Could this be the answer for Queensland ? Lockout laws: How Newcastle stopped the bloodshed
In the once-industrial stronghold of Newcastle, there remained something of an element of the Wild West in 2008.
In a city trying to rebrand itself as a coastal tourism destination, weekends followed a pattern not unfamiliar in many cities across Australia.
Young people would pre-load on alcohol at home before flooding to CBD nightclubs en masse when bottle shops closed, where they would commence reloading until 5am.
When security staff turfed them into the street, all bloodied, violent hell would break loose.
Newcastle had the highest rates of alcohol-fuelled assaults and injuries in New South Wales, along with the highest rates of assaults on police officers and drink driving, according to Tony Brown, an inner city resident who led the community push to curb the problem.
"It was a literal blood bath, most residents were too afraid to leave their houses, the hospital emergency department was stretched to its limit," Mr Brown said.
"The only winners were the late trading premises. We had approximately 20,000 young people every weekend at the CBD able to drink until 5am uninterrupted.
"There were too many lives lost as a result of that and the (alcohol) industry exhibited a pathological incapability of accepting responsibility.
"They were making a motza out of loading young people up in the licensed premises, kicking them out and making the public bear the costs."
Mr Brown led the charge for what was initially known as the Newcastle experiment and has, in the eight years since it was implemented, since become known as the Newcastle solution.
In the face of a massive backlash from the 12 to 14 nightclub operators who were crying economic catastrophe, the Newcastle coalition, comprised of police, community and local council members, scaled trading hours back to 3am in the CBD and instituted a lockout that prevented patrons entering licensed venues after 1am.
Assault rates dropped almost immediately and other cities and towns quickly followed suit in establishing the measures.
Not only that, according to Mr Brown, in the eight years since it has been established, the city's night-time economy has improved.
It is now, he said, a safe place people want to venture out for a drink.
"It has totally transformed the Newcastle nightlife," he said.
"In surveying the community, they have said there is much improved safety, more diversity of venues and more inclusiveness.
"Not only that it has led to a much, much more prosperous night time economy.
"There has been a 100 per cent increase in the number of licensed premises, which has led to more jobs."
This week, Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath reaffirmed the Labor Government's election commitment to instituting similar measures across the Sunshine State, after the issue of alcohol-fuelled violence was again thrust into the spotlight following the death of 18-year-old Cole Miller.
But while the approach has many backers, particularly among the law enforcement and medical fraternities, it also has its detractors, fuelled largely by what outspoken Queensland MP and maxillofacial surgeon Anthony Lynham has this week termed a "scare campaign" on the part of the alcohol industry.
Lockouts loosely based on the Newcastle approach were trialled in Melbourne in 2008 but abandoned in what many point to as a spectacular failure, when assaults and ambulance call outs in the area increased.
Many proponents of the Newcastle approach say the fact that it was solely a lockout trial, not a combination of reduced trading hours and lockouts, led to its failure.
In a 2013 study, British anthropologist Anne Fox examined Australia's night-time economy, reaching the conclusion the problem of violence in the country's nightclub precincts was cultural, not attributable to alcohol.
"In a nutshell, the central point of my report is that it is the wider culture that determines behaviour while drinking, not the drinking per se," she wrote.
"While there are very good health reasons to reduce excessive drinking, you must influence culture if you want to change behaviour."
The study was commissioned by alcohol production giant Lion, which, among it's array of beverages, produces Queensland's XXXX.
Vivienne Crompton, a researcher at the Institute of Public Affairs Legal Rights project urged the Queensland Government to take the increased enforcement approach in 2013, saying in regards to lockout laws it should "take heed from Melbourne's own unmitigated failure".
"Increased police presence is the only way we can hope to reduce fighting on our streets," she said.
"The proposed curfew is just a nanny-state, knee-jerk response that has no hope of stemming the violence."
It's something Queensland police officer turned Bond University academic Terry Goldsworthy does not entirely agree with.
"Lockouts have been proven to be effective in conjunction with reduced trading hours, I think the real question here is, 'do we need to be drinking until 5am?" he said.
Dr Goldsworthy said a combined approach to the problem was required, not one or the other.
"Newcastle and other jurisdictions clearly show that approach has a substantial effect on the reduction of violent crime and you don't necessarily place it elsewhere as the liquor industry argues," he said.
"But also, people are far less likely to act in an anti-social manner when there are plenty of police there.
"You do need to weigh up the costs of policing and incarceration with the long terms costs of violent crime, like long term care and medical costs."
For Newcastle's Mr Brown, however, the costs of what he terms a "modest reduction" in trading hours in comparison to the long-term effects on victims and their families makes what he thinks is an easy choice.
"There is no greater incentive for the Queensland Government to act decisively than the tragic loss we have just seen in Brisbane," he said.
"I have met too many people who have lost children through alcohol related violence and spoken to medical professionals who have had to ask parents, 'would you like to turn off life support and what would you like to do with your child's organs?'
"Are the modest reductions in trading hours really worth those enormous public costs?"
Source: Brisbane Times