By Andrew Starke
The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) NSW has congratulated licensees in the State for reducing the number of assaults in venues but maintains its stance that the government’s tiered system needs an overhaul.
Last week the office of the Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing, George Souris, released figures showing violent incidents had dropped by 74 percent at venues which had been subject to special conditions since December.
“The figures are showing that incidents in problem venues are trending downwards,” said AHA NSW CEO Sally Fielke.
“We congratulate licensees and staff for working co-operatively with police to address incidents on venue; a lot of hard work is being done and we are seeing the results.”
When still opposition leader in May last year, Barry O’Farrell, questioned how any system could compare venues such as Penrith Panthers with small suburban pubs.
“It makes no sense treating a venue with one million people a year coming through its doors the same as one with ten thousand,” he said at the time.
His government intends pursuing it ‘three strikes policy’ in coming months but it is unclear what role the current ‘tiered system’ will play.
“Whilst the tiered system process still needs to be refined in terms of addressing venue size or the types of incidents counted against the venue, we are generally pleased with the improvements across all venues,” said Fielke.
“Simply regulating the venues alone however is not the answer. We need to see more work on a range of issues including high visibility policing, underage drinking and better late night transport options.”
With Fanny’s of Newcastle (25), Cambridge Hotel (20) and MJ Finnegans (19) all now subject to Level One restrictions for recoding 19 or more assaults, Newcastle’s nightlife will continue to be scrutinized by all players in the debate.
“Seeing a number of Newcastle venues on the list shows that you can regulate venues, almost out of existence, but it still doesn’t address the fundamental cultural issues in Newcastle,” said Fileke.
”Until other issues like underage drinking, drinking on public transport, lack of late night transport and pre-fuelling are also addressed, how can any genuine solution ever be found?