Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Bill 2015

18 Feb 2016 11:31 AMJann Stuckey

Mrs STUCKEY (Currumbin—LNP) (10.46 pm): The objectives of this bill are to tackle alcohol fuelled violence, particularly late at night, and to provide greater clarity and improve operational efficiency in the regulation of licensed premises. Let me say from the outset that the prevalence and severity of violence that has erupted on our streets, especially in entertainment precincts, in recent years has sickened and worried us all, regardless of our political persuasions or our other differences. These concerns are felt genuinely by the opposition, the crossbench and government members alike. To say otherwise is to make light of these deadly, harmful behaviours in the hope of cheap political point-scoring.
LNP members, like others in this House, have kids and we have mates who we want to be able to enjoy a fun night out with and then return home safely with. I am therefore deeply disappointed that some government members through their language in this debate are treating this frighteningly serious issue as a political football. The Labor government does not have a mandate on compassion and empathy. What we have before us in this legislation is not a panacea. A something-is-better-than-nothing attitude will not guarantee the safety of our kids.
Unprovoked late-night violent attacks are not a new phenomenon; they have been creeping up for a decade or more. We can look back 10 years to the number and severity of this type of incident and then add the emergence of drugs like ice and steroid-pumped young males and, more recently, young females. On the Gold Coast why is the Palaszczuk government taking away our police officers with countless years of operational experience, intel and respect? Three top cops were moved on in a matter of months: Superintendent Jim Keogh, Assistant Commissioner Brett Pointing and then head of our Rapid Action Patrol, Inspector Shane Holmes.
The Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee, whom I wish to commend for the many hours of work that they have put into this bill, was not able to reach agreement on it. I note that recommendation 1 highlights the need for more data. So where is the data? Where are the stats for self-inflected alcohol injuries caused in the home? Where is the data, full stop? A number of commentators and submitters noted conflicting figures were being presented and the government was cherrypicking the findings. Presentations at EDs are highest between 10 pm and midnight. I have worked in EDs, like a few other members in this House. I know what trauma looks like and I know what it is like to hold the hand of a dying child. Labor had to back-pedal on their original 1 am scenario after much community outrage and have now come up with a complicated regime that is still destined to fail. Government members were so concerned about public backlash that they even wanted to change the words `lock out’ to `one-way door’.
On Friday, 6 November 2015 I held a law and order forum with community leaders across the Currumbin electorate with the honourable member for Mansfield and the shadow Attorney-General in attendance. This round table discussed law and order topics, most prominently the current VLAD laws and Labor’s proposed blanket lockout laws. There was strong opposition to Labor’s plans from all present at the forum. The concept of punishing those who conduct business ethically and responsibly alongside those who do so unethically and irresponsibly is unfair and un-Australian. Bandaid solutions for entrenched cultural problems will not stop this happening. Worse, these proposed changes have the ability to cause more harm than merely punishing the good with the bad by forcing a large number of intoxicated people out of venues—where their behaviour can be monitored in a safe environment—into the streets all at once, increasing the likelihood of aggressive clashes between intoxicated patrons. In a disgruntled and judgement impaired state, individuals may be more easily offended and more inclined to resort to violence, increasing the chances of coward-punch attacks as well as clashes with our police who face the brunt of lawless behaviours. Even worse still, nearby suburban residential areas will be hit by a sudden influx of intoxicated individuals looking for other means of entertainment or trouble. As one of my local licensed premises reported, the government should be looking at ice and steroid use, which is a bigger problem than alcohol.

I am a very proud Gold Coast resident of almost 30 years and I take great offence to the fact that Queensland and especially locations like my home, the Gold Coast, are being likened to Newcastle. The Gold Coast is a highly desirable premier tourism destination—an expensive destination at that—compared with many of our Asian neighbours and we need to be competitive. It is important to note that the 2008 Newcastle reforms to alcohol service hours were part of a broader intervention, and the Geelong liquor accord included a number of interventions such as a shared banned patron list, agreed levels of security surveillance, implementing ID scanners, encouraged use of two-way radios and a community education program, increased police presence and increased penalties for antisocial behaviour. These are very similar initiatives to the LNP’s Safe Night Out Strategy, a comprehensive package which was working. We had something. We had something good. Where was the education from this government over the Christmas-New Year period? I understand the LNP had allocated funding for this.
I recall very clearly a random incident that occurred in November 2007 when a vicious gang attack took place in Coolangatta’s main streets. This brutal and unprovoked attack by nine teens upon an off-duty police officer, Constable Rawson Armitage, and his girlfriend sent shock waves through the Gold Coast and beyond. The footage captured on CCTV showed the terrifying ordeal that this young couple were subjected to and the truly sickening moment when one of the gang, just 15 years old, climbed onto a fence so he could jump onto the defenceless officer’s head as he lay on the pavement. The youngest member of this gang was 11 at the time. One has to wonder why these kids from across the border in Tweed Heads were roaming the streets several kilometres away from home in the middle of the night. Where were their parents? What has become of them now that they are adults? Are they continuing this behaviour?
After this shocking attack, vigorous efforts were made to make the southern Gold Coast a safer destination and to restore our damaged reputation. Police walk the beat at night and community engagement brought everyone together to make it very clear to would-be perpetrators that this community would not tolerate further incidents. Tragically though, a father and grandfather lost his life 10 days after he was coward punched in the back of the head outside The Coolangatta Hotel on Friday, 4 December 2015.
Tourism is a $23 billion industry in Queensland and, as I said, we need to be competitive. Airport arrival figures in two of Queensland’s premier tourism meccas, the Gold Coast and Cairns, could well suffer if these lockout laws are passed and so will countless jobs in this volatile industry. On the Gold Coast 16 flights land over Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights between 8 pm and the 11 pm curfew, carrying more than 2,000 passengers. A percentage of these will be keen to go out and experience the night-life. Likewise, Cairns has about 45 flights per week that carry over 7,000 passengers landing between 9 pm and midnight.
In Saturday’s Courier-Mail from 13 February, Fortitude Valley night-life association chief Nick Braban said that the nanny-state restrictions may destroy the night-time economy of the Valley. He noted the LNP’s Safe Night Out Strategy was gradually working with the number of assaults declining; the most hurt will be done to the little underground bars that do not have violence, anyway. Trent Meade, who runs two Valley nightclubs, fears lockouts may exacerbate violence rather than curb it, with 30,000 young people forced out onto the streets at 2 am. Where do they go, what do they do while they wait for limited buses and taxis? Townsville and Cairns operators say the same. Backpackers, who are a vital resource as hospitality workers, have also taken to social media to voice their opposition to these laws.
These complicated laws will cause confusion, anger and frustration as venues in popular nightlife precincts such as the Valley lock their patrons out while casinos can serve alcohol all night long. Pubs in the suburbs can trade til 2 am and our thin blue line will be stretched. Failure to address public transport issues such as Uber and taxis will see more unrest as partygoers pile out onto the streets at the same time. On a number of occasions alcohol was not involved, nor was it after midnight, when these attacks occurred. The well-meaning intentions of respected surgeon-turned-politician, Dr Anthony Lynham, have unfortunately been enmeshed into bandaid legislation that fails to address the real issues behind this all-too-often unprovoked violence wreaked by thugs. I cannot support this bill.