Statement on the Callinan Inquiry Report into the NSW Government's Liquor Laws

Statement on the Callinan Inquiry Report into the NSW Government's Liquor Laws

24 Sep 2016

St Vincent's Hospital Sydney welcomes the findings of the Callinan Inquiry's report.

Justice Callinan is an independent umpire. He has examined the evidence and come to the same conclusion as St Vincent's: that prior to these measures being introduced Sydney's CBD and Kings Cross were "grossly overcrowded, violent, noisy" and characterised by "anti-social behaviour", and that after their introduction there has been a reduction in violence in the city's entertainment precincts and no significant displacement of violence elsewhere.

We appreciate Justice Callinan's finding "of all the groups holding opinions, it seems to me that the medical profession and the emergency workers have the least or no self-interest" and that "their opinion…must carry a great deal of weight."

The opinion of the hospital's frontline workers – our clinicians and nurses – is emphatic: this package of reforms is working and there has been little or no displacement of alcohol-related violence to other areas.

We recognise the challenges facing Justice Callinan in adjudicating on these measures and their impact, and the need to give a fair hearing to reasonable voices on all sides.

We support a vibrant Sydney. Our representatives participated in a government-sponsored roundtable alongside a range of diverse groups to discuss how to make the city more vibrant.

However, as Justice Callinan found, "vibrancy is not to be measured only by the amount of alcohol available or consumed throughout the night".

There is irrefutable evidence that extending the trading hours when alcohol can be sold results in increases in alcohol-related problems and the reduction in these hours can contribute to a reduction in these same problems.

As such we believe the 3am last drinks in Sydney's entertainment precincts should remain in place, including for live music venues.

We do not support the report's recommendation to relax bottle shop opening hours across the state from 10pm to 11pm and allow for the home delivery of alcohol to be extended to midnight because of the weight of evidence linking store bought alcohol with alcohol-related violence:

  • Studies have shown 60 per cent of people presenting with injuries to emergency wards had consumed alcohol bought at a store in the hours leading up to their injuries. (Peter Miller, 2015)
  • Ambulances are more commonly called to neighbourhoods near bottle shops, with areas near larger chain stores reporting even higher injury rates. (Morrison & Smith, 2015)
  • Research shows that violence in homes increases by 26 per cent for every extra 10,000 litres of alcohol sold. (Liang & Chikritzhs, 2011)

The head of NSW's Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Dr Don Weatherburn, has said that a reduction in assaults in NSW was "fully attributable" to the 10pm bottle shop closing time.

We believe the impulsive 'two-minutes-to-midnight' run to the bottle shop is often behind Australia's serious problem with family violence.

Justice Callinan himself has noted: "It needs to be understood however that such an extension may elevate the risk of domestic violence."

We believe that risk is too great to allow these particular measures to be weakened.

For more information contact David Faktor on 0405497510

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