Senator David Leyonhjelm – Liberal Democratic Party
I am in broad agreement with the committee's interim report. I have only
minor observations to add. I also have one piece of evidence from Hansard—to
which the committee refers in passing—that should be exposed to a wider
I will group these items under three headings – 'advertising',
'evidence', and 'the greater good'.
As discussed in the first interim report—which focussed on theory—the
question of whether advertising has the effects that various parties claim for
and against it fell outside the inquiry's terms of reference.
However, it was raised again at the hearing and in submissions on this
issue. Some of the claims by public health bodies with respect to advertising
were quite controversial, including claims that people are so easily persuaded
by advertising they lose their ability to exercise preferences:
We need to be free from being addicted to tobacco and
alcohol. Our children need to be free from being harassed by alcohol and
tobacco advertising and promotions. We need to be able to walk down the street
free from the fear of being mowed down by a drunk driver or a speeding driver.
We need to be free from restrictions caused by being obese, or from chronic
This was contradicted by Christopher Snowdon of the UK's IEA, who
pointed out that '[t]here is a huge amount of economic evidence showing that
advertising does not increase the size of a given market and is only useful in increasing
market share for a given company'.
The Institute of Public Affairs also pointed out that the evidence base
suggesting advertising influences subsequent behaviour is weak.
Similarly, attempts to correlate media consumption with later behaviour
in other fields—playing violent video games and subsequently committing crimes
of violence, for example—have never been borne out by research.
On page 22 of the committee's interim report, evidence about the
behaviour of the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing and its licencing
police given by Mr Tyson Koh of Keep Sydney Open is noted and footnoted. That
evidence is disturbing. Given Mr Koh's long involvement in the music industry
and extensive knowledge of Sydney's nightlife, I have included here it in its
CHAIR: There are a couple of other points in your submission,
Mr Koh, that I want you to expand upon, if you will. The very bottom one
intrigues me: Reports of unprofessional conduct and intimidation from licensing
police. What are you referring to there?
Mr Koh: I have spoken to a lot of venues that have dealt with
licensing police in Surry Hills and Newtown. What I have been finding is quite
a common tale, where a lot of licensing police will turn up and issue fines to
the order of several thousand dollars for really small infractions which have
no ramifications whatsoever on safety. A lot of venues end up paranoid and
trying to keep the licensing police happy, rather than trying to run their
venues the best they can in the most orderly and safe fashion. There have been
a lot of reports of threats and blackmail from certain licensing police,
particularly in the Surry Hills area. The venues are viewed in an adversarial
frame, rather than realising that these venues are providing a necessary
function in our community by keeping people happy and giving them a place to
socialise. Instead they are treated automatically as criminals.
There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence about licensing
police and also some conduct that, when I first heard about it, sounded a bit
shady. That is why I mentioned in the opening statement that we need to
recognise that these venues are not the enemy. They are here to provide a
valuable function for society and we need to recognise that. The other thing
which I have also noticed from talking to people is that venues which do not
offer any gambling—that is, pokies or a TAB outlet—tend to be treated more
harshly by licensing police.
It is the view of certain licensees it is because they do not
bring in as much revenue for the state government, so they get targeted.
CHAIR: Have you encouraged any of these people you have been
talking to to make formal complaints about their treatment?
Mr Koh: I have, actually. In the Darlinghurst area,
particularly along Oxford Street, a few venues are starting to get together to
form their own dialogue so they can compare the way that they have been
treated. What I have been hearing is basically that they have been intimidated
to the point where they say that, if they do make a complaint, the police will
do stuff like issue a $6,000 fine or raise their risk rating. That is what I am
referring to when I say there has been a little bit of blackmail. Basically
there is a bit of a culture of fear that has been imposed by the licensing
police. A lot of venues are so paranoid about getting these fines and getting
in trouble with the law that they are too scared to confer with each other.
That is something which they are just starting to do now. In one case, there
was video evidence of licensing police issuing a fine which was completely
unjustified. They captured the licensing police high-fiving each other as they
were writing out the fine, and the venue ended up complaining about it. I am
not sure who they complained to, but what they said was, 'Okay, we'll write off
this fine, but we don't want you complaining about this any further.' That is
some of the stuff that I have been hearing about from venues.
The greater good
During the course of the hearing—as well as in submissions—I became
increasingly troubled by appeals for the enactment of legislation on the basis
of 'the greater good' from representatives of public health organisations.
I think it is fair to say this approach represents utilitarianism of the
Utilitarianism—sometimes mistakenly called consequentialism, of which it
is a component—is a serious and important part of the Western liberal political
However, it has long been recognised—including by consequentialists—that
legislation focussing on good outcomes for the majority at the expense of the
minority is morally troubling. It becomes possible, for example, to justify
subjecting 10 per cent of the population to misery if positive gains
to the 90 per cent remaining are greater than the misery inflicted on the 10
By this logic, Sydney's lockouts would be justified simply because there
are more members of the 2011 Residents' Association than there are people—musicians
and hospitality workers—who have lost their jobs as a consequence of the
lockouts. This is not an approach to the development of public policy that has
any place in a liberal democracy.
Historically, some truly repellent behaviours—including slavery and
genocide—have been justified on the basis of 'the greatest good for the
greatest number'. It has a long and dishonourable history and needs to be
interrogated robustly whenever is assayed.
Senator David Leyonhjelm
Liberal Democratic Party
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