industries that these reforms have “killed off” Sydney’s night life. The 2016 Callinan Review found little evidence to support this claim. Further a 2018 City of Sydney report confirmed Sydney venues were booming, with:

  • the number of venues growing by 1.8% to 4,872 in 2017
  • overall sales rising by 6.3% - the city’s night-time economy is now worth $4.05bn
  • a 4.9% increase in new establishments in the “drink sub-sector” with an 8.7% increase in employment and an increase in turnover of 6.5%. All of these “well above the NSW and national averages”
  • the number of drink venues declining by two between 2014 and 2017 (from 576 to 574), and
  • a “boom in small bars within the city”.

Unfortunately, the campaign to reverse these reforms, which is being driven by the AHA and big alcohol companies, now has the backing of newly elected Conservatives in the NSW Parliament, including the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and One Nation. And they have been successful in having a cross-party committee established to examine the laws – even though there was a parliamentary review of the laws in 2016.

ASMOF believes that any weakening of the laws will end up costing lives. Below is a media release from the Last Drinks campaign, of which the ASMOF NSW President is a key spokesperson.

Emergency services workers are calling on NSW Parliament to maintain the successful alcohol laws after it was revealed today that Premier Berejiklian intended to form a cross party committee to examine the laws once again.

Last Drinks campaign spokesperson Dr Tony Sara said that if the review weakened Sydney’s successful laws, alcohol related violence would once again surge.

“There is no doubt that Sydney’s streets will once again be flooded with alcohol fueled violence. We’ll see a dramatic increase in assaults, sexual assaults, injuries and deaths.

“Police will once again be taken away from tackling crime in our communities to contain the carnage and our hospital emergency departments will again overflow with young victims.”

“The facts are clear. Sydney’s successful alcohol laws have saved lives and prevented thousands of injuries.”

“After the laws were introduced, Kings Cross saw a 59.2 per cent decrease in assaults between 6pm and 1.30am and a staggering 93.9 per cent decrease between 3am and 6am.”

“Incidences of indecent and sexual assault in Kings Cross, the primary victims being women, have both reduced by almost 50%.”

“St Vincent’s Hospital saw a 50% reduction in serious head injuries between 8pm and 8am. All of these successes are now at risk.”

“It would be extraordinarily reckless for any political party to put so many young lives at risk by repealing these successful and lifesaving laws.”

Dr Sara also said that with the Callinan Review in 2016, the Government had already reviewed Sydney’s alcohol laws, and found them to be sound.

“The Callinan Review confirmed that Sydney’s alcohol laws had been highly successful, they’ve achieved massive reductions in violence and injury, saving countless lives.”

“Additionally, opening times for licensed premises have already been extended half an hour to accommodate live music venues. Watering down these successful alcohol laws further will only lead to increased violence and deaths.”

“We call on Premier Berejiklian and the NSW Parliament to put the lives of young people first. Protect these lifesaving laws.

You can also access the media release here.