According to research from two universities, the much-maligned lockout laws do nothing to reduce alcohol consumption or violent assaults, they’ve clearly just moved the problem to other areas.
A new study into the Queensland lockout laws has found that they have offered virtually no benefit in reducing violence or curbing dangerous alcohol consumption.
Researchers from the University of Queensland, Griffith University and the Queensland University of Technology studied the effect of the laws from 2014 to 2017. This included looking at blood alcohol readings outside affected areas, interviewing bar patrons and collecting crime data.
The researchers found that after lockout laws were introduced, people were more likely to attend licensed establishments at later times, were consuming the same amount as before the laws whilst inside and were accordingly more intoxicated when they left.
The laws were found to have contributed to patrons drinking more alcohol at home before leaving for licensed premises, and that they generally left the establishments with blood alcohol concentrations that were higher than before the laws.
“Study results were consistent with our predictions that following the introduction of the legislation, patrons increased their alcohol preloading and entered NEDs (night-time entertainment districts) later,” Griffith University Associate Professor Grant Devilly stated.
“People were substantially more inebriated as they entered the NEDs after the legislative change.”
Significantly, the study found no reduction in overall violent assaults.
Queensland lockout laws require licensed venues to call last drinks by 2am, or 3am for places designated as “party” or “Safe Night precincts”.
Venues are prohibited from selling high alcohol content and “rapid consumption” drinks such as shots after midnight.
“We need interventions to address the specific needs of the night-time economies in Queensland,” Dr Devilly remarked.
“Alcohol-related problems in the city’s entertainment districts need to both increase the community’s understanding of alcohol’s effects and take preloading into account.”
The New South Wales Liquor Amendment Act 2014 was introduced by the State Government in February 2014, in response to several reported incidents of alcohol-fuelled violence.
The legislation generally requires licensed venues in the Sydney CBD, Kings Cross, Darlinghurst, The Rocks and Haymarket to impose lockouts at 1.30am and last drinks at 3am.
In 2016, the laws were reviewed by former High Court Justice Ian Callinan, who made some recommendations for concessions.
Mr Callinan’s review looked into the effectiveness of the laws in reducing alcohol-fuelled violence in lockout areas but, significantly, did not consider the shift of violent crimes to other areas and into homes, nor the enormous impact of the laws on businesses and employment.
The review led to the extension of lockouts and last drinks by half an hour for many venues. Takeaway and home delivery alcohol sales were also extended from 10pm to 11pm across NSW.
Impact on violent crime
A report by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), released in April 2015, showed a 26% reduction in assaults in the lockout areas, and a 32% reduction in assaults in Kings Cross.
This account, therefore, reported that assaults in lockout areas decreased significantly, but it made clear that “the extent to which this is due to a change in alcohol consumption or a change in the number of people visiting the Kings Cross and Sydney Entertainment Precincts remains unknown.”
A March 2017 report, however, revealed a 12% increase in assaults in areas adjacent to lockout precincts, and a 17% increase in “easy-to-reach” areas such as Ultimo, Surry Hills, Bondi Beach, Coogee and Newtown.
The report showed a 13% decline in the Sydney CBD and 49% in Kings Cross, but commentators note that this corresponded with falls in foot traffic of up to 80% at night.
BOCSAR believes the displacement of violence is “of concern”, suggesting the situation be monitored over a number of suburbs and not just lockout areas.