The laws of the last drink, not the blockades, reduce alcohol-fueled violence – Politics + society – 2020
The board also imposed a 1:30 “freeze”. This was a unique Australian intervention that allowed customers to continue drinking on the premises until closing, but not to enter other venues.
It was a historic decision; these restrictions had not previously been applied in an entire enclosure. The scale of the intervention and the fact that late trading pubs in nearby Hamilton were not included in the decision created an opportunity to study the type of political experiment that governments often undertake, but rarely learn from.
The result was a one-third reduction in assaults in the 18 months following the restrictions. There was no sign of shifting to the evening before or to Hamilton, where the assault rate continued to rise.
The usual chorus of interests and commentators followed, arguing that the effects would be short-lived. But aggression rates remained lower in Newcastle’s CBD for years later. They are now half of what they were before 2008.
Reduce hours of drinking works; lockouts alone probably don’t
In particular, there was a small improvement, albeit in Hamilton, despite the introduction of a 1 AM weekend lockout in 2010. This result is consistent with other studies that show no benefit for lockouts when used as the sole measure. .
Newcastle’s experience is consistent with reviews from international and other Australian studies in 2009 and 2010, which show that when trading hours increased, so did violence rates.
The studies since these reviews were published – from Western Australia, Norway and the Netherlands – replicate their findings.
‘Freedom of’ versus ‘freedom from’
In February 2014, the O’Farrell government in NSW introduced the 3AM “last-drinks” laws and the 1:30 AM locks in the CBD of Sydney and Kings Cross.
The independent assessments that followed showed sharp reductions in police apprehensions about the emergency department’s statements and presentations about serious alcohol-related injuries.
Requesting the premises simply to stop selling alcohol rather than quitting was a step up from the Newcastle experiment. If customers wish to eat, listen to music or watch a striptease, it should not be up to the government to decide whether facilities are allowed to provide these services.
The goal of government regulation must surely be to strike a balance between what the philosopher Isaiah Berlin called “freedom of” versus “freedom” – in this case, the individual right to drink in public in the early hours against public law to security. If companies stay open when they can no longer sell alcohol, they should live up to them.