I admit I have been one of Barry O’Farrell’s and his government’s greatest critics for their past pathetic response to primarily preventable alcohol-related harm and the avoidable loss of young lives.
Yes, I have accused his and previous governments of clearly being in the pockets of the powerful liquor industry.
Substantial evidence exists of the industry’s pervasive inappropriate influence including their redrafting of important NSW Liquor Promotion guidelines and the watering down of three-strikes laws to render them impotent.
The refusal of the government to establish a Precinct Liquor Accord (inclusive of residents with equal rights) in Byron despite police, council and resident support is clear evidence of how the local premises remain a protected species under patronage of the NSW government and local MP.
The premier’s surprise announcement on 21 January 2014 of the reduction in drinking times for Sydney CBD based on the successful ‘Newcastle model’, in which I contributed representing the community and small businesses, left me sobbing.
Not so much for the personal vilification, retributions and foregone income my family and I have endured over recent years; not for the vindication of my costly voluntary public advocacy for proven, modest and sensible alcohol-harm prevention measures at no cost to NSW taxpayers; but the certain knowledge that the modest reduction in last drinks in Sydney’s CBD championed by the premier will save young people’s lives, reduce the associated alcohol toll and harrowed grieving of inconsolable parents and family.
Sydney parents will be able to sleep a little more comfortably appreciating a safer night economy for their kids to responsibly enjoy.
Emergency department staff will experience wards less crowded with critically injured/highly intoxicated patrons of the late-trading pubs and clubs. Fewer frontline police and ambulance officers will be assaulted by drunks.
The NSW premier, regardless of any underlying motivation and pressure, has exhibited a rare political trait of statesmanship. One small step for O’Farrell, one giant leap for preventing the scourge of alcohol-related harms in Australia.
This small but nonetheless historic monumental step must be replicated in regional NSW and the rest of the nation that equally shares the burden of the dangerous oversupply and availability of alcohol, failed RSA and consequential harm.
I plead with our local MP Don Page, and all his colleagues in other similarly disaffected towns, to follow his premier’s lead and put the safety of young people ahead of the profits of just a few small late-trading premises in Byron Bay and elsewhere.
I plead with him to support the immediate two-year trial of tailored measures including (like Sydney) a modest two-hour reduction in last drinks in Byron.
The premier was equally provided with numerous unfounded excuses (like those we have all heard in Newcastle and Byron) from the powerful vested interests in the grog industry and those closely associated with the them, why he should not reduce late-trading hours in Sydney.
It is now the right time for all federal, state and territory leaders and our own Don Page MP and Byron mayor Simon Richardson to display, to their enduring credit, the same degree of courage exhibited by the statesman of our reinstated ‘premier’ state.
Tony Brown, Newcastle/Byron Bay