NSW Labor's about-face on repealing Sydney's lockout laws could extend to Newcastle, despite resistance from Hunter police and health authorities.
Opposition leader Jodi McKay told the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday that Labor supported scrapping the 1.30am lockout laws in Sydney's central business district, a turnaround from the party's position under former leader Michael Daley before the March state election.
"Many businesses have had a tough year. The lifting would be twofold: It would respond to community calls and it would also bring life back to the CBD, and increase spending," Ms McKay said.
"If venues feel they are ready for the change, then they should be given the choice to open later."
Cabinet is yet to discuss changing the Sydney laws, but the government hopes to pass legislation and have the new rules in place by the end of the year.
Newcastle's late-trading laws
- patrons cannot enter venues after 1.30am
- venues must close by 3.30am
- licensees must adopt plans of management
- no alcohol "shots" after 10pm
- last drinks served 30 minutes before closing
- licensees must have a responsible service of alcohol officer on-site from 11pm until closing
- licensees are subject to compliance audits
A state Parliament committee recommended in September another review of Newcastle's lockout laws if the liquor-licensing changes in Sydney proved successful.
Asked on Wednesday whether Labor backed a review of the laws in Newcastle, Shadow Minister for the Night Time Economy John Graham said the party was taking an evidence-based approach to the issue.
"The joint select committee recommended that the lifting of the lockouts be trialled in the Sydney CBD," he said.
"If the trial is a success, we will certainly support a conversation about lifting lockout laws in other precincts, including Newcastle."
Mr Graham served on the committee that recommended relaxing Sydney's lockout laws.
Newcastle Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp reiterated his support for another look at the city's late-night trading regulations.
"Newcastle has undergone significant cultural change in the 10 years since lockout laws were introduced," he said.
"I'll be watching the transition in Sydney with keen interest.
"If the evidence shows that rolling back lockout laws there is a success, I would welcome a discussion about doing the same in Newcastle.
"Newcastle traders have also suffered under these restrictions and we need to be looking for ways to support a vibrant day-time and night-time economy.
"Whether that be through relaxed lockouts, more live music venues or changes to bar service, we need to put all options on the table."
- Call it a night: Group wants Newcastle-like alcohol restrictions statewide
- Hunter study finds evidence backing retention of Newcastle licensing restrictions
- Newcastle's top cop does not hold back on lockout law review
- Newcastle's lockout laws to be reviewed after nearly a decade
- Licensing restrictions to stay after the Horton review
Dr Jonathan Horton QC reviewed Newcastle's lockout laws for the government last year and recommended they remain largely untouched, a conclusion endorsed by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.
Newcastle police commander Superintendent Brett Greentree said in September that "we have very strong views that we believe the Newcastle conditions are appropriate and we support what's in place now".
Hunter New England Health's submission to the Horton inquiry said the lockout laws had led to a 30 per cent fall in violence and assaults and should be strengthened rather than relaxed.
Anti-violence campaigner Tony Brown slammed the most recent report's recommendation on Newcastle as outside its terms of reference and lacking transparency.
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