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By Joseph Correy

This week while Sydney celebrated 3 pubs being granted exemptions to the Lock Out Laws, our Northern neighbours continued to get on the grog all night long.

Queenslanders savoured their drinks when the QLD Government scrapped a 1am lockout to commence on 1 February 2017. In NSW, Sydneysiders remain locked out of the city after 1.30am.

In truth, it is hard to compare the two states because whilst Sydney pubs rolled over to the nanny state, Brisbane publicans raised the middle finger. Since 1 July 2016, venues had been prevented from selling alcohol after 3am but Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’ath told the ABC the laws were ignored and venues traded anyway using exemption permits.

The exemption permits were designed to be used for special events such as New Year’s Eve. An interim six-month report found clubs in the Fortitude Valley precinct used the permits on alternate weekends. The report found there had not been a weekend since 1 July – when drink restrictions first came in – that revellers had not been able to buy ­­­a drink after 3am in Fortitude Valley.

Mrs D’Ath said “[The permits] have been used by some venues to ensure they had continuous trade … to the point that they were openly advertising that they were continuing to trade until 5:00am and thumbing their nose at these laws“.

So what was the outcome of the 3am prohibition of alcohol in Queensland introduced last year? The Queensland laws resulted in no noticeable drop in assaults or hospital presentations because of the rules, and there has not been a single weekend night where all venues in the Fortitude Valley have ceased the service of alcohol at 3:00am.

In NSW, the Lock Out Laws resulted in a very different picture. Data from the NSW Government’s Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) showed non-domestic related assaults in Kings Cross have fallen 45 per cent since the lockouts came into force and 20 per cent in the rest of the CBD, which is also covered by the laws.

However, anti-lockout campaigners aren’t impressed by the numbers being bandied round. Tyson Koh, founder of the Keep Sydney Open campaign, told news.com.au that at least 20 venues had closed-down since the law reforms came into force.

Our streets weren’t carnage, it was manageable, but instead of providing adequate services to manage night-life (the government) whacked a curfew on the city instead and that was really disappointing,” he said.

Critics such as Mr Koh do not dispute a reduction in assaults may have happened but say it was hardly surprising with a big closed sign hung above the city and people staying away in droves.

Kings Cross will never be the way it was before,” he said. “But it’s not too late for Sydney’s night-life, we can improve entertainment options in areas like Oxford St and the CBD to coax people back into the city.”

With NSW Premier Mike Baird gone is it time to revisit the lock out laws debate, and should they be rolled back or expanded?

Joseph Correy is a partner at Criminal Law firm, AC Law Group. He is a criminal lawyer with offices in the Sydney CBD, Parramatta, Blacktown and Redfern.

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