COMMUNITY advocate Tony Brown is urging Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes to organise an urgent public briefing for councillors before the council lodges its submission to the Horton review.
But the Lord Mayor says Mr Brown is being “hysterical”, adding that councillors would have an opportunity to contribute to the council submission.
Mr Brown said the two-week extension until February 7 to lodge submissions to the inquiry gave the councillors time to be involved in preparing the council’s submission.
He said a previous request for a full public briefing with key stakeholders including the Last Drinks coalition of police, doctors, nurses and paramedics, had been declined. Given the importance of the council’s position, there was an urgent need for councillors to be briefed, in public, by all sides of the debate, including the Australian Hotels Association. The reviewer, Jonathan Horton QC, should either take part or be in the audience. The council had such a briefing before the Newcastle intervention began in 2008.
“The AHA and its supporters have suggested Newcastle’s ‘maturity’ justifies relaxing Newcastle’s licensing laws,” Mr Brown said.
“A public briefing would allow the AHA and the council to hear again from police, doctors and emergency workers about the deadly impacts of the over-supply and consumption of alcohol.”
Responding, Cr Nelmes said: “I'm not quite sure what has brought on such an hysterical response about council making a submission to the review, especially when our suggestions would only . . . enhance the current conditions. The first I heard about this request from Tony Brown was via the media, so if this was a genuine request, why didn’t Mr Brown make it last December when then there was a unanimous decision of council?”
Earlier , a council spokesperson said staff had consulted widely with relevant stakeholders, meeting Mr Brown, as Hunter Multicultural Community Drug Action Team chair, twice. Staff also met AHA Hunter spokesperson Rolly de With and the chair of the Newcastle Liquor Accord, Corey Crooks.
The AHA says it is happy to leave lockouts and closing times in place but it wants laws barring shots and doubles after 10pm to be changed.
Clarifying a report in Monday’s Newcastle Herald, council chief executive Jeremy Bath said that while he had been authorised to “lodge” the council’s submission to the review, he would not be writing it.
“The submission, which I am yet to see, is being written by the appropriate council staff,” Mr Bath said.
In an analysis of the Newcastle conditions, the AHA said they had come at a significant cost, with one in four hospitality workers laid-off, revenue falling by 30 per cent and the asset values of affected premises falling by more than $20 million.
“These costs to employment and the economy may be justifiable if the evidence supported the effectiveness of the conditions, however this is simply not the case,” the AHA said, adding that various parts of NSW had greater falls in assaults in and around licensed premises than Newcastle.
University of Newcastle academic Kypros Kypri – whose analysis has been used to show the efficacy of the Newcastle restrictions – said he did not doubt the crime statistics quoted by the AHA, although he doubted the way they had been interpreted.
But he said his work had been co-authored with the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, had been peer-reviewed and found to be robust. His initial study found assault rates had fallen in Newcastle but not in Hamilton, which had no restrictions at the time.
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