THE Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority won’t publish public submissions to the review of Newcastle’s liquor laws until after the review is complete.
But the Last Drinks Coalition – a group of emergency service workers opposed to any change – said a decision not to publish the submissions until a later date “deepens” their concerns that the review is a “fait accompli”, with Newcastle on a path to “watered down” liquor laws.
“The people of Newcastle have every right to see and analyse the information and evidence that will underpin decisions which will directly affect their daily lives,” a joint statement said on Wednesday.
“ILGA’s decision to not publicise the submissions prior to a final decision being made worsens public suspicions that this review is little more than a Clayton’s consultation, designed to provide a veneer of legitimacy to a process which has the foregone conclusion of watering down Newcastle’s effective liquor laws.”
The Last Drinks Coalition pointed to the initial 16-day timeframe for the public to submit to the review as evidence of the “fait accompli”. The ILGA later extended the deadline by another two weeks after blaming a “technical glitch”.
Opponents called for the submissions to be made public for the sake of transparency.
“Publicising submissions to the review would be a step toward restoring much needed public confidence in this review and the recommendations it will shortly make,” Last Drinks said.
Advocate Tony Brown added: “What has the NSW government and ILGA really got to hide?”
However, the ILGA said the submissions would be published after they are first “considered” by barrister Jonathan Horton, QC, who is advising the authority.
“Mr Horton’s report, together with the submissions that have been received, will be published following consideration by ILGA,” a spokesman said.
“This is expected to occur in late April.”
The decision to review Newcastle’s lockout laws was revealed in November after a request by the Australian Hotels Association.
Former Newcastle top cop Superintendent John Gralton didn’t hold back at the time.
He said a relaxation of the laws “risks a big black eye for the city”.
AHA Hunter branch delegate Rolly de With rebutted: “Newcastle is nearly 10 years down the road from what it was when the laws were put in place, and a lot of things here have changed.”
Newcastle City Council agreed. It called for venues “with a proven record of consistent exemplary” to be exempt from some conditions, with new smaller venues attracting a “more sophisticated, responsible crowd”.