An unprovoked coward’s punch, tragically causing the death of a young Australian, once again rocked Australia in the new year. Cole Miller, an 18-year-old from Brisbane, was struck on January 3rd in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley and later died while in hospital. Since then, the alleged attackers have been brought into custody and charged with unlawful striking causing death. The offence was specially created in the wake of similar attacks in Sydney’s CBD and nearby King’s Cross. Criminal offences, such as this, are one of several measures state governments have introduced in an attempt to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence.

Others including targeting businesses who operate the late-night drinking spots in an attempt to limit the time alcohol can be consumed by requiring these bars and clubs to close earlier. The Queensland Government following this latest tragedy has come out favouring lock-out laws, and other laws aimed at responsible service of alcohol. These laws will require almost all bar, pub and club owners across the State to comply with shorter trading hours and stricter conditions on late-night trading licenses.

What Steps Have the Other States Taken?

NSW enacted lock-out laws in an attempt to curb alcohol-related violence. These lock-out laws require licensed venues within the Sydney CBD and King’s Cross to refuse entry to patrons after 1:30 am and serve last drinks at 3 am. Since the NSW government first introduced the lock-out laws, the community has expressed mixed reactions, largely questioning their effectiveness. Criticisms vary from those saying the lock-out laws aren’t strict enough and encourage harsher measures, to others asking whether they are actually reducing violence or just moving the crowd outside of previously problematic areas, to the detriment of business owners and residents.

What are the Proposed Steps in Queensland?

Initial reports suggest the Palaszczuk government intends to change the terms of late-trading licensed premises from a 3 am lock-out to a 1 am lock-out with last drinks called at 3 am. Also, the majority of licensed venues across the entire State will be required to stop service of alcohol by 2 am. This state-wide lock-out proposal is an additional measure that NSW is yet to adopt. These lock-out laws may, depending on the conditions of the liquor licence, reduce some business’ trading time by several hours each week and can result in a lower number of people venturing into areas renowned for their nightlife, such as King’s Cross.

What is Happening Now?

Whether you agree or disagree with the proportionality and/or effectiveness of these measures, the new lock-out laws, if enacted, will impact a large number of businesses with liquor licenses across Queensland. Given the large community support for these restrictions, it is highly likely that states will enact a similar framework to the Queensland government’s proposed laws.

Queensland’s Parliamentary Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee is currently investigating how to implement the Tackling Alcohol-fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 and are due to report back to Parliament by 8 February 2016.

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Lachlan McKnight

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