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Australia: Early lockouts, more expensive drinks on the cards as ACT Government looks to crackdown on alcohol-related crime

Australia: Early lockouts, more expensive drinks on the cards as ACT Government looks to crackdown on alcohol-related crime



By Ewan Gilbert

July 21, 2015

Early lockouts and more expensive drinks could soon be forced on Canberra’s pubs and clubs as the ACT Gvernment looks to continue its crackdown on alcohol-related crime.


The Government today said no option was off the table as it released a discussion paper to gauge the community and industry’s views on what should happen next.


But the Hotel’s Association believes the Government has been unfairly influenced by anti-alcohol campaigners and was now sending mixed messages to the billion-dollar industry.


ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said he made no apology for trying to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.


“I’m sure there’ll be strong views in relation to a whole range of measures, but I’m committed to having an open and broad-ranging conversation,” he said.


“I’m not ruling anything in, I’m not ruling anything out.”


The options being considered were previously raised in a 2013 review of the territory’s liquor laws.


They range broadly from limiting the number of liquor outlets and the hours in which they can be open; to making the cost of alcohol more prohibitive and reducing exposure to alcohol through advertising and promotions.


The discussion paper also raises the possibility of forcing venues to close at 3:00am, rather then the current 5:00am in the city, or implementing an early lockout to encourage patrons to stay in the one place and off the streets.


It also proposes setting a minimum price for alcohol to stop bars selling drinks at a discount and limiting the number of off-license or licensed venues allowed within close proximity of each other.


Mr Corbell said while in recent years there had been an overall drop in the number of alcohol-related incidents, that trend had not being seen in Civic.


“This latest round of possible reforms focuses particularly on our nightclub districts and what we can do to reduce the incidence of pre-loading, looking at issues of outlet density and trading hours,” he said.


“There’s evidence for and against all of these measures in other places around the country and overseas.


“But let’s have a look at what works best for us and let’s choose from the broadest possible range of options.”


Hotels association concerned ‘Government’s mind is made up’


The Australian Hotels Association represents a number of Canberra’s pubs and clubs and its ACT general manager Brad Watts said he was concerned the Government had already made up its mind to introduce tighter regulations.


“It almost seems as if the anti-alcohol lobby has played a part in drafting these discussion points,” Mr Watts said.


“There is a bit of confusion within the industry, on one hand [the Government] wants to encourage outdoor dining… but it almost seems as if they’ve gone backwards on that and are looking for more regulation and more red-tape which will hurt business.


“When you’ve got the Chief Police Officer coming out last Christmas saying that Canberra is the safest city in Australia, that’s a pretty positive message to say the current laws are working.


“We’re not Sydney, we’re not Newcastle, we’re not Melbourne. We’re a lot smaller jurisdiction and I think the current laws that are in place are working well.”


The Government has already acted on a number of less controversial recommendations from the review including removing restrictions on the service of alcohol outdoors, handing parents more control over the supply of alcohol to children at private functions and making it tougher for those of questionable character to hold a liquor license.


The discussion paper is available for public comment until August 31.