A community campaigner who has been outspoken in his opposition to the winding back of Newcastle’s rules for inner city pubs believes there is “a cone of silence” around a review into the conditions, after his request to have NSW Police’s official submission released was rejected.
Barrister Jonathan Horton QC is conducting the review for the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority into the trading conditions for 14 CBD venues introduced in 2008 to reduce alcohol-related issues in the city.
The authority is not releasing submissions made to the review until Mr Horton hands down his findings.
But Tony Brown, a well-known advocate for the Newcastle conditions – which set lock-outs, closing times and restrictions on drink types and quantities – is criticising the review after his attempt to have the NSW Police submission released through freedom of information law was knocked back.
Mr Brown said he was not criticising Newcastle police, but he claimed the failure to release the document was a “blatant political cover-up at a very high level, putting pub interests before public and police safety”.
“The government doesn’t want to embarrass the powerful alcohol industry by revealing police observations,” he said.
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“It deprives the community of a fuller appreciation of the current magnitude of alcohol harms in the city. The community cannot test the impartiality and objectivity of [the review] if we are deprived of the important police [submission] until after the judgment is made.”
NSW Police would not comment about the review when approached by Fairfax Media last week.
"We are awaiting the outcome of the review and it would be inappropriate to make comment whilst Mr Horton is conducting that review,” a police spokesperson said.
When asked again why NSW Police had rejected the freedom of information request, when other organisations such as Hunter New England Health had publicly released their feedback to the review, the spokesperson declined to comment.
A NSW Liquor and Gaming spokesman said the body was working towards releasing the review findings and submissions in late April.