The upcoming "trial" of eased liquor restrictions is a "farce" and those backing it have ignored the "health perspective", a professor with 25 years experience working in drug and alcohol health has told a protest meeting.
Adrian Dunlop, of the Royal Australian College of Physicians, slammed the argument that Newcastle was now "a more mature" society compared to 2008, labelling it "spin-doctoring".
He said alcohol was "ingrained in Australian society" and caused a range of harms.
"The more you turn the tap on, the more harm there is. It's not a trial at all, it's a farce - it's a pantomime," he said.
More than 50 people gathered at St John's Church Hall in Cooks Hill last night to discuss the year-long trial of eased restrictions, which is set to begin mid-year and will include removing drink restrictions, scrapping the 1.30am venue lockout and extending liquor-trading hours from 3am to 3.30am.
The NSW government announced the trial on the final day of six months of eased restrictions for small bars and restaurants.
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Dr Anthony Cook, who was a community representative on the small bars trial committee, said there had been "no analysis" of that trial and the eased restrictions for participating pub and clubs were "likely to be permanent".
"It's not being done based on evidence," he said.
"This is a politically motivated decision. If the community doesn't stand up and make itself heard, we're going to be in real trouble."
Anti-violence campaigner and organiser Tony Brown implored those at the meeting to form a "coalition" and campaign against the trial
He said there were "two opportunities" to challenge it, but he could not yet elaborate on those avenues.
He said those backing the trial had "ignored evidence" and "sadly, we live in a world now where facts don't count". "
Public safety" should always "trump pub profits", he said.
Inner-city Newcastle and Hamilton are the only parts of NSW with lockouts after they were removed in Sydney.
A 2018 review of the restrictions recommended they remain, but said their impact on businesses had been "substantial".
Business Hunter and the Australian Hotels Association welcomed the trial's announcement last month.
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