1. How do we know alcohol is the problem ?
From BOCSAR stats and from the experience of police, medical and emergency services personnel, it’s clear alcohol abuse underpins the problems of violence and anti-social behaviour.
2. How reliable are the statistics on alcohol related violence?
The statistics are compiled by the NSW State government’s official statistical organization the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research – BOCSAR.
3. What’s the evidence linking alcohol with violence?
BOCSAR stats and the experience of the police, medical and emergency services personnel.
4. Why is the time of night relevant?
Statistics and police and emergency services experience indicates that the period between midnight and 3am is the worst time for incidents of alcohol related violence.
5. What about other drugs besides alcohol ?
Medical staff, especially those in hospital emergency departments are professionally trained to recognize the cause of trauma and the condition of people involved in violent incidents. They can tell whether someone is affected by alcohol or whether other drugs are the cause of behaviour. Incidents if violence and anti-social behaviour in the Byron area are disproportionately the result of alcohol consumption.
6. What about the jobs of hotel and bar staff?
The prospect of job losses is a valid question, but the reality is that alcohol related violence is directly threatening the health and well being of the community. Are we really wanting to protect a comparatively small number of jobs serving alcohol after midnight when the cost to the community in terms of personal injury, sexual assault, health costs, police resources are overwhelming?
7. Aren’t there already laws and regulations governing the provision on alcohol?
There are voluntary regulations which are not adequately enforced. The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) has not shown it’s capable of ensuring compliance with the provisions of the Responsible Service of Alcohol rules.
Imagine if rules governing other conduct were simply not enforced. How would the community react if traffic speed limits in school and pre-school precincts were voluntary?
8. What about the flow-on effects into other commercial interests if there are fewer visitors?
High rates of alcohol-related crime, anti-social behaviour and increased numbers of sexual assault are not features of the Byron Shire which are attractive to visitors. The costs of policing, the demands on medical and hospital resources and the effect of property damage only hurt other business interests in our community.
9. Won’t it hurt tourism?
Drunken violence, property damage and anti-social behaviour have never contributed to tourism in the Byron area. What attracts visitors to our community is a combination of a beautiful natural environment and a vibrant, diverse and welcoming community. News reports on the prevalence of alcohol-related violence have damaged the reputation of our community and provided reasons not to visit. Tourism will benefit from the Byron area once again being famous for its beaches, its hinterland, its people and its relaxed lifestyle.
10. How much does alcohol-related violence impact on our young people?
Local young people are directly hurt by alcohol-related violence. The over supply of alcohol, coupled with the failure to implement effective deterrents means that young people are exposed to violence, sexual assault and the prospect of criminal convictions. We need to work against the culture of binge-drinking and anti-social behaviour that can ruin young lives.
11. How much does alcohol related violence impact on our community?
It has a huge impact. To begin with people are physically hurt, often seriously. The police and medical resources available to the entire community have to be dramatically skewed towards dealing with alcohol-related violence. Many residents, especially older people, are afraid to go into the shopping precinct on weekend evenings. Property damage and vandalism are another outcome of alcohol abuse.
Instead of having scarce community resources distributed to ensure the best possible outcomes, we have a situation where problems directly related to the late-night over supply of alcohol is causing serious damage to our town and our community.
12. What can be done?
The good news is that the problem of alcohol-related violence is primarily preventable. Firstly we can reduce the availability of alcohol after midnight, the time when the overwhelming number of harmful incidents occur. As a community we can adopt a number of simple, modest, cost-effective and proven measures to reduce alcohol related harms. These include restricting late-night alcohol trading, limiting the supply of high-strength drinks, stopping the practice of “drink hording” and providing the community with an informed say in decisions concerning alcohol licensing.
13. What happened in Newcastle?
The experience of the Newcastle community indicates that a package of modest, proven and cost-effective measures can dramatically reduce alcohol-related violence. In Newcastle a decision was taken to reduce the late night availability of alcohol, to limit the supply of high strength drinks and insist on the implementation of effective deterrents to breaches of responsible service of alcohol guidelines. As a result of these simple, evidence-based measures the Newcastle area recorded a 37% drop in alcohol related violence, 50% reduction in night time street crim and 26% reduction in admissions to hospital emergency departments.
14. How reliable are the preventative measures?
It’s very important to remember these measures are based on evidence. The over-supply of alcohol after midnight, coupled with a poorly implemented voluntary code for licensees, has meant we have a serious problem with alcohol-related violence. By adopting a package of proven measures to deal with alcohol-related violence we can achieve the sort of result achieved in Newcastle and reclaim community’s safety, well-being and prosperity.
15. Why should the community have an informed role in any decisions about the conditions on alcohol licences?
The well being of our community should not be determined by the profit margins of a handful of late-trading alcohol venues. The costs of alcohol-related violence – the damage to our community, the pressure on our police and medical professionals and the threat to the well being of our residents – are unsustainable. The community must have an informed role in decisions made by the licensing authorities, especially the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) in relating to the number of late-trading venues, their opening hours and their implementation of effective deterrents. Community welfare isn’t measured by alcohol sales.