By Andrew Starke

The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) NSW has accused Sydney’s Lord Mayor and police of using out-of-date statistics to confuse the issue of alcohol-related violence and unnecessarily tarnish the reputation of licensees.

Yesterday (Feb 24) the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) released figures which indicate more assaults occur near licensed premises (including restaurants, small bars and bottle shops) than other commercial premises, sparking a war of words between the AHA and City of Sydney.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP said the results vindicated her calls for tough new powers to deal with the problem.

However AHA (NSW) President Scott Leach said the 'schizophrenic policies of Cloverland’ were doing no one any favours.

He questioned Moore’s policy of encouraging more licensed premises (generally small laneway bars) with one hand, while trying to shut down existing licensed premises with the other.

The BOCSAR figures found that while three percent of the Sydney Local Government Area (LGA) is within 20 metres of a liquor outlet, 37 per cent of assaults occur in this area.

More than half of the assaults recorded by police in the Sydney CBD occur within 50 metres of a liquor outlet.

Assaults were found to be highly concentrated around licensed premises clustering around George Street in the central business district (CBD), Darlinghurst Road in Kings Cross, Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, King Street in Newtown and Glebe Point Road in Glebe.

AHA (NSW) CEO Sally Fielke said it was hardly surprising that more assaults took place where people actually congregate at night.

“I would be surprised, for example, if assault rates outside an office block at night were higher than in an entertainment precinct where thousands of people gather,” she told TheShout.

“What is disappointing is the Police Union using three year old figures to trot out their tired old mantra of earlier closing hours – despite the fact that no times are mentioned in the BOCSAR study.

“The Sydney Lord Mayor is also indulging in total hypocrisy by attacking the late night economy while at the same time offering grants of up to $30,000 on a dollar for dollar basis to create new bars.

“Our Lord Mayor loves to be all things to all people but the hypocrisy here is mindboggling.

“Her bizarre argument that small bars are somehow exempt from causing problems are inconsistent with the Melbourne experience where crime and assault figures have risen over the past 10 years.

“For both the Lord Mayor and Police Union to damage the international reputation of Sydney with sensationalist claims are irresponsible in the extreme and serve only their narrow agendas.”

Fielke said the BOCSAR figures are old data from 2008 and there had been a lot of changes since then.

“The very figures that were used in this study were used by Clover Moore and former Premier Nathan Rees to form the Sydney Liquor Task Force, whilst the current Government has now developed the Hassle Free Nights program in the same locations,” she said.

“This has resulted in significant reductions in and around licensed premises which has seen assault rates drop to their lowest level since 2002.

“In fact, government and stakeholders should be congratulated on achieving improvements in assault rates since these 2008 figures.”

AHA (NSW) President Scott Leach said society as a whole was becoming more violent and it was in nobody’s interest for Sydney to be viewed as a violent or alcohol-fuelled city.

“What we are seeing here is an unholy alliance between Sydney’s resident dictator and her court jester, Scott Weber of the Police Union – both willing to use outdated BOCSAR statistics to tarnish Sydney’s reputation and gain it the ridiculous title of world booze capital,” he said.

However Moore said the figures provided proof of the urgent need for the State Government to tackle alcohol-fuelled violence and overhaul NSW liquor licensing laws.

"The City has consistently called on the State Government to provide long-term solutions to address the issue of liquor outlet density and saturation and alcohol-fuelled violence" the Lord Mayor said.

"The Minister for Planning Tony Kelly, who has continually hamstrung our efforts, this week stated there were no longer any violent pubs in Sydney.

"This was ridiculed by the Police Association, whose members have to deal with the devastating impacts of alcohol-fuelled violence every weekend and who themselves are calling on the Government to take tougher action on poorly run venues.

"And now this report by the NSW Government's own crime research body has confirmed that he is blatantly wrong and reinforces the need for us all to work together to make Sydney's night-life safer.

"This is proves that the Government's handling of liquor outlet densities and late-night anti social behaviour is not working and needs to be urgently addressed.

"I call on the Premier and the NSW Opposition to introduce a licensing permit system across NSW which would require annual or bi-annual renewal of late-night trading hours.

"This would ensure that NSW keeps pace other global cities such as London, Paris and New York where liquor licensing permits have been standard practice for years.”

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The Shout Team

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

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