By Jason Thomas
Jason Thomas is the executive director of AusComply, an Australian software company that helps businesses demonstrate a “culture of compliance”. Thomas also served almost two decades on the New South Wales Police Force, before co-founding AusComply.
Sceptics could certainly be excused for assuming the results of this “comprehensive review” hadn’t already been pre-determined well and truly before the first submission had even been considered.
Having read all 151 pages, the tone, short -sighted opinion and ultimately the final result is all revealed by page 12, the end of the executive summary. The compulsion to read the entire document was one of intrigue. Surely there’s some solid evidence based findings that support the lacklustre recommendations? But sadly, no.
So what did we get for the money? That’s a very good question.
What we got?
- A history lesson on the changes to the Liquor Act dating back to the 1800s and across a number of select countries and states.
- A scant assessment of previous attempts at lockout laws in other jurisdictions.
- What appears to be unsupported personal opinions on the behalf of the author.
- A number of missed opportunities to present balanced findings.
- Recommendations with little or no justification to support their introduction. And lastly;
- Repetition. Yes, the restrictions have had a downward effect on the number of assaults in the precincts. If we say it often enough people will not only believe it, they’ll start to buy it.
Probably the most disappointing theme throughout this review is the ‘just suck it up and adapt’ attitude in the assessments and findings. Several times throughout the body of the report the author questions the market’s willingness to adapt and change to meet what is termed throughout the document as the, ‘’Amendments”, as though this is going to soften the impact of the legislation. Let’s just call them what they are. Restrictions.
While continuing to make the argument for the industries adaptation, the author continues to fall short of balancing the investigation by exploring the barriers to that very change.
What we didn’t get?
The review failed to consider the recent 1989 changes to the Liquor Act, extending trading times past 12am, were likely implemented as a result of a recent significant change to the working day/week, demands by a vibrant community or the lack of enough hours in the day to entertain a growing population.
The review failed to consider the changing needs/demands of a vibrant and ever changing major capital city, including generational societal behavioural changes.
The review failed to elaborate in its use of Melbourne as a city that has also previously implemented restrictions to trade. While the author acknowledges their success in achieving a decline, despite his comment below, he then fails to ask the question, why were they temporary and why are they now refusing to extend them?
“The Victorian Government for its own reasons seems to have decided not to impose lockouts as a matter of policy.”
The review failed in its determination that closed businesses were likely caused by the average success/failure rate of any new business venture, but avoids considering or commenting on how long those “failed” business had in fact been successfully trading.
The review fails to consider generational change in behaviours and expectations in what has driven changes to liquor laws over the years, simply recommending a return to 1989 style conditions is achievable through adaptation.
The review fails in a colossal way to determine in any way the appropriateness of the restrictions in tackling not just the alcohol component of the problem but the magnitude of the accompanying drug contribution to violence. As the author rightly points out alcohol has been around for centuries and more.
However, the availability and prolific drug consumption we’re currently experiencing has not. Can we isolate drug use from alcohol as the main contributor to a rise in assaults and danger on our streets?
The review fails to also compare state-wide statistics, instead favouring narrow precinct-based statistics when determining not only the success of the restrictions but also the potential displacement effect and previous downward trend of assaults prior to the restrictions.
Failed to justify the recommendations for a relaxing of the restrictions. This failure above most leaves a sour taste in the mouth as it smacks of a token gesture in the hope it will appease opponents to the restrictions.
While Mr Callinan is no doubt a very learned individual, it’s quite likely that his skill set is not best suited to the part II process. Our challenge now to the government, in response to this review, is to hand the process over to a panel of entrepreneurs, thought leaders and innovators in the industry to develop viable alternatives to the current oppressive restrictions of the precinct legislation.
In summary this review added very little new information to the situation and insignificant outcomes for the industry. Given the time taken and expense outlaid, an anti-climactic and disappointing outcome indeed.