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February 4, 2023

Last Drinks at 12 not divisive: detractors are simply intransigent

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I was once again afforded the honour of being invited by the large and courageous Last Drinks at 12 Byron community group to participate in their meeting of supporters on 4 December 2013. I understand it was never intended to be a broader public affair.

Nevertheless, far from being ‘divisive’ as portrayed by some in the media, I took from the meeting of around 80 people, a high level of encouragement, enthusiasm and confidence that an empowered independent Byron community can lead the way to prevent alcohol-related harm destroying the fabric, soul and reputation of this iconic place.

There was unanimous agreement for the following approach and observations:

1. Byron Bay has a problem with the dangerous oversupply and availability of alcohol.

2. ‘Prevention’ of alcohol-fuelled violence and related harms is much better than the current adoption of very costly band-aid measures that react to the problem or try and pick up all the broken pieces.

3. Independent scientific evidence should guide the selection, adoption and trial of measures proven to prevent alcohol-related harms at their source.

4. The public/community should not be forced to pay the disproportionate high costs of the current reactive measures such as more police, CCTV and lighting. This should be paid by the liquor industry who financially benefit from the volumes and strength of drinks supplied.

5. The local community should have a key say in all liquor-related decisions that impact on the local community. The determination of critical licensing conditions should not be the exclusive domain of just seven late-trading licensed premises who retain a strong vested interest (and support of the NSW government) in blocking any sensible immediately enforceable measures to reduce the dangerous oversupply and promotion of alcohol in Byron Bay.

Far from being divisive, the community group once again unequivocally stated its preparedness to consider a ‘package’ of proven cost saving measures shown to prevent alcohol-fuelled violence by reducing dangerous levels of pre-loading and intoxication.

Importantly, it signalled that last drinks (not closing) at ’12’ could be reviewed within the context of a comprehensive enforceable ‘package’ of prevention measures across all licensed premises including bottle shops, that reduced the dangerous oversupply and availability of alcohol and ensured effective RSA practices.

In stark contrast to the preparedness and offer by the group to ‘negotiate’ without compromising the above five principles, the meeting was informed of the Byron Bay Liquor Accord’s (BBLA) absolute unwillingness to reciprocate.

The meeting noted BBLA’s refusal to accept even OLGR’s weak (my words) non-enforceable latest proposal to reduce the summertime escalation in violence, including a very token 15-minute reduction in last drinks.

Some concern was expressed at the group’s alleged ‘provocative’ title of ‘last drinks at 12’ as this was seen to ‘split’ the community, and the group’s criticism of the mayor.

I respectfully don’t share these views.

Already having the third highest rate of non-domestic alcohol-related violence in NSW, 19 times higher (as a town) than the state average, is divisive.

The NSW government’s existing refusal to allow the Byron local community at least an equal say in licensing conditions that so adversely impact upon their safety, reputation and business viability, is divisive.

Having our local police, nurses, doctors and ambulance officers as punching bags for drunks, is divisive.

I therefore invite those who detract from the genuine commendable efforts of this community group that has attained through hard voluntary work and an irrepressible argument backed by evidence, the support of over 300 local individuals and organisations including most recently the Police Association of NSW, the AMA (NSW) and the local Greens, to reconsider their intransigent opposition by firstly publicly supporting and embracing the above five broad principles.

Secondly, I would encourage a fence-mending collaborative approach by local political leaders to exemplify the same internationally recognised tenacious community power that prevented Club Med, Maccas and Dan Murphy’s in the interests of public health and lifestyles.

Finally and most importantly, I encourage the urgent adoption of proven harm prevention and cost saving measures to avert the predictable and imminent surge in alcohol-related harms in Byron Bay and associated extraordinary outlays of scarce and costly police and council public resources better invested elsewhere.

Tony Brown, Byron Bay





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  1. Looks like an extension of the ‘6 o’clock swill’ of yesteryear. As with that version, regulating last drinks to midnight will only result in drinkers loading up close to time. I can’t see this stopping violence in the streets of Byron.

  2. Mr Brown, you must be writing about a different meeting to the one I attended! Because at THAT meeting, there were was plenty of lively discussion, with some good ideas from audience members, but there definitely was NOT a unanimous agreement for your proposed approach. By implying that the fact that you read out the above points and nobody objected is tacit endorsement of your proposals and qualifies as “unanimous agreement”, is at best misleading and more accurately blatantly not true. For a meeting that was meant to be for “supporters and members” of Last Drinks at 12, there were plenty of members of the community that spoke out against the approach and tactics of your group.

    Furthermore, you may have noticed that there was not a single member of the audience that appeared to be under the age of 35. How exactly does Last Drinks at 12 argue that it represents Byron as a whole community when it has little to no input from the segment of our community – Byron’s young people – that your proposals are most likely to affect?

    Finally, perhaps it is Last Drinks at 12 that is being intransigent rather than your detractors? For it seems that your group wants to attack anyone – the Mayor, Byron Council, Byron United, Byron Bay Liquor Accord, MP Don Page, the Office of Liquor & Gaming, the list goes on! – that offers a strategy that differs from your own. Byron Bay has always worked to be inclusive and find a “Byron solution” to our town’s issues, rather than trying to impose the ideas of one small group on the rest of the community. Long may this continue!

  3. Hi Tony

    I agree that we need to fervently prevent pubs and bars from trading like they do. They are only preying on our weakness and we need to be strong to show those who can’t realise that drinking and going out late is only fuelling their insecurities and inadequacies. I have stopped going out and feel a lot better and even secure enough to write letters.

    I am disappointed that the group seem to be softening your stance. I thought Tom Tabart was spot on saying we should continue to avoid compromise.

    I heard Michael O’Regan and Chris Hanley say that it is the “cheapest most cost effective way” to help the problem. This only gives fuel to the grog monsters. We must not allow them to pick holes in our argument.

    This is the reason I want you to explain some statements said in the meeting I didn’t understand.

    They are – “93% of people are served intoxicated in venues”
    – ” 65% of people are already intoxicated when they enter venues”
    (These stats seem high for the rates of prosecution. Are they spot on and licencing and enforcement not doing their job?)
    – ” ILGA and other groups are under control of the liquor industry”
    – ” Woolworth’s said it was OK to advertise alcohol to kids because it toughens them up against capitalism”
    (They all seem hard to accept for the non – believers)

    Statements like this need to be clarified so we aren’t weakened by the [liquor industry].

    I think Last Drinks at 12 need to be strong in the face of this most morally bankrupt industry.

    Keep up the good work fighting the machine.


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