NSW cabinet bunkers down on alcohol issue

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After weeks of intense scrutiny, the NSW government is set to unveil its latest plan for cracking down on alcohol-fuelled violence.


Premier Barry O’Farrell was with cabinet on Monday afternoon considering a number of proposals to try to stem the flow of booze and violence on the state’s streets.

Speaking to reporters on Monday morning Mr O’Farrell was tight-lipped about details of the proposals under consideration, but he predicted the public would be “delighted” by the new policies when they are announced on Tuesday.

“I’m confident the package being taken to cabinet this afternoon addresses community concerns and will make a difference,” he said.

Risk-based licensing, recommended by former Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing commissioner Michael Foggo following a review of the Liquor Act last year and reportedly given in-principle cabinet approval 16 months ago, was widely tipped to be one policy up for consideration on Monday.

This would mean bigger venues or those with a history of non-compliance with the Liquor Act would pay more for the right to serve alcohol.

The NSW opposition says the government’s failure to implement this model, along with late-night lock-outs at pubs and clubs statewide, is evidence it is too close to the state’s liquor lobby.

Labor leader John Robertson on Monday addressed reporters outside St Vincent’s Hospital, where 18-year-old one-punch victim Thomas Kelly was taken after he was attacked in Kings Cross in 2012.

A year and a half later another 18-year-old, Daniel Christie, succumbed in the same hospital to injuries allegedly sustained in a one-punch assault on New Year’s Eve.

“We have a premier who lacks the courage to stare down the liquor industry,” Mr Robertson said.

“It’s time for Barry O’Farrell to show real leadership on this issue, and whatever he announced must include lock-outs.”

His calls were echoed by The Last Drinks Coalition, a group made up of NSW police, doctors, nurses and paramedics.

Coalition spokesman and Health Services Union NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes said the premier had “a golden opportunity to make a real difference to assault rates in Kings Cross”.

“If the premier is serious about significantly curbing the violence he’ll be introducing the big ticket items that are proven to work – reduced trading hours and lock-outs,” Mr Hayes said.

The reforms to be announced on Tuesday – which the premier has previously said may include alcohol licensing regulation, boosted police resources, penalties targeting those who commit crimes while under the influence of drugs and alcohol and efforts to change the drinking culture in NSW – will be the third tranche of laws since 2011 aimed at curbing alcohol-related assaults.

Previous reforms introduced by the O’Farrell government include a three-strikes scheme for licensed venues, new move-on powers for police and the mandatory use of ID scanners at high-risk inner Sydney venues.

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