By Andy Young

The Bundaberg Distilling Company and its parent company Diageo Australia have joined in the ongoing debate surrounding the Queensland Government's proposals to introduce lockout laws in the state.

Nick Westenberg, public policy and government relations manager with Diageo Australia, spoke at the Townsville public hearing and public briefing on the bill last week. Westenberg attended the meeting along with local licensees and members of the Townsville Liquor Accord and said the proposed bill contain population control measures which will penalise the majority of Queenslanders who do drink responsibly.

Speaking at the meeting, Westenberg said: "The Bundaberg Distilling Company supports efforts to develop and implement targeted, evidence based measures to reduce alcohol related harm. We believe this is a joint responsibility across industry, the community, Government and individuals. 

"Bundaberg Rum, both individually and through our parent company, Diageo, supports real action to promote responsible drinking and improve community safety. 

"For example, right now our ‘Don’t See A Great Night Wasted’ campaign is running in licensed venues here in Queensland and seeks to educate consumers on responsible drinking while they are actually at a pub or bar.

"Whether it’s education campaigns, TV commercials, or even our labelling, Bundaberg Rum has been a champion of responsible drinking and supporting individuals to make the right choices for their circumstances. It’s part of who we are and it’s part of our responsibility to our consumers."

Westenberg went on to say: "In contrast, the measures contained in the Tackling Alcohol Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Bill are blunt, population control measures which seek to address the issue of violence by blaming alcohol and penalising the majority of Queenslanders, who actually drink responsibly.

"While those who support lockouts often refer to a decrease in assaults, citing Kings Cross in NSW, they make no reference to the decline in foot traffic which has accompanied those declines.

"Nor is there any recognition of the fact that assaults were already declining long before the introduction of lockouts or that the decline in violent assaults across the entire state of NSW over the last five years has been much greater than the decline in assaults in places like Newcastle and the Sydney CBD or King’s Cross districts."

The current proposals from the Queensland Government include a state-wide 1am lockout for venues wishing to operate after 2am. The proposals also call for a last drinks time of 2am, and for no spirits to be served after midnight. This restriction on spirits was another issue that Westenberg spoke about at the hearing.

He added: "Despite scientific evidence showing there is no greater risk from spirits versus any other type of alcohol, the Bill seeks to restrict the sale and service of spirits.

"These restrictions are complex, unfair and disproportionately targeted at certain consumers, particularly regional consumers. Yet there is no evidence to suggest that such restrictions would have any impact on reducing violence. To suggest that violence is caused because a consumer is drinking a Bundy and Cola rather than a beer just doesn’t make sense. 

"The restrictions simply target some consumers based on their preferred drink, their income, and in effect, their geographical location.

"We believe that in addressing violence, the focus should be on those troublemakers who commit violence, rather than on penalising the majority of Queenslanders who drink responsibly. This means targeted responses, such as increased policing and penalties, better and more targeted education, improved transport options, and increased venue safety, including service." 

Westenberg also said that if tackling alcohol fuelled violence is the goal then the solution should be targeted responses and not "blanket population controls".

The new legislation is currently being examined by the parliamentary legal affairs and community safety committee, which is due to report back to Parliament on February 8.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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