The proposed state-wide 3am curfew on Queensland's licensed venues won't prevent alcohol-fuelled violence. In fact it will probably increase it, at the expense of our choice to go out when, and where, we want.
Queensland — take heed from Melbourne's own unmitigated failure. The 2am lockout Premier John Brumby experimented with in 2008 was a disaster, with mayhem throughout the CBD's popular nightspots.
Queensland's 3am curfew is more extreme than Melbourne's own failed scheme.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie commissioned a panel in September 2012 to look into the regulation of liquor licensing across the state. These so-called experts are now calling for the state-wide closure of clubs and pubs at 3am in order to try and prevent the drunken violence. This plan simply won't work.
Queensland already has a Drinksafe program that imposes a liquor venue lockout at 3am and a curfew at 5am. Lockouts ban pass outs and you cannot enter a new club or pub after the set time. But you are free to stay on in the same venue.
The next restrictive step is a curfew which forces closure of all venues.
Queensland's Auditor-General produced a scathing report of Drinksafe, stating that it had been a costly failure, with a bill of $10 million.
Any small headway made by the program was from the presence of extra police officers on the street, not the actual lockout and curfew. Dr Anthony Lyneham, a maxillo-facial surgeon who sees firsthand the bloody mess created by street violence, argued that what made the Drinksafe precincts work "was the men and women in blue." Dr Lyneham believes that "the number of assaults that police actually prevent is incredible."
Despite the failure of the pilot program, Queensland seems determined to introduce a new, earlier curfew. This new plan is more extreme than what Drinksafe imposed and will be even more ineffectual and restrictive.
The curfew only applies to smaller venues. Casinos with their 24-hour licences are exempt, so patrons can simply kick on from the compulsorily closed club to The Treasury. Protectionism creates a privileged, state-backed entity to the detriment of other businesses. Government shouldn't be artificially altering the market to favour any one business.
As the casinos will still be allowed to trade, it will simply transfer the problem to a different location. You will simply see a mass exodus of drunken patrons having to cross town to the new venue. Instead of being dispersed across many different venues and locations, people will be funnelled into the one casino in town. This simply concentrates the revellers and will increase the likelihood of brawls breaking out during their journey or at the casino itself.
Why would you want to kick out all patrons state-wide at exactly the same time? Without a curfew, partygoers will naturally leave or change venues at their own pace. An arbitrary closing time of 3am will likely see a huge spike of orders at 2.45am, with patrons quickly sculling drinks before they have to leave. The six o'clock swill didn't work the first time and I have a feeling the negative effects will only be compounded if it is reinstated at 3am.
There are logistics to consider too. Transport is already limited after midnight and an artificial 3am rush will compound the problem. Instead of people leaving in small groups, hundreds of people will need a taxi at the same time. Taxis and public transport will be unable to cope with such a spike in demand. And there are only so many police officers who will be able to patrol. Not all will be available at 3am. The same goes for ambulances and emergency rooms — resources are already stretched to breaking point. This curfew is likely to prove to be the proverbial straw.
The proposed curfew will result in thousands of people on a Saturday night being forced from venues by bouncers fearing that they will be slugged with a fine if the doors are still open at 3.01am. The buses will have stopped and there is likely to be too few taxis. Bored patrons who have just downed their drinks will be left milling around trying to figure out how to get home. The revellers who have spilled on to the street are likely to pick a fight. This is the perfect recipe for mayhem and exactly what the designers of the curfew want to prevent.
Increased police presence is the only way we can hope to reduce fighting on our streets. The proposed curfew is just a nanny-state, knee-jerk response that has no hope of stemming the violence.