Most would be unaware the NSW government is making major changes to alcohol laws that further benefits the powerful alcohol lobby at the community's expense with no mention of the unprecedented high rate of alcohol-fuelled domestic violence.
It's no surprise that the alcohol lobby's fingerprints appear all over the proposed laws. They mirror the demands of the most powerful industry identities during the 2019 Sydney lockout law inquiry.
The changes include preventing residents from complaining about excessive noise from pubs and clubs to the liquor regulator. They also expand the legal loopholes that enable especially the owners of the biggest and most violent pubs and clubs, to escape or erase penalties for violent incidents occurring within and close to their large venues and, breaches of the Liquor Act.
The alleged "reforms" continue a long pattern of concessions by Coalition and Labor parties to the alcohol and gambling lobby, whilst marginalising genuine public health and community concerns.
The Bill fails the most vulnerable women and children in our community confronted by continuing high levels of domestic violence.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
It represents a lost opportunity to tackle the state's alcohol problem and the undue influence the alcohol lobby continues to exert over successive NSW parliaments.
We know that between 35 and 65 per cent of domestic violence is alcohol-related, although it is clearly not the only contributory factor.
The rate of reported DV in NSW since 1995 has more than doubled, whilst the rate of reported non DV, has declined by only a relatively small amount. The rate of DV in NSW is about to exceed that of non DV for the first time. The increase in DV may in part be due to the welcomed increase in reporting levels. However, it may also reflect the impotency of existing alcohol laws targeting the major supermarket chain stores' unhealthy dirt cheap pricing and promotion practices.
Such proven measures are however an anathema to the political/industry partnership. The NSW government refused to adopt the 2018 recommendations from the Coroner's report on domestic homicides to more tightly control the approval of alcohol outlets.
The Bill however, proposes the ability to declare areas of high outlet density and violence as hotspots that may discourage or prevent more outlets in the same location. Perhaps, good in theory, but in practice, does nothing to control existing outlets' harmful practices. How will it prevent the significant growth of on-line ordering and rapid home delivery? It may also provide a barrier to protect the existing pub's, club and bottle shop owners' profits, from future competitors.
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There is an immediate deadly alcohol problem throughout NSW communities. Yet, the NSW Parliament remains collectively unwilling to prevent this calamity without firstly gaining the nod from the alcohol lobby. It will remain after COVID-19 and the Bill will remain an impossible and intolerable situation.
The most recent example of this partnership between the NSW Government and the alcohol lobby occurred in January 2020. The Coalition Government, with support from the Labor Opposition, gifted the lobby an automatic increase in most bottle shop trading hours to midnight - a recipe for alcohol violence. This was regardless of any outlet's record of compliance and surrounding rates of DV and social impoverishment.
This decision excluded any opportunity for expert public health and community input.
Unlike the substantially weakened compliance controls and benefits afforded the alcohol lobby, the Bill does not appear to provide any demonstrable advantages to community members confronted by an array of alcohol and gambling related harms and injustices.
Contested licensing determinations and disciplinary matters against licensed premises by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority remain closed to the public and media.
Residents residing more than a ridiculous 50 or 100m away from a proposed problematic venue, still have no right to appeal an ILGA approval.
The sad reality is submissions advocating an evidence-based approach putting family safety, health and "public" interest above alcohol industry profits and customer satisfaction, carry no weight with political masters. Another likely "done deal" with the alcohol lobby. Just like the above bottle shop trading hours extension.
That's the way it's been done in our "Premier" state for many years as our alcohol-fuelled body count testifies.
Despite these obstacles, I encourage citizens and organisations to make your concerns and experiences known to the government and your local MP.
The NSW government has provided until June 14 for public submissions.
Tony Brown is a PhD Law candidate, Conjoint Fellow School of Medicine and Public Health University of Newcastle and Chairperson of a NSW Community Drug Action Team.
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