EDITORIAL TUESDAY 30.03.10.
The New South Wales Police Association, along with the Australian Medical Association, the New South Wales Nurses Association and the Health Services Union have renewed their call for a dramatic change to alcohol trading regulations to combat alcohol related violence. Under the plan, closing time will be no later than 3am, with a universal lock out from 1 am. Strong alcoholic drinks like cocktails and shots would be banned after 10 pm, and all alcohol sales would be stopped 30 minutes before closing time. Sales to individual customers would be restricted to no more than four drinks at a time, meaning that if there are eight people in your group of friends, two of you will have to go to the bar.
The plan has been put forward after a trial of these restrictions in Newcastle which has been widely seen as very successful in terms of cutting down on violent incidents and injuries. The police association says that the two hour reduction in trading hours has resulted in a 30% reduction in assaults and other incidents. Many of these restrictions have also been applied to venues around Sydney that have been deemed to have a problem with violence, but the so-called “frontline coalition” of police, doctors, nurses, and ambulance officers want the restrictions applied right across the state.
There’s no denying that closing the doors will prevent people from drinking too much and becoming violent. If the pub is closed, obviously nobody is getting drunk or causing trouble. But it is also preventing everyone else from having a night out for a few drinks too. The difficulty is that imposing restrictions across the board penalizes everybody, not just the minority who become aggressive or anti social when they drink. People are supposed to be free to go out and enjoy themselves without bureaucratic bullies telling them that they can’t have a martini after 10pm.
Already we have seen occasions where well intentioned authorities are clamping down not only on genuinely dangerous behavior, but also on exuberance, good natured skylarking, and anyone who gets a bit rowdy. Just having a few drinks doesn’t automatically make someone a problem, but it seems that some of the authorities are starting to look at things that way. But just because there are a few idiots who have the wrong attitude shouldn’t mean that everyone who enjoys a drink should be treated as a threat to society.
As I have said many times before, it’s the attitude not the alcohol. If everybody had the appropriate attitude, it wouldn’t matter what time the doors were closed.