(20 June 2012, Parliament House Sydney)
QUESTION WITHOUT NOTICE
My question is directed to the Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing, and Minister for the Arts. Could the Minister extend the liquor licence freeze in inner-city hotspots for another year to allow the joint city and State research to be finalised so action can be taken to address serious problems and ensure a safe night-time economy?
Mr GEORGE SOURIS: I thank the member for Sydney for her question and her interest in this matter. A liquor licence freeze has been in place in three areas of the city of Sydney since 25 June 2009. The initial one-year freeze will be extended for a third time. I am pleased to inform the House that the current freeze that was due to expire on 24 June 2012â€”this Sundayâ€”has been extended by regulation for a further six months. The primary goal of the freeze is to reduce alcohol-related violence in areas within the Sydney local government areas that take in the following three precincts: Kings Cross; the Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, precinct; and the central business district south precinct. The Government has extended the freeze to allow for the completion of research currently underway into the cumulative impact of liquor licence density. Part one of the independent review of the freeze has been completed by the Allen Consulting Group. This review is the first stage of a larger piece of research into liquor licence density.
The review has involved extensive consultation with NSW Police and various other departments, as well as interested stakeholders including NSW Health, the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, local councils, businesses and resident action groups. The report confirmed that the Sydney local government area has the highest density of liquor outlets in New South Wales and the highest rate of alcohol-related incidents. The report also indicated that alcohol-related assaults in the freeze precincts are significantly higher than in the rest of the Sydney local government area.
I note that a number of strong regulatory policies have been implemented during the period of the three-year freeze to curb alcohol-related violence. The Liberal-Nationals Government has introduced measures, such as strengthening the move-on powers and introducing the new offence of drunk and disorderly and the three-strikes legislation, in order to reduce the negative impact of alcohol on local communities around the State. The impact of these and other regulatory measures will be taken into account in this research so that future policy decisions are based on the most accurate and up-to-date information.
During the freeze period there has been an overall reduction of violence in the Sydney local government area. Density is a complex issue and this is why research has been conducted in this area. It is critical that there is strong evidence on which to base effective liquor licensing and compliance decisions. It is anticipated that the final research will be presented towards the end of the year and provide a more definitive position on this significant determination.