The disingenuous rhetoric of the AHA and NSW government, which suggests that the community are involved in alcohol related decisions, is simply a lie.
Opinion Tony Brown
Andrew Woodburn’s frank inside insight into the reality of Byron’s licensed premises service and compliance practices reinforces the shambolic tokenistic approach by OLGR and some of the venues to achieve any successful sustainable reductions in the worst levels of alcohol related street violence in NSW.
The recent NSW Alcohol Summit received evidence of the immediate availability of effective and successful alcohol harm minimisation and prevention interventions based on a reduction in the dangerous oversupply and availability of alcohol and the effective enforcement of RSA. Such measures include enforceable modest reductions in late trading hours, reductions in drink strengths, and controlling liquor outlet density.
Recent DANTE research conducted by Professor Peter Miller from Deakin University found that those industry promoted government measures reacting to the intoxication/violence problem such as CCTV, more police, transport etc were the most costly but least effective measures to reduce harm.
These later measures failed to address the core problem of failed RSA and excessive intoxication.
Community has no say
The local Byron community has an enviable national reputation of not been stood over by corporate greed and governments running interference for big business from Macca’s to Murphy’s. The Independent Liquor Authority’s (ILGA) rejection of the Dan Murphy’s large discount liquor barn is a notable success against stiff odds.
The disingenuous rhetoric of the AHA and NSW government, which suggests that the community are involved in alcohol related decisions, is simply a lie. At the crucial stage where Byron Bay’s Liquor Accord was considering the adoption of voluntary conditions floated by OLGR, key community representatives were locked out of negotiations.
In many other communities adversely affected by primarily preventable alcohol related violence and associated harms, including Newcastle and Kings Cross, disaffected local residents and independent community representatives have no genuine say in vital decisions impacting upon their community’s ongoing safety, health and amenity.
It is understood Byron police proposals were given short shrift by OLGR, who were apparently keen to ensure the problematic premises were not subjected to any ‘onerous’ conditions for which the licensees could be held accountable with respect to any non-compliance.
Such weak, ineffective and non-enforceable conditions, as exposed by Mr Woodburn, that just tinker at the edge of the problem will be protected by a ‘six month trial’ during the quietest time of the year. Like those conditions in Kings Cross, Byron’s new Clayton’s conditions are not subjected to any independent robust evaluation.
And forget about any undue disturbance complaints under the Liquor Act.
The convoluted and complex resident complaint process guarantees no transparency or impartiality because it is administered and operated by OLGR and the Department under government direction.
The effective adjudicator of any community/resident complaints are the same mob responsible for the overt development and application of government alcohol policy so heavily weighted in favour of the industry.
Such policies as witnessed in Byron studiously avoid the adoption of any substantial independently proven and cost saving enforceable harm minimisation/prevention interventions. Such avoidance may arise from the threat to liquor industry profit margins of the powerful minority whose revenue is irresponsibly based on maximising the volume and strengths of alcohol promoted and peddled to bingers and other vulnerable and impressionable elements of our community (under the guise of ‘individual [patron] responsibility’ and ‘vibrancy’). They have no regard or accounting for the predictable manifest consequences.
Living out of each other’s pockets
The extent to which the liquor industry and government continue to live out of each other’s pockets was further exposed with the recent small bars laws that removed the rights of surrounding residents to lodge any liquor licence objections. They also provide for automatic closing hours of 2am, notwithstanding that extended trading past midnight is the single biggest predictor of alcohol fuelled violence.
Coinciding with the enactment of these new laws, an arrogant NSW government maintains its astounding refusal to release the research findings from the Allen Consulting report (funded by NSW taxpayers) that allegedly provided a rationale for the new laws and the adoption of a ‘black box’ Environment & Venue Evaluation Tool (EVAT) for new liquor licence applications.
The Byron community has a justifiable right to demand of the NSW government that their considered views for a safer and healthier community prevail over the sectional private interests of a small number of powerful local licensees supported by OLGR.
Secondly, they have the right to demand the immediate adoption and independent evaluation of successful proven and enforceable precinct-wide measures that directly address the core problem of the continuing dangerous oversupply and availability of alcohol and lack of effective RSA compliance. The industry must fully reimburse the community for such costs and dislocation.
Finally, the Byron community like all other NSW citizens must demand a fully inclusive, honest, transparent and impartial government approach to the sensible regulation of alcohol that satisfies the primacy of harm minimisation and prevention, and ensures successful outcomes that truly reflect the aspirations of local communities.
Tony Brown chairs Newcastle Community Drug Action Team (CDAT). He voluntarily led and represented over 150 residents and small businesses in proceedings initiated by police that resulted in the Newcastle 2008 conditions that have achieved an internationally unprecedented 37 per cent reduction in alcohol related violence and other substantial reductions in harm indicators.