Another easy PR beatup on alcohol and policy making on the run this time from the rapidly decaying NSW government. And once again, dodgy statistics are being bandied round to support knee-jerk policy.
In adddition to the Feds’ much-publicised and ridiculous “alcopop” tax…
in November the NSW government created a blacklist of pubs which are now required to serve alcohol in plastic cups, commence lock-outs after 2am and have to have a 10 minute “non service” periods after midnight.
Ostensibly the new laws are to reduce violent incidents and are timed (deliberately or not) to coincide with 303’s new anti binge campaign for the Feds. Politically it is always hard to argue against measures that reduce our liberties. “If you’re not a problem drinker you shouldn’t be worried” – or “one less violent crime would make it worth it” are the easy (non) arguments and you have to use logic and sensible discussion to force proper consideration of the policy. But that aint gonna happen…
It has already been observed that the non-service rule has created (predictably) service bottlenecks and – guess what – binge drinking behaviour. And clearly lockouts and plastic cups create a serious dampener on putners being able to have a pleasurable night out. But what gets me really irritated is the way statistics have been referenced by the politicians to make it sound like it is sound policy AND the fact that the statistics are rapidly turning out to be an absolute crock of ****.
First, the restictions were “targeted” at the top 48 outlets for violent crime. Hmmmm. It was originally going to be 50, but the original list included a couple of venues that needed to be let off the hook. There has never been an explanation of why the magic number is 48, not 50 or even 98!
Now, the violence figures come from BOSCAR – the bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. And as one example of how statistics can be misused, the figures tracking violence apparently do not discriminate between incidents which happen on the premises, and ones which would have happened anyway (or have been reported from the pub because it was nearby and open). SX newspaper reports the owner of the Oxford hotel identifying one of their recorded violent incidents – one which was actually a robbery reported from the hotel.
The research that the NSW governement refers to a the basis for their draconian intervention is not even listed on BOSCAR website as a media release or summary report! That tends to indicate that it is a piece of ad-hoc analysis pulled by the political masters. The actual reports and statistics on the rest of the BOSCAR site seem to be good. And, quoting from the excellent BOSCAR report on Policing Antisocial Behaviour In & Around Licenced Premises , a“wicked problem” is that “Politicians focus…on short term goals and immediate payoffs, rather than planning for the future…Such political short-termism becomes exaggerated when an issue becomes the focus of much media and community comment.”
SX newspaper reports that a local police commander had insisted the data from BOSCAR was based on incidents within licenced premises only – but is now just pointing back to the government, saying the premier “is the one who determines..what premises and why.” So now we have the police backing away from the data, too!
And don’t punish us website reports that the data were listed on the BOSCAR site but have now been removed. How FISHY is that!!!?
All I am trying to do here (so far) is draw your attention to the fact that once again some major policy decisions seem to have been made with scratchy (unreleased) data. Let’s face it, this is easy politics from governments needing to find ways of being seen to be “doing stuff.” And it seems that alcohol is an area where Federal and State governments seem to agree there is no real danger of being caught up in a difficult conversation about whether policy works or not.
But it might just quickly be worth looking very briefly at whether it might actually work.
The efficacy of lockouts as a way of decreasing violence has already been called into question by a KPMG audit into the policy in Melboure – where violence-related hospital admissions seems to have INCREASED as a result of this bit of magic policy, while also making a night out a pain in the neck for everyone else (check out Raise The Bar for details).
And as for 10 minute bans on drinking? Well licencess are reporting bottlenecks, panic buying, hoarding and general problem behaviour that happened during the old days of the six o’clock swill.
I am not suggesting that there are not problems with alcohol consumption – far from it – but we have to stop our governments making it look like they are taking action when at best they are doing nothing significant and at worse creating a false sense of having dealt with the issue.
Of course you want to know which are the 48 venues – here they are, from the Tele:
These are the 48 pubs:
TAYLOR SQUARE HOTEL
FIRST EMPIRE HOTEL
COOGEE BAY HOTEL
MONA VALE HOTEL
PENRITH RUGBY LEAGUE CLUB LIMITED
ONE WORLD SPORT PARRAMATTA
ROOTY HILL RSL CLUB LIMITED
NORTHIES – CRONULLA HOTEL
AKA NIGHTCLUB BAR
CAMPBELLTOWN CATHOLIC CLUB LTD
CROWNE PLAZA TERRIGAL
CENTRAL COAST LEAGUES CLUB LIMITED
CLUB HOUSE HOTEL
BEACHCOMBER RESORT & CONFERENCE CENTRE (Florida Beach Bar)
MARY GILHOOLEY’S IRISH PUB & REST.