Despite all the debate, all the pleas for reform, all the solemn promises since Kelly's death, the senseless violence continues. On December 14, Michael McEwen, 23, was bashed unconscious near Bondi Beach. A few days later, 38-year-old Gregory Griffin lay unconscious in an adjacent hospital bed after being punched in the head outside the Hungry Jack's on Oxford Street as he walked home from work.
We must listen to the police and medical staff who deal with the city's alcohol abuse problem day in and day out. Last Sunday, senior NSW police officer Tony Crandell expressed concern at the random nature of recent street violence. People are brutally attacking others ''for no apparent reason'', he said. In May, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione wrote that 70 per cent of the street offences that his officers dealt with had alcohol as a related factor.
Hospital services are being overwhelmed by alcohol-fuelled incidents.
This month, a survey of 92 emergency departments across Australia showed up to one in three patients attending hospital at 2am on Saturday, December 14, was as a result of alcohol abuse. Doctors have warned that emergency patients are having treatment disrupted and delayed because they are being swamped by alcohol-related cases. This is intolerable.
After the attack on Kelly in Kings Cross, attention focused on making that precinct safer. But the problem stretches well beyond the Cross. Last month, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that one in eight deaths of Australians under 25 are related to alcohol consumption and that two in three young drinkers indulge specifically to get drunk.
A culture of alcohol abuse has become deeply entrenched. Eventually Australia will have to respond to the damage being done by alcohol, just as it once did with tobacco. This will require a determined and co-ordinated response from all levels of government. It's likely to mean more restrictions, higher prices through taxation and far more spending on education.
Perhaps the time has come for restrictions such as those successfully implemented in Newcastle and Kings Cross, particularly those that limit the service of large volumes of strong drinks, to be considered across the state.
In the meantime, more young assault victims and their families will suffer.
Sydney residents grew tired of hearing about drunken violence on our streets long ago. But, for now it seems, too many people see it as someone else's problem.