Changes to State Government liquor ‘lock out’ laws have divided the community in Far North Queensland, with letters to newspapers and radio talk back callers equally opposed and agreeing to the changes.
Taxi operators, nightclub owners and young patrons have criticised the Labor Party’s legislation that will see a reduction in drinking time, with last drinks at 1am instead of 3am.
Some venues can apply for last drinks at 2am with an additional 30 minutes grace before lock out.
The new regulations come into force on February 1, 2017, allowing a 12 month phase-in provision insisted on by Katters Australian Party MP’s Shane Knuth and Robbie Katter.
Those with a criminal history of violence or drug dealers will not be allowed entry to venues.
The regulations are to be reviewed in July 2018.
Emergency services personnel have shown total support for the new laws, praising the KAP for its insight into the burgeoning alcohol culture of young people.
The Australian Medical Association welcomed the changes, believing the shorter hours will go a long way towards halting ‘coward punches’ and drug-fuelled violence.
“The police asked us to include the banning of known drug dealers and users within night club precincts and the management of this is up to the night clubs,” Mr Knuth said.
“We indicated from the beginning we would not support the regulations in their original form.
“In Sydney, with its similar laws, clubs introduced food towards closing time, helping patrons to sober up before leaving.”
Our Nightlife Queensland Secretary Nick Braban attacked KAP for supporting the winding back of trading hours describing the 1am lock out as “draconian” that would cost jobs and kill business.
The LNP, in opposing the changes, has waded in accusing KAP of “backflipping” and causing chaos to Cairns’ status as an internationally renowned tourist destination.
Former LNP Member for Barron River and tourist operator Michael Trout, said KAP is not welcome in Cairns.
“It no longer has any relevance,” Mr Trout said.
“KAP is too close to the ALP and is now seen as being in bed with them.
“The night chaplains are upset and an ABC poll showed 75 per cent support against the changes.
“I thought they (KAP) would never sell our town down the drain. It is not a beat up and is not going to go away.”
Advance Cairns and the Cairns Chamber of Commerce joined the fray believing the early lock down would create transport issues.
Cairns Taxis chairman Layne Gardiner said the city’s 137 cabs would not be able to provide the same level of service when venues are unable to serve alcohol after 3am.
He said when large numbers of patrons leave venues simultaneously, on big nights, trouble usually breaks out at taxi ranks.
“I think that when they start to wait on ranks, that’s when fights do break out and unfortunately we are the end result who have to take them home,” Mr Gardiner said.
A KAP spokesman said due to the large number of calls and emails received by Mr Knuth and Mr Katter, the majority of Queenslanders supported the changes leaving Cairns as the main objector.