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Sydney likely to experience more alcohol-related violence if NSW Government waters down lockout laws

September 2019

Sydney is likely to experience an increase in alcohol-related harms if the Berejiklian Government accepts the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Sydney's night time economy to remove the ‘3am last drinks’ measure in Sydney’s CBD and extend trading hours for sales of takeaway alcohol, according to St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney.

“All the evidence tells us, for every extra hour alcohol is made more accessible there’s an associated increase in harms, including alcohol-related violence,” said A/Prof Paul Preisz, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney’s Director of Emergency.

“It’s what’s happened overseas and it’s likely to happen in Sydney if the Government abolishes 3am last drinks in the CBD and extends the opening hours of bottle shops, as the Committee has recommended.

“If you look at Amsterdam, a trial in 2015 showed a one‐hour extension of alcohol outlet closing times delivered 34% more alcohol‐related injuries.

“In Norway, a study evaluated the effects of both trading extensions and restrictions on the number of assaults. It found, in both directions, a 16% change in reported assaults with each one-hour adjustment in trading hours.

“The NSW Government must not succumb to this false narrative that the public is crying out for these measures to be repealed, when it’s really a vocal group of vested interests.

“Survey after survey has shown that most Sydneysiders and NSW voters – including a majority of young people – support the measures and don’t want them rolled back.

“Yet the NSW Government appears at risk of buckling to these vested interests and letting them sell more alcohol, but at what cost?

“That’s my question to the NSW Government: What cost are we willing to pay as a community if we significantly water down these laws? How many assaults? How many millions on rehabilitation treatment for people with severe brain injuries from alcohol-related bashings? The loss of livelihoods, the families destroyed?

“Because I don't think there's a number I’m comfortable with.”

St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney has seen a direct correlation between the introduction of the lockout laws and a major reduction in alcohol-related presentations, including:

  • not a single death involving alcohol-related violence;
  • a 60% drop in facial fractures associated with alcohol-related violence;
  • a 20% drop in orbital fractures (eye fractures most commonly due to assaults);
  • a 25% drop in ED presentations attributed to acute intoxication (2013-14 to 2017-18);
  • an anecdotal decrease in alcohol-related violence towards our staff has also reduced.

“We support a vibrant Sydney. But that doesn’t mean just turning the beer taps on for longer.

“Even the most significant report into Sydney’s night-time economy said ‘don’t think of the night-time economy as opening up the pubs and clubs for longer – it’s about having 24-hour gyms and supermarkets, late night art galleries, extended shopping hours and transport choices.’

“But sadly the Committee is doing just that; it’s equating vibrancy with simply selling more booze.

“At St Vincent’s, we’ve seen the end result of loose and easy access to alcohol – the glassings, the street bashings, and the domestic violence – and we don’t want to go back there,” said A/Prof Paul Preisz.

Media contact: David Faktor 0405 497 510

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