Support for Action on Drunk and Disorderly Behaviour

(4 August 1108am, Parliament House Sydney)

The Summary Offences Amendment (Intoxicated and Disorderly Conduct) Bill 2011 will make drunk and disorderly behaviour an offence. It will give police the power to direct someone who is drunk and disorderly in a public place to move on. If that person is found drunk and disorderly in the same place within six hours police can issue a $200 on-the-spot fine and/or detain the person. However, police currently have the power to move on someone if they are behaving in a drunk and disorderly manner and if they risk harm to themselves or others. The bill will extend that power. I share the widespread community concern that these powers could target homeless and Aboriginal people. I welcome the Government's commitment to issue a ministerial directive on the use of this power so that it affects only drunk patrons on the weekend and not homeless people, and that the police commissioner will issue a similar direction to the Police Force. I seek an assurance from the Government that it will closely monitor the use of these powers.
City of Sydney data recorded 80 violent incidents between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. on Bayswater Road in Kings Cross on a Saturday night last year. Police say that that happens every weekend. It puts the lives of young people, emergency workers and police at risk every weekend—as well as our reputation as an international and sophisticated city. I welcome the Government's acknowledgement that this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. However, I believe we need to tackle the situation at the source and develop long-term solutions. Currently night-time culture is geared towards alcohol. Rather than arrest people when they are drunk, we should ensure that people who want to go out, socialise and have fun have a range of opportunities to do so.

We must offer more than a choice between staying at home or getting trashed. The Council of the City of Sydney has commenced an unprecedented consultation program regarding what sort of night-time economy we want for Sydney in the future. We are asking the Sydney community how we can attract a wider range of people into the city centre. We are open to new ideas and began the process with no pre-written policy. The first round of public consultation involved an online conversation, which attracted more than 6,000 visitors and 679 ideas and comments. Five community forums for local residents and businesses were held in Kings Cross and Potts Point, Surry Hills and Darlinghurst, the central city and Pyrmont, Glebe and Newtown, and Green Square and Rosebery.

We got feedback from 400 people visiting the city at night and we held three targeted focus group sessions involving industry innovators, New South Wales police and leading academics. We had discussions with 60 government and retail, liquor, food, cultural outlets and events industry leaders. We are asking what kind of nightlife people want in Sydney. The thousands of people we talked to and received suggestions from made it clear that they want more interesting things to do at night. We have already begun acting on some of the best ideas. Roving high-quality food trucks, incentives for pop-up events, activating spaces not used at night, portable urinals, late night tourist information, and the return of the highly successful precinct ambassadors will be trialled in the spring-summer period.

In addition to our consultation, we are conducting research to ensure that the final policy is guided by the evidence. We are looking into how many people use Sydney's night-time areas, what attracts them there and what transport they use, as well as the levels of economic diversity and of antisocial behaviour. The city wants to encourage more late-night options such as museums, cafes, galleries and retail stores. Having more options that do not revolve solely around alcohol creates a safer and more balanced late-night economy. The boom in small bars and the success of initiatives such as the Australian Museum's Jurassic Lounge shows us that the night-time economy can be prosperous, lively and civilised. Indeed, I was very pleased to launch the second series of the Australian Museum's Jurassic Lounge just this week. There were hundreds of young people in the museum, glass of wine in hand, getting involved in the interactive exhibits, listening to music and having a very civilised and quite fantastic night. The series will run for 12 weeks on Tuesday nights, and I urge all members to go because it shows what we can do in our city that does not involve getting drunk and bashing someone up.

The small bar renaissance has attracted national and international media attention, with feature articles in theGuardian, the Financial Times, The New York Times, Style Magazine and Voyeur. That is helping to attract tourists to our city, which of course is what the Government wants. Indeed, we can now boast that we have at least 40 small bars in the city and this has led to a renaissance in the live music industry, which is quite fantastic and provides opportunities for young people to be involved in the cultural life of our city and not just the alcohol-related activities. I believe that to get the night-time economy right we must provide a choice of activities for people across a range of age groups. We must ensure that people feel safe and that the city is easy to get around and easy to leave when people want to get home. We have to provide infrastructure and transport services that keep pace with growth and we must carefully manage its development.

The Council of the City of Sydney is also researching the economic value of our night-time economy. This has not been done before in Sydney. When New York researched this in 2005 it found that the night-time economy was worth $12 billion to the city. The United Kingdom has just conducted similar research and found that its night-time economy is worth $66 billion. It is going to be very interesting for us to see exactly what our night-time economy is worth—or could be worth—to the State's economy. We all know that improvements need to be made to make Sydney the city it can, and should, be. The city council and I, as Lord Mayor and member for Sydney, look forward to working with the Government to get the mix right.