News & Insight

Public fears political pub culture is restricting curbs on alcohol related violence

The O'Farrell government's reluctance to consider pub lockouts and earlier closing times to drive down alcohol-fuelled violence has inevitably led to the charge it is in the pocket of the hotel industry.

And it's easy to understand why, given the close ties between politics and pubs in this state.

For starters, the chief executive of the NSW branch of the Australian Hotels Association, Paul Nicolaou, is a former Liberal candidate who for many years ran the state party's fund-raising arm, the Millennium Forum.

He also happens to be close to the minister responsible for liquor licensing matters in NSW, George Souris.

Then there is the party powerbroker Michael Photios, who runs the dominant left faction of the NSW Liberals.

To capitalise on the election of a Coalition government he established a political lobbying firm, Premier State. The AHA is a key client.

Now factor in the hundreds of thousands of dollars the AHA donated to the NSW Liberal Party shortly before the 2011 election, and a damning picture begins to emerge.

So it's little wonder that accusations fly when Souris and Barry O'Farrell rule out the measures being called for by the police union, senior doctors and emergency services workers: 1am lockouts and 3am closing times for pubs.

On Monday the Kings Cross inspector and vice-president of the NSW Police Association, Pat Gooley, implied it was because the O'Farrell government was beholden to the hotel industry.

In reality, the government has implemented some significant measures to date - most of which the industry has fought hard against.

Licensees across NSW must now operate under a ''three strikes'' regime which threatens loss of licence for repeated serious breaches of liquor laws.

In Kings Cross, there are new drink restrictions, a ban on the use of glass after midnight and requirements for responsible service of alcohol marshals. Early this year a system of ID scanners should be introduced.

But all of this is being lost on the public as it is confronted with yet another spate of tragedies involving violence and alcohol. They want more to be done.

Yet the government has point blank refused to commit to a trial of the measure experts say will have the greatest impact - lockouts and earlier closing times - even if only in the violence hotspots of Kings Cross and central Sydney.

Central to the government's argument is that a 1am lockout would not have prevented the death of 18-year-old Thomas Kelly, who was hit about 10pm in Kings Cross in July 2012.

But the upswell of outrage is not solely about so-called ''king-hits'' or ''coward punches'' fuelled by alcohol.

It is an outpouring of frustration at the state of Kings Cross and central Sydney any time after dark each weekend.

As long as the government continues to rule out a trial of lockouts, coupled with a serious analysis of its effect, its credibility is likely to remain shot on the issue.

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Published on by TKYF.