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Byron Shire
March 24, 2023

Toughened drink laws ‘don’t go far enough’

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The NSW Police Force has taken the unusual step of congratulating the state government over a tranche of new laws designed to reduce alcohol-related violence but the opposition says the changes don’t go far enough.

The new laws, announced by the premier yesterday, will toughen penalties for so-called ‘coward punch’ single-hit attacks, force bottle shops statewide to close by 10pm (currently midnight) and take action against recalcitrant venues in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross.

Offenders convicted under new one-punch laws will now face a mandatory minimum sentence of eight years’ imprisonment, while laws allowing offenders to bargain for a reduced sentence because they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs will be scrapped.

For violent crimes in which drugs and/or alcohol are aggravating factors the government will increase maximum penalties by two years.

The laws will impose a 1.30am lockout on all venues in Kings Cross, Darling Harbour, The Rocks, Haymarket and Darlinghurst and require them to close by 3am. A freeze has been announced on new alcohol licences in the area and police can ban recidivist offenders for 48 hours across the entire precinct.

A ‘periodic risk-based’ licensing scheme will be introduced, with higher fees imposed for venues and outlets that have later trading hours, poor compliance histories or are in high-risk locations.

In a short media statement the NSW Police Force said while it was yet to see detail of the proposed legislation, ‘any changes that see a reduction in the availability of alcohol will assist police to manage the problems that flow from alcohol abuse, including the levels of violence we have been witnessing’.

‘The misuse of alcohol has been a major issue for NSW Police for many years so the broad package of measures is welcome.’

Local coalition state MPs have defended the package and the Last Drinks at 12 group has described it as ‘encouraging’.

Tweed MP Geoff Provest said they ‘… build on our targeted approach to tackling drug- and alcohol-fuelled violence since we came to government, including the “Three Strikes” regime, increasing police numbers and powers and improving public transport’.

But no rules have been announced to deal with alcohol-related violence in regional areas specifically, which has drawn criticism from opposition north coast spokesperson Walt Secord.

‘Evidence shows that it’s a problem in the Tweed, Byron, Newcastle, Sydney, and Wollongong. So the premier is just thinking about the Sydney media and fixing his immediate problem and not looking at a statewide, whole-of-government solution,’ he told ABC radio this morning.

Ballina MP Don Page said many of the measures did apply to the regions, including the sentencing changes and the earlier closing of bottle shops.

Last Drinks at 12 spokesperson Mick O’Reagan said while 3am closing was already in place in Byron it had not curbed the problem.

‘What I would hope is that communities are able to look at their own situations and have a real say into decisions that affect their own community,’ he told ABC.

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  1. Drugs and/or alcohol?? That shows a serious problem of denial in attitude about the fact that the big problem is ALCOHOL DRUGS, period. Alcohol IS drugs, in fact shown to be in the most dangerous groups of all drugs.
    At least it could be said alcohol or OTHER drugs..even though its purely alcohol drugs that are the largest most serious problem, 10 times more so than all else combined (rehab comment) …its way time our society faces facts to save damage and lives, even though many just don’t care, from the effects of alcohol drugs themselves…start truthful thinking..?

    Its NOT and/or…


  2. There are now more drug users than alcoholics involved in these street incidents, especially using illegal steroids, meth/ice and other things.

    It’s no good allowing any loopholes in the new upgraded laws. We should get rid of using ‘manslaughter’ as a defence when young men go out deliberately tanked and determined to king hit someone that night. This is especially the case when they already have form for assault, and where they boast of being ‘martial arts’ specialists.

    I would hope that the judges apply a sentence more towards the 25 years max than the mere 8 years.

  3. If people are unhappy with conditions in their area, they should send a message to every member of parliament. FairGO runs a votergram service which enables an individual voter to send a message in up to 100 words. Keep it brief so that MPs will read it instead of just deleting it. Say what you want, explain why and ask for a reply. You nominate which parliament you want it to reach eg NSW. Email it to us at [email protected]. Send payment. Your message will then go to each of the 130 State MPs. Cost is $19.80 in total.

    We would dearly love residents of the North Coast to coordinate Residents Roundtables, through which they can perpetually express their views on what they want government to do and join with other Residents Roundtables to see that government does it.

    In democracy, voters reign supreme if they guide their government. Residents Roundtables are the first ever initiative to allow the people of Australia to do this effectively without any party political preferences.


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