LOCKOUT LAWS 'UTTER HOGWASH'

Written on the 19 February 2016 by Jenna Rathbone

LOCKOUT LAWS 'UTTER HOGWASH'

QUEENSLAND'S new lockout laws will do nothing to curb alcohol-fuelled violence on the Gold Coast, says venue owners and industry leaders on the Glitter Strip.

The State Government's controversial Alcohol Fuelled Violence Amendment Bill was passed in Parliament this week after a heated debate, and with the support of the two KAP members Robbie Katter and Shane Knuth.

The new laws will see Queensland venues call for last drinks at 2am from July 1, while Safe Night Precincts including Surfers Paradise will call last drinks at 3am, with a 1am lockout to be imposed from February 1, 2017.

Simone Jenkins, the founder of Elsewhere in Surfers Paradise, says the new laws will impact her venue's revenue by up to 30 per cent. The hospitality guru says the new laws are ill-informed and utter 'hogwash'.  

"Our motto is famous for fun, that is what we have traded under and has been our calling card in Queensland for a very long time," says Jenkins.

"When you start putting restrictions state-wide on people's fun and when you are a holiday destination for fun, it will immediately have an impact on the Gold Coast's reputation and people will begin to make tourism choices around that."

In 2014, the Newman Government introduced the Safe Night Out strategy in an attempt to restore responsible behaviour and stamp out alcohol and drug-related violence in Queensland.  It was an initiative that Jenkins says was working.  

"Conditions in Surfers Paradise are vastly better because of the previous initiatives which were already working," she says.  "These are just unnecessary, clunky, confused laws and bad for tourism."

State Development Minister and former maxillofacial surgeon Dr Anthony Lynham has been at the forefront of this debate since day one and says the legislation was a long time coming for campaigners for action on alcohol fuelled violence.

"The passage of this legislation is not just the culmination of work by the Government, but the culmination of years of advocacy by medical professionals, community groups and academics," says Lynham.

"These laws are evidence-based laws that will have a major impact on alcohol-fuelled violence."

Gold Coast Central Chamber of Commerce president Peter Yared disagrees.

"I think the new laws will actually make alcohol fuelled violence worse on the Gold Coast because we are going to have a lot more people on the streets at the same time," says Yared, who is also the general manager of Hotel Grand Chancellor in the heart of Surfers Paradise.

"As we know, through evidence, a lot of fights and violence happens around taxi cues and these new laws are only going to entice this more."

He says an early lookout will do nothing to stop revellers from having a good time, and that partygoers will find other locations to continue their celebrations.

He says patrons will be pushed out of controlled precincts and into the suburbs, which will put added pressure on frontline services.  

"Police and ambulance services are now not only covering one small area, they are covering everywhere - all suburbs of the Gold Coast, and it is going to put them under more pressure," says Yared.

Yared adds his disappointment about the lack of community consultation from Labor.

"I absolutely think Labor ignored the cries of Gold Coasters and their consultation process was a debacle - they only surrounded themselves with people that agreed with them," he says.

Yared says the root of the problem is alcohol and that the government should have considered reducing alcohol consumption before reducing hours, in addition to tougher stances on venues that were not abiding by liquor laws.

Meanwhile, Gold Coast Tourism head Martin Winter (pictured right) says at this stage, it is too early to comment on the impact the new laws will have on the tourism industry.

"The tourism industry supports the government initiative to constrain alcohol-fuelled violence in Queensland," says Winter.

"However, we are not supportive of any actions which impacts negatively on tourism.  At this stage, we just don't know how this will play out or what the impact it will be.

"It is important however to recognise that tourism on the Gold Coast is primarily targeted at families and other visitors that are not impacted by the new regulations.

"The Gold Coast brand is based upon active fun which encourages visitors to share our enviable lifestyle, so anything that provides a safer experience has to be supported.

"We will watch with great interest how these new laws play out."

The new laws will be independently reviewed in 2018.


Author: Jenna Rathbone
About: Jenna Rathbone is a Queensland-based journalist who writes on a range of issues including business and property affairs and social issues.
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