Alcohol service tightened for public safety

State Cabinet has decided to further reduce the service of alcohol in Queensland’s pubs and clubs by halving the number of one-off permits for extended service hours in Safe Night Precincts and imposing restrictions on their use.

Cabinet approved the changes based on the findings of research conducted by Deakin University’s Institute for Social Science Research into the first six months of operation of Queensland’s alcohol-fuelled violence laws.

Deakin University’s research found the “systematic and widespread use of extended trading permits” meant that sinceearlier last drinks were introduced in July last year, “there has not been a single weekend night where all venues in the Fortitude Valley have ceased the service of alcohol at 3am”.

It also found a “lack of notable change in trends since the introduction of the Policy also suggests the provision of extended trading permits (allowing the sale of alcohol until 5am) has compromised the impact of the Policy.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on the basis of the research findings, Cabinet had decided to tighten restrictions, as part of the Government’s commitment to tackle alcohol-fuelled violence.

“All the evidence in Australia and around the world suggests the most effective measure to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence is to reduce the number of hours that alcohol is served after midnight,” the Premier said.

“It’s disappointing the systematic use of these permits has clouded the impact of our new laws; some venues have been using the extended 5am trading as business-as-usual.

“We won’t allow that to continue, and will make this reduced number of permits available only for genuinely special events,” the Premier said.

The Deakin University report also concluded the introduction of lockouts “is not likely to significantly change current trends (except for pre-drinking)” and that “measures used to reduce harm earlier in the night such as ID scanners, and banning orders for repeat offenders continue to be warranted.”

Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said that the government had decided not to enforce the 1am lockouts in 3am Safe Night Precincts that are due to come into effect from 1 February, and would instead work to introduce mandatory ID scanner in Safe Night Precincts by mid-year and enforce banning orders on repeat offenders.

“These are not decisions we have taken lightly,” Mrs D’Ath said.

“However, based on the evidence before us, we see these measures as the best option to reduce the toll of alcohol-fuelled violence in a quantifiable and effective manner.”

Cabinet has decided:

  • number of one-off permits to allow trading until 5am would be cut from 12 to six in SNPs;
  • use would be limited “special events” to be defined by a criteria approved by the Government, rather than 5am trading being “business as usual”;
  • State-wide end of alcohol service at 2am unless the venue is in a Safe Night Precinct (SNP);
  • 3am last drinks in Safe Night Precincts;
  • ban on the sale of rapid intoxication, high alcohol-content drinks after midnight; and
  • enforce ID scanners from 1 July 2017 in SNP and enforce banning orders.

Cabinet also endorsed funding for extra overtime for police officers in SNPs to minimise the need for officers to come from suburban stations to SNPs.

Minister and former maxillofacial surgeon Dr Anthony Lynham said he was appalled that some licensed venues have gamed the use of extended permits to get around our last drinks.

“I welcome the tighter restrictions, because last drinks is what will reduce senseless violence and unnecessary injury and worse for Queenslanders,” he said.

“I have said publicly that lock-out laws when used alone don’t work. What works is a reduction in the hours people can be served alcohol,” he said.

“Everything else are complimentary measures to achieving a reduction in harm.”