Who calls the Shots?

The study of the regulation of harmful but legal products and services including alcohol, tobacco and gambling provides a fascinating dynamic insight into the tension between “public” good and “private” interest that the latter now tend to defer to so called “libertarian” aggressive groups to progress their causes.

Since May 2015, it has become clearer how deeply entrenched the alcohol lobby remains with the NSW and other state and territory governments despite further independent evidence confirming the association between predictable and preventable acute and chronic alcohol related harms with its availability, supply, promotion and enforcement.

In September 2016 the NSW Government released the Callinan Report into a number of alcohol law reforms including the Sydney earlier lastdinks and curfew measures and the 10pm closure of all NSW bottle shops. Former High Court judge Callinan endorsed the evidence of profound harm reduction benefits of the earlier lastdrinks laws and recommended extreme caution in the possible relaxation of the same conditions.

In December 2016, the government diluted its earlier successful laws including a 2 year trial  of a half hour increase in lockout (2.00 am) and last drinks times (3.30am) for “live” music and related “cultural” venues including those with DJs. It also increased bottle shop trading hours to a maximum of 11pm.

After nearly 3 years of a titanic struggle and some luck, in December 2016 the Casula community won (subject to possible appeal) a court case preventing a large pub with 30 poker machines being developed in their backyards. The NSW Land & Environment Court acknowledged the likely negative social impact the pub would have on the surrounding very vulnerable communities with high levels of socio-economic disadvantage and domestic violence. It ruled it was not in the public interest.

This rare community victory in part can be attributed to the level of community mobilisation and advocacy resulting in a total of 3,500 community objections and persuading Liverpool Council to oppose the development despite its own officers’ recommendations to approve the same.

As most successive governments across the country sway to the loud drum beat of the powerful alcohol industry and its libertarian “free market” boogey dancers, there is no better time than now for members of the Association to encourage and support disadvantaged communities like Casula prevent and alleviate the reality of pernicious alcohol, gambling and other drug related harms.

Tony Brown
Community Advocate

 

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