Sydney lockout laws
When implementing policy measures directed at reducing harmful outcomes
across a population, government is also required to demonstrate proportionality
and to ensure that particular groups are not impacted in unintended negative ways
and the measures do not inadvertently produce adverse outcomes.
The stated objectives of Sydney's lockout laws are to reduce
alcohol-related violence and improve community safety. This chapter considers
the effectiveness of the lockout measures in achieving these aims as well as
exploring evidence of unintended consequences.
Some submitters held the view that government regulation should seek to
lower overall alcohol consumption on the basis that any level of alcohol use increases
the risk of ill-health and injury. They argued that any restrictions on
personal choice to consume alcohol resulting from a population-wide approach are
acceptable on the grounds that, overall, this policy achieves a greater good.
Others argued in favour of regulatory measures that are specifically
targeted at individuals and groups who over‑consume alcohol or engage in violent
or high-risk behaviours. These submitters argued that lockout laws and related regulations,
which affect the population as a whole, adversely affect the majority of
Australians who drink responsibly, make their own assessment of the involved
risks, and manage those risks appropriately.
The core question for the committee was whether the loss of personal choice
vis-à-vis Sydney’s lockout laws, as a population-wide measure, is justified on
the grounds of improved overall outcomes. As part of its review, the committee
considered evidence claiming there has been inadvertent and disproportionate impacts
on particular community groups, the local business community, and the music
More broadly, the committee considered whether the arguments favouring
lockout laws were justifiable when considered against their direct impacts,
given the extent to which lockout laws involve policing non-criminal behaviour
and constraining personal choice.
This chapter considers the two approaches to regulating alcohol outlined
above more broadly before focusing on Sydney’s lockout laws.
Approaches to regulating alcohol products
Population-wide measures aimed at
reducing alcohol consumption
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) argued that the
overall level of alcohol consumption in Australia should be reduced, as a means
of reducing alcohol-related harms across the community. Mr Michael Thorn, FARE
Chief Executive, told the committee that population-wide approaches are more
effective than targeted interventions:
One of the things we need to understand about alcohol-related
harms is that, unlike smoking, third-party harms are probably greater than they
are to the drinker: the domestic violence, the child neglect, the impact on
employers' productivity—the whole gamut of harm that we are dealing with. It is
also perverse. We get something which we call the 'prevention paradox'. If you
target the entire population, you reduce total harm. If you just target heavy
drinkers, you will only reduce harm among them, and that is less than by
targeting the entire population.
One of the explanations for that is the nature of drinking. I
will try to explain this: it is the sort of episodes of drinking by the entire
population that add up to a totality of harm that exceeds the harms of that
heavy drinking cohort, which, in this country, is around about 20 per cent of
the population...The group of middle-class women who go out to have lunch one
day, and one of them ends up in a car accident, or there is a domestic dispute
that night when she gets home—those sorts of things. The sum total of that—and
there is research evidence to support my claim here—shows that having these
population-wide measures, such as introducing a minimum unit price or
restricting availability, actually reduces the totality of harms more than just
by targeting the harmful drinkers.
Some measures viewed as 'population-wide' and thus aimed at reducing
overall consumption were advocated in various submissions to the inquiry,
particularly from public health organisations and groups representing various
medical professionals. The measures argued for by some or all of these groups
increasing or changing the structure of alcohol taxes (in
particular, introducing a volumetric tax on all alcohol products to remove
existing discrepancies between the taxation of wine products and other
introducing further restrictions on when and how alcohol products
can be advertised or promoted (such as restricting advertising and sponsorship
of alcohol products in relation to sporting and cultural events);
restricting the physical availability of alcohol products,
including when and where they can be sold (this issue is discussed further in
relation to lockout laws); and
mandating that health information labels be placed on alcohol
Measures designed to target
Some submissions argued that population‑wide measures aimed at
reducing alcohol consumption (such as those mentioned above) are misguided, and
that measures should be specifically targeted at heavy drinkers, anti-social
behaviour and at-risk groups. For example, the Brewers Association of Australia
and New Zealand argued that alcohol policies that seek to reduce total alcohol
consumption in Australia won’t reduce misuse but will punish the majority of
consumers who already drink responsibly and in moderation. The association
In selecting alcohol policies, government must decide how to
encourage some behaviour and discourage others. We believe this is best
addressed through targeted interventions.
Interventions cannot be implemented without knowing the
drinking behaviour and motivations of the at-risk group in some detail.
Selecting interventions that will be effective for particular populations or
environments requires getting beneath the data on overall consumption across
the population and assessing drinking patterns of those concerned.
Targeted intervention, including a combination of education,
laws to reinforce the social norm of responsible and moderate consumption, and
strong enforcement of these laws, is far more effective in resolving alcohol
misuse without negatively impacting the majority who already consume alcohol
responsibly and in moderation and enjoy a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
Carlton & United Breweries submitted that targeted interventions
include regulatory responses such as drink driving laws, sentences for violent
offenders, on-the-spot fines for drunken or violent behaviour, venue bans for
individual patrons, and 'one-punch' assault laws.
The Winemakers' Federation of Australia gave two other examples of
One example that is gaining acceptance as an effective and
cost-efficient targeted intervention is 'brief interventions' by health/medical
professionals. Brief interventions, that is, screening and interviewing of
patients by primary health care providers, has been shown to be effective in
Australia and internationally, both in terms of cost and in decreasing risky
alcohol consumption, including in 'at risk' groups.
School-based preventative intervention programs with
secondary students have also been studied and shown to be effective in
Australia and internationally in terms of reducing the frequency of alcohol use
and quantity of alcohol use by adolescents. Programs targeting this age-group
offer the potential to minimise alcohol misuse use by the next generation.
Another targeted measure highlighted by the operators of Kings Cross
licenced venues was that of photo identification or ID scanning. ID scanning was
first introduced in five entertainment venues in Newcastle in July 2012 and
later in Kings Cross in June 2014 under the Liquor Act 2007 (NSW).
The Newcastle Entertainment Precinct ID Scanning Policy states:
By allowing us to scan your ID you agree to the following:
- That we can share your information with other venues
should you be banned from this venue.
- That we can link your information with other venues
should you be banned from this venue.
- That we can make this information available to police and
local authorities in the event of an incident.
Mr Anthony Prior, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Keystone Group
explained the Kings Cross ID scanning initiative:
In a coordinated approach, those licensed venues that adopted
scanning regulations voluntarily saw some real success. We already proposed
that along the way: to take personal responsibility in places. If someone is
prepared to scan their ID as they enter a venue, have their identification
recorded and then performs an act of misconduct, it is very easy to potentially
track them down and hold them to account for that behaviour.
On 13 June 2014, ID scanners were introduced in 35 licenced venues in
Under the initiative, all patrons were required to produce photo ID for
scanning and could be refused entry if they were unable or unwilling to comply.
According to evidence before the committee, the system encouraged a change of
behaviour to the extent that people who had been banned from the precinct stopped
trying to enter it because they knew that they could be tracked.
Under the Liquor Act 2007 (NSW), the Office of Liquor, Gaming and
Racing (OLGR) was required to conduct a review of the initiative twelve months
after its introduction. The review is expected to inform the separate statutory
review of the lockout and last drink legislation that commenced in February
Sydney lockout laws
The question before the committee was to ascertain how effective the
population-wide measures contained in Sydney’s lockout laws have been in
achieving their stated objectives. The committee also had to consider evidence
regarding the consequences of the laws for the local business community and
Sydney’s music industry. The committee gave particular attention to evidence
regarding the disproportionate and unintended impacts of the laws.
The committee considered evidence regarding the impact of the lockout
laws in relation to the:
rate of violence and violent assault in the Kings Cross precinct;
impact on local businesses specifically as well as on Kings Cross
as Sydney’s night-time entertainment precinct more broadly;
impact on the local residential population; and any
unintended consequences, including displacement of anti-social
Impact on violence in Kings Cross and other areas of central Sydney
The committee heard evidence from various stakeholders about incidences
of assault in Kings Cross.
Research from the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and
Research (BOCSAR) published in April 2015 found that between January 2014 (at the
introduction of the lockout liquor reforms) and September 2014, there was a 32 per cent
decrease in assault rates in Kings Cross, and a 26 per cent decrease in assault
rates in the rest of the Sydney CBD entertainment precinct. Over the same
period, there was a nine per cent decline in rates of assault across the rest
Dr Donald Weatherburn, BOCSAR Director, informed the committee that this
dramatic drop in assault rates in 2014 was consistent with (and followed on
from) a slower, yet continuous, downward trend in the non-domestic assault rate
across NSW since 2008.
He further noted that from about 2008, there was a general reduction in youth alcohol
consumption across the country, which may have contributed to the decline in
The findings of a forthcoming BOSCAR report focused on non-domestic
violent assaults recorded by police from January 2009 to June 2015 (including
16 months post the lockout intervention) confirm this trend:
The report finds statistically significant reductions in the
number of non-domestic assaults in the Kings Cross Precinct (down 45.1%) and
Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct (down 20.3%). Most areas adjacent to the
Kings Cross or Sydney CBD entertainment precincts or within easy reach of these
precincts show no increase in assault.
Cause of the reduction in violence
Several submitters noted that pedestrian traffic had declined by up to
80 per cent in Kings Cross
since the introduction of the lockouts, and questioned whether the reduction in
assault could be simply due to the fact that patronage was down.
In its April 2015 report, BOSCAR noted that:
The January 2014 reforms appear to have reduced the incidence
of assault in the Kings Cross and CBD Entertainment Precincts. The extent to
which this is due to a change in alcohol consumption or a change in the number
of people visiting the Kings Cross and Sydney Entertainment Precincts remains
When questioned at the committee's public hearing on whether the rate of
violent assaults (that is, the number of incidents relative to the number of
people present in the area) may have remained the same or increased, Dr Weatherburn
That is difficult to say. I would really need continuous data
on the foot traffic. Actually, what would be really good is changes in alcohol
consumption that I could tie to the assaults. I have no idea whether or not the
reduction in foot traffic is bigger or smaller than the reduction in violence,
but that is a big research project of its own. All I can say is that it is not
clear to us with the data available to us at this stage whether the reduction is
because there has been a reduction in the number of people coming to Kings
Cross or because those who are coming are drinking less or both.
Dr Weatherburn informed the committee that BOCSAR was in the process of
completing an extended report analysing assault data to see whether the changes
observed to September 2014 were sustained over a longer time period.
Dr Weatherburn indicated that the report would specifically consider whether
assault changes by time of day (to determine whether there is a significant
fall in the incidence of assault at times when licensed premises would
previously have continued to serve alcohol).
This report is expected to be published in mid-2016.
Possible 'displacement' of antisocial behaviour into other areas of Sydney
The argument was put to the committee that the lockout laws are causing
patrons to move to adjacent areas of the city unaffected by these laws, thereby
shifting the problem of antisocial behaviour from one area to another rather
than solving it. The Kings Cross Licensing Accord Association submitted:
Kings Cross has historically been a late night entertainment
precinct destination with patrons arriving into the area later than most other
entertainment precincts. The lock-out provision has resulted in displacement to
other precincts that do not have any of the restrictions associated with Kings
Cross and the CBD. Media has widely reported increased visitation to
surrounding suburbs, especially Pyrmont, Double Bay, Bondi Junction, Newtown,
Chippendale, Redfern and Glebe. We also note that alcohol related assaults have
increased in numerous suburbs.
Ms Stephanie McCarthy, a Sydney musician who was the victim of a violent
assault in a Newtown venue in June 2015, told the committee that there has been
a significant increase in antisocial behaviour in Newtown since the
introduction of the CBD lockout laws:
From what people have told me since I was assaulted, I could
tell you dozens and dozens of stories about members of the LGBTI community,
various subcultures in Newtown and, in particular, women being harassed, being
basically sexually abused, on a regular basis on the street, and this is by
people who would never have set foot in Newtown before these laws were
Fewer and fewer locals are going out in the Newtown area. The
crowds are still there but they are not locals—they are not Newtown people or
Inner West people. They are not there to see the bands, the art shows or
the spoken-word shows. They are there to drink and fight, pretty much. There is
no cultural contribution to the area at all from these people coming in. I have
had police officers in Newtown station say the same thing to me. The numbers
are still there on Friday and Saturday nights in Newtown, but it is a totally
different breed of punter going into the pubs. They are young, violent men and
there are packs of them looking for trouble.
The National LGBTI Health Alliance, representing lesbian, gay, bisexual,
trans and intersex (LGBTI) people, echoed these concerns and argued that
lockout laws should be applied consistently across a region rather than
selectively, to reduce any corresponding increase in alcohol-related crime in
However, BOCSAR's report examining assault rates to September 2014 did
not find any significant displacement of assault into surrounding areas. What
it did find was a small but statistically insignificant decrease in assault in
most surrounding suburbs that would be considered 'displacement' areas from
Kings Cross and the CBD; and a small increase in assault in the Star City
Dr Weatherburn commented:
[In terms of measuring displacement], we are looking for an
increase in assault in an area adjacent to one that has got a decrease. We are
looking for evidence—and it is only indirect—that people have stopped going to
one location and gone to another. In the case of the casino, it was an obvious
site of displacement because it is not very far to go to if you cannot get a
drink in King’s Cross. And that did show some sign of an increase.
Although there is considerable talk about Newtown becoming
more violent, we have not seen any convincing evidence of that yet. It may be
that the concern people are showing is in relation to intimidation or lower
level offences that do not quite constitute assaults. Bearing in mind that the
number of assaults does not stand still—it jumps around quite a bit—people can
react to what amounts to random variation in the number of assaults. So when we
run the test to see if there is any difference, the test is designed to tell us
whether the variation could have come about by chance or whether it is probably
attributed to chance. At the moment, it is well within the bounds of chance.
Dr Weatherburn acknowledged that while the data examined by BOCSAR
(to September 2014) had not shown an increase in Newtown, it was unclear
whether this was still the case. He noted that the issue would be examined in the
forthcoming BOSCAR report.
Furthermore, Dr Weatherburn acknowledged the majority of assault
incidents are not reported to the police, and that this is particularly the
case in relation to the LGBTI community. According to the National LGBTI Health
Alliance, violence against LGBTI populations is vastly underreported,
particularly in situations that involve alcohol use.
However, Dr Weatherburn did highlight that there had been displacement
to the area around Star City Casino, which is outside of the lockout precinct
in Pyrmont. Dr Weatherburn pointed out this occurred because it was not far to
travel for patrons who couldn't purchase alcohol in Kings Cross.
Media reports have indicated that the Star City Casino is busiest between the
hours of 1.30 am, when the lockout laws apply, and 3 am, when licenced premises
within the lockout precinct lock their doors and stop serving drinks.
Recent statistics reveal that, while the rate of non-domestic (alcohol-related)
assaults dropped by 3.7 per cent for NSW as a whole and by 18.2 per cent in
Darlinghurst per year over a two year period (October 2013 to September 2015),
the rate of such assaults in Pyrmont increased by 22.9 per cent.
Recent media reports and commentary on this issue (notably the 'viral'
article by Freelancer CEO Matt Barrie)
have made a great deal of the exemption from the lockouts zone enjoyed by Star
Social isolation of marginalised groups
The National LGBTI Health Alliance raised concerns regarding the lockout
laws from the perspective of the LGBTI community. It made the point that while
alcohol-related violence had a significant impact on the social life of LGBTI
people and their enjoyment of public spaces, some of its members expressed
concerns that, by selectively targeting certain locations, the lockout laws had
inhibited personal choice and increased social isolation.
The National LGBTI Health Alliance noted that the lockout laws apply to
neighbourhoods where there are visible numbers of people from populations that
have been subjected to multiple forms of marginalisation, including people who
may be and/or who are perceived to be sex workers, Aboriginal and/or Torres
Strait Islander people, and/or LGBTI people. It raised concerns that many
within the LGBTI community had raised concerns that lockout laws contribute
to a 'broader climate of discriminatory policies' in which:
...drag queens, people perceived to be Aboriginal and/or Torres
Strait Islander individuals, and/or other populations that have experienced
historical oppression are often harassed, 'moved on', or otherwise prevented
from enjoying equitable access to public spaces. Some respondents also told us
that discriminatory policing has had the effect of reducing cultural and ethnic
diversity at LGBTI events that occur at venues that serve alcohol.
Raising concerns about the unintended yet negative impact of the lockout
laws on an already vulnerable community, the LGBTI Health Alliance highlighted
the importance of an appropriate police response and the lack of adequate
security training that would otherwise support LGBTI people targeted for violence.
It recommended that LGBTI-specific security training and safety policies be
added to existing requirements for alcohol-related venue licensing. The
alliance further argued for police to receive ongoing mandatory training to
respond appropriately to LGBTI people targeted for violence and to prevent
discriminatory public profiling.
End of a night-time entertainment precinct?
A number of local business operators who gave evidence to the committee
suggested that when the lockout laws were introduced, they amounted to a
blanket set of rules imposed on all operators as part of a 'one size fits all'
They argued that this blanket approach, which simply locked people out, failed
to address the underlying problem of managing a small number of anti-social people
while inadvertently transforming Kings Cross from a vibrant night-time precinct
into a residential area.
Mr Prior and other business owners stated that the lockout laws had
resulted in a decline in patronage at night-time venues in Kings Cross, and a
subsequent downturn in trade for local businesses. The committee heard that 12
licensed venues and 35 non‑licensed businesses had closed since the
introduction of the regulations, with landlords 'reporting the harshest
business conditions in 50 years'.
Reports suggest that patronage in the Kings Cross precinct declined by 85 per
cent, with businesses stating they experienced a downturn in trade of between
25 and 70 per cent since the introduction of the lockout laws. At the same
time, many licenced premises began to shed staff, amounting to about 500 people.
In addition, according to a survey of licenced premises undertaken by the Kings
Cross Licencing Accord Association:
The venues have also had to cut back or reduce operational
hours for entertainment, security staff and there is a roll on effect to
Representatives from licensed venues suggested to the committee that the
1.30 am lockouts resulted in people choosing not to go to Kings Cross at all,
rather than simply leave the Kings Cross precinct earlier in the night. They
argued that Kings Cross had lost its role as a truly late-night operating area
where people can spend a late night safely.
Mr Douglas Grand, Chief Executive Officer of the Kings Cross Licencing Accord Association
Kings Cross and Oxford Street were the two historical late‑night
zones of Sydney, and they relied on the late-night economy where
people—especially the young ones—do not come out until a later time. Kings
Cross would not normally get busy on Friday and Saturday nights until 11 pm and
it would go right through until 5 am or 6 am. The 1.30 am lockout and the
first round of measures reduced the trading hours to 4 am in Kings Cross. What
it meant was that some of the people who were coming in from the suburbs did
not find it as beneficial to get there before 1.30 am and to then leave by 3 am
because they are paying high transport costs—they might be paying $150 for a
cab ride. So they have tended to stay in areas where there are no restrictions.
Similarly, Mr Andrew Lazarus, Director of Soho Bar noted that:
When people stop coming then other people do not want to come
because the vibe is not there for them...I do not think the intention was ever to
drive 85 per cent of total business away from the Cross, but once it gets to 30
per cent it keeps dropping and dropping, and the snowball effect is that people
have stopped coming altogether.
According to evidence from the Kings Cross Licencing Accord Association,
what was a crowd of 22,000 people in Kings Cross on Friday and Saturday nights
has now declined to a crowd of 5,000 to 6,000.
Witnesses to the committee described a number of other ways in which
changes to their business practices were effectively forced upon them as a
consequence of the lockout laws. In this regard, Mr Anthony Prior, CEO of The
Keystone Group, noted that the regulations had the effect of restricting the
clientele of its hotel by virtue of how the hotel was required to trade:
business model is now changed to one of heavy reliance on gaming, heavy
reliance on food—which is not a problem—but looking at more limited avenues to
generate revenue than we had in the past. I do not think we are necessarily
catering to the equivalent audience that we used to, so I think we have
restricted who can come to the business now by virtue of how we trade.
The committee was also informed of the impact on the live music and
cultural scene in Sydney. Mr Tyson Koh, Campaign Manager for Keep Sydney Open,
an advocacy group for the advancement of music, cultural and social spaces in
Sydney, explained that there was a false link between live music venues and
violence. He continued:
The evidence does show that venues that offer more of a
cultural focus are actually safer than their counterparts that might just have
cheap jugs of beer, gambling and TAB outlets and all that kind of stuff.
Mr Koh contended that promoting smaller performance venues has a
positive effect on patron safety, and that this has been curtailed under the
When small bars were allowed to open, in 2008, we saw an
increase in the number of venue spaces that were available for musicians to
perform at. Incidentally, between 2008 and 2013, just before the lockout, there
was a dramatic drop in the number of alcohol fuelled assaults, even within
Kings Cross. That goes to what I was saying earlier: having more venues
disperses crowds and makes entertainment precincts safer. But, since the
lockout, a lot of these smaller venues have shut down. Unfortunately, it is the
big beer barns with pokies that remain. They have 50- to 60-year-old guys
boozing it up at midday on Wednesday and putting money into the pokies. So
their business model is intact. Meanwhile, smaller venues that rely on
late-night trade have shut down. Therefore, the music scene in the city is less
The Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) reported a 40 per
cent drop in live music revenue in Sydney's lockout zone since the laws were
introduced. APRA further noted that figures revealed a 19 per cent drop in
patrons at nightclubs in affected areas.
The committee also received evidence which directly contrasted with that
of local licence holders, and some of the evidence relating to the negative
impact of the lockout laws on local businesses was contested by other
witnesses. Mr Thorn from FARE argued that at least four of the closed 12
licenced outlets had in fact closed prior to the introduction of the lockout
Furthermore, in relation to evidence regarding reduced business
activity, Mr Paul Klarenaar, Director of the Australian Health Promotion
Association (AHPA) stated:
[P]olice data from the integrated ID scanning [introduced in
June 2014] suggests that the claims of reduced business activity have been
overstated... The capacity within venues in Kings Cross is about 9,000, and the
police ID scanning data suggests that that capacity is still basically
being met, so the number of people inside venues is not particularly changing.
In fact, the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) provided
evidence that the average number of ID scans on Saturday nights in
Kings Cross venues between June 2014 (four months after the introduction
of the lockout laws) and September 2015 was 9,049 (or 7,576 if only counting
the number of unique ID scans).
The performance of OLGR and its licensing police was questioned at the
committee's public hearing by Mr Koh of Keep Sydney Open, who cited anecdotal
concerns from licence holders about instances of unprofessional conduct and
intimidation by licensing police.
Some stakeholders also suggested that while there has been a decline in
trade and closure of some businesses for licensed venues in Kings Cross, other
businesses have opened since the introduction of the lockout laws. The 2011
Residents' Association, a group representing residents of suburbs in the 2011
submitted that, since the introduction of the lockout provisions, new daytime
trading businesses were opening in Kings Cross, creating 'a better balance
among the night time and day time economies – not one at the expense of the
It was claimed that real estate and specifically apartment prices in
Potts Point increased by 25 per cent in the first year after the laws were
introduced. According to local real estate agents, a mixture of investors and
young professionals had 'flocked' into the Kings Cross area. In sharp contrast,
commercial property values in the Kings Cross area declined substantially with
rents down as much as 50 per cent on commercial properties.
During the committee’s hearing, Mr Lazarus noted that Kings Cross was undergoing
a transformation from an entertainment precinct to a residential area. He noted
that some property which could be converted into residential housing had
increased in value by more than 50 per cent.
Ms McCarthy observed that the only people who were winning from the
lockout laws were the property developers. She suggested that:
Shortly, Kings Cross is going to be blocks of apartments with
cafes. This is a world renowned entertainment precinct that has been going for
60 or 70 years, and it has been destroyed in two years. The same thing is
happening to Newtown. So, where do the people go from there? Is Marrickville
next? Is Leichhardt next? Pretty soon there is going to be no live music scene
in Sydney and there is going to be no art scene in Sydney. And for what? It
does not solve the drinking problem.
Impact on local residents
There are some 19,000 residents in Kings Cross.
The committee heard evidence from the 2011 Residents’ Association about how the
lockout laws and other restrictions placed on licensees in the Kings Cross area
had affected locals living in the area.
The Residents' Association argued that a change in zoning regulations in
2007 led to an 'explosion' in the number of licensed venues selling alcohol in
the early hours of the morning between 2007 and 2013, with an associated
increase in antisocial behaviour.
Ms Helen Crossing, Convenor of the Residents' Association stated:
This was all part of a plan promoted and supported by local
government to create what was called ‘a night-time economy’. There was a
policy to cluster nightclubs and other similar venues, thereby [creating] an
entertainment precinct in the middle of what was, at the time, the most densely
populated residential area in Australia. People from outside the area were
encouraged to come and party at a free for all, and they did. Some 20,000
people every hour were clocked in the vicinity of Bayswater Road, Kellett
Street, Darlinghurst Road and Victoria Street. It was mayhem.
While not intended, the lockout laws led to a reduction in foot traffic
to the precinct that residents welcomed. For the residents, the lockout laws
inadvertently addressed their concerns regarding overcrowding and noise. Ms
Crossing described the scene prior to the lockout laws:
The noise from early evening through to the early hours of
the morning was horrendous. Stress and distress were feelings that residents
experienced as a consequence of the fights and violence and an electrical level
of tension from highly inebriated people looking for an argument or a fight.
There was nonstop screaming, yelling and arguing...It took three or more
struggling police to quell brutal fights. We know that at St Vincent’s
[Hospital] they were under stress to deal with the victims and were also
personally assaulted while trying to assist.
According to the Residents' Association, the introduction of the lockout
laws in February 2014 caused an 'instant and dramatic change' in the area:
It released the stranglehold that pubs and clubs had on the
area which was to its detriment. The legislation essentially restored life and
amenity for residents, similar to what they enjoyed in the early 2000s, but
different because there have been changes in society including changes to our
Ms Crossing observed that under the current regime, a lot of small bars
and restaurants have opened, with different entertainment which has attracted
different people, fewer of whom are drunk.
She also claimed strong support from residents in the area for the lockout laws
to be continued:
There needs to be regulations to preserve the interests of
residents. You cannot have interests for one and not the other. We now live in
a safe environment where we can enjoy the amenity of the suburb we chose to
live in; 19,000 people deserve to have their rights respected. They are now
enjoying the changes. There is more diversity in the businesses that are
opening. We see health food shops on the strip now, an antique in Orwell
street, more small bars and restaurants, and new cafes. People are doing well,
and there are now new developments and more residential apartments. Check out
our neighbourhood now, it is a place where people want to come and live. It has
diversity. People love that, and what we most love is that we can live here now
Ms Crossing's observations are consistent with comments made by
Mr Lazarus at the hearing:
have owned my building for 20 years come January and it was built in 1939. It
has traded continuously ever since but it got to the point where it was no
longer economically viable to continue trading so I took the decision to shut
it and look at alternative uses for the building. More recently, because there
has been so much publicity about Kings Cross changing from an entertainment
precinct to a residential area, a lot of developers have been coming into the
market with the view that it is never going to go back to being an
entertainment precinct. I have been approached consistently for the last couple
of months by property developers to buy the site. They take the view that it is
going to be residential in the future.
Mr Grand of the Accord Association argued that the 2011 Residents'
Association has long advocated for the protection of their residential amenity,
even at the expense of live music and late night entertainment:
2011 Residents' Association and DRAG, the Darlinghurst Resident Action Group,
have basically been espousing for the closure of premises for the last decade
that I know of. I attend [Central Sydney Planning Committee] meetings at the
police station on a quarterly basis. It was made very clear at some of those
meetings that they wanted midnight closing then. We are talking about a decade
ago. So it does not surprise me. A lot of these are older residents. Again,
they would prefer more of a residential zone than an entertainment zone. So it
is that clash of culture between those two.
Effect of lockout provisions versus other licensing conditions
The Kings Cross Licensing Accord Association questioned whether the
introduction of the lockout provisions in February 2014 was justified, when
there had already been a downward trend in alcohol-related assaults prior to
this point and the effectiveness of measures already in place had not been
The major issue for Kings Cross licensed premises with regard
to the lockout condition imposed in February 2014 was the fact that conditions
already imposed under the [Kings Cross Plan of Management] were not given the
opportunity to be properly reviewed for their effectiveness on an evidence
basis. In fact NSW BOCSAR Statistics showed alcohol related assaults in the
precinct had reduced by 37 [per cent] between the period 2007 and 2012 and a
further 21 [per cent] after the implementation of the [Plan of Management]
between December 2012 and December 2013.
The Accord Association also noted that the lockouts were implemented in February
2014 despite the fact that ID scanners were yet to be introduced in all venues,
which would complete the Kings Cross Plan of Management conditions.
It argued that the reduction in incidence of assaults in the area could have
been achieved without recourse to the imposition of lockouts. Accord
Association CEO, Mr Douglas Grand commented:
If you look at the Kings Cross Plan of Management stage 1,
which reduced the trading hours from some premises...the 6 am closures or the
24-hour venues then closed at 4 am, and we got big reductions immediately.
Obviously the St Vincent's [Hospital] data was starting to drop from that
point. There are a number of things that we believe have worked. If you add the
ID scanners to the cease‑service, we believe they are the most effective
measures. You did not need the lockout.
The NSW Government had released the Kings Cross Plan of Management in
September 2012 to provide 'a comprehensive set of measures to reduce
alcohol-related violence and improve the safety and amenity of Kings Cross'.
The plan provides a range of measures which apply to licensed premises
depending on the 'licence type, trading conditions, and the history or risk of
violence on or around the premises'. 
Mr Grand further contended that it will never be possible to eradicate
night‑time assaults around venues entirely:
[Even under the lockout laws], you still do not get rid of
that small percentage that is going to cause you that violent problem. From
that, if you look at the Kings Cross Plan of Management [introduced in 2012],
which we believe was working without the lockouts, on licensed premises the
reduction in the first year was 21 per cent, which is a big lump. It went from
142 in the second year of the plan of management down to 103, another 27 ½
per cent. Then, with the introduction of the ID scanners, it has dropped 19 per
cent. But, when you look at it in actual raw numbers, you are talking about a
drop from 103 down to 83. You are still always going to have that percentage of
people that are going to cause a problem, whatever you do.
Business owners also highlighted the fact that the two one-punch
assaults that were the primary catalysts for the increased regulation on
license holders in Kings Cross both involved assaulters with a pre-existing
history of violent conduct, and both occurred relatively early in the night (at
around 10 pm and 9 pm respectively) at a time that would have been unaffected
by lockout laws.
The issue of licensing restrictions currently in place in Kings Cross
and the broader Sydney CBD is divisive, with strong views expressed in favour
of, and in opposition to, these regulations from various affected stakeholders.
The committee acknowledges that there is an inherent tension between
attempting to create an environment which provides reasonable community safety
and public amenity, without unduly restricting the freedom of individuals to
enjoy late-night entertainment areas. It is regrettable that the actions of a
small number of violent individuals have resulted in regulations that affect all
patrons of the precinct.
The committee welcomes the first set of data published by BOCSAR indicating
a significant reduction in the number of violent assaults in Kings Cross and
the Sydney CBD in the period February 2014 to September 2014. It is unclear,
however, whether this reduction in the number of assaults can be attributed to
lower alcohol consumption in licensed venues, or whether it is due to the
decline in patronage to the area since the introduction of the lockouts.
Nor is it yet clear whether the lockouts have resulted in a displacement
of violence and antisocial behaviour to other parts of inner Sydney. While
anecdotal evidence received by the committee indicates concerning changes along
these lines in Newtown, the statistical data on assaults and hospitalisations
is not yet of sufficient clarity to support or negate such claims. What is
clear, however, is that there has been an increase in alcohol-related violence
in Pyrmont in the vicinity of the Star City Casino.
The committee looks forward to the publication of BOCSAR's next round of
research data on the impact of the lockout laws, which will paint a much
clearer picture of the impact of the laws through 2015, including any
Given the negative impact of the lockout laws on vulnerable groups, local
businesses and the music industry, it is imperative that the upcoming statutory
review of the measures introduced in February 2014 be conducted swiftly
and thoroughly, without any predetermined notions as to the preferred outcome.
All options, including removing the 1.30 am lockout component of the laws,
should be considered as a matter of urgency.
The committee is concerned at what appears to be the normalisation of restrictive
legal measures directed at entire populations, rather than at the individuals
who break the law.
The committee believes claims about reducing alcohol-related health
harms must be distinguished from claims about reducing alcohol fuelled
violence. If an individual harms his or her health by consuming too much
alcohol, that is a private matter and not a matter for the state. By contrast,
if individuals assault others and some or all of the violence can be attributed
to the consumption of alcohol, then the state has a legitimate interest.
The committee encourages all relevant parties to cooperate to ensure the
vibrancy of the cultural and entertainment scene in the Kings Cross and Sydney
CBD area is maintained and strengthened, including through the continued
existence of late‑trading venues, as is befitting and necessary for a
city of Sydney's international stature.
Senator Chris Ketter
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