The Socialist Party is totally opposed to the Victorian State Labor Government’s new 2am lockout law. This law is an insult to the majority of responsible people who frequent Melbourne’s late night venues and it is an attack on basic civil liberties.
This plan comes on top of this government’s new restrictions on P-plate drivers, which will stop car pooling and make the cost of going out even more expensive.
The lockout law which will be trialled for three months starting in June will mean that pubs, bars and nightclubs in inner city areas will not be allowed to let patrons enter their venues between 2am to 7am. This will cover venues in Port Phillip, Stonnington, Melbourne and Yarra. It will however exclude the biggest venue of them all – Crown Casino.
The law will allow patrons who are already in a venue to remain inside until closing time but they will not be allowed to leave and re-enter the premises. Licensees who breach the lockout by allowing people into their venues after 2am will face fines of up to $6800.
The State Government claims the lockout will go some way towards solving the problems of binge drinking and alcohol fuelled violence in inner Melbourne. The reality is that a lockout will not go anyway towards solving the problem and will only mean the issues will be pushed out of the inner city and into the suburbs.
The lockout type approach has been tried unsuccessfully in Victoria before. Six o’clock closing was introduced during World War I leading to the infamous ‘six o’clock swill’. This was the last minute rush to buy drinks before the bar closed. This led to excessive drinking between 5pm and 6pm only making matters worse.
While we oppose the lockout we do not see the interests of the patrons and the venue owners as the same. Why is it that the venue owners only seem to complain about the ‘damage being done to the industry’ when their profits are threatened?
Not a peep is to be heard from the owners when complaints are made by hospitality staff that are being ripped off. They think it is fine to pay staff, musicians and artists poorly and they are happy to charge patrons excessive prices when it suits them. Obviously the owners don’t see this as ‘damaging the industry’ because this is how they make their money.
The main solution the owners are proposing is to increase the police presence on the streets. They think even though they are the only ones who make profit in the industry it should be left up to others to solve the problem. They need to take some responsibility for the problems that they have helped create.
At the moment venues are supposed to be serving alcohol responsibly. The reality is that there is no incentive for them to do so because selling drinks is how they make money. It suits them better to continue serving drunken people and then throw them out on the street when they become a problem. This way they can increase their profits and then blame the police for not cleaning up the streets.
What we need is more council staff to enforce liquor licensing laws to ensure venues are serving alcohol responsibly. Employers should be forced to pay to train staff properly including paying for them to attend the Responsible Serving of Alcohol (RSA) course. They should also be forced to only employ properly trained and qualified security guards. The job of venue security is primarily to prevent anti social behaviour and assist people from the venue, not to act as unofficial police officers.
Not surprisingly a lot of the problems that occur outside of the venues are at crowded taxi ranks. If the lockout goes ahead it will only make it harder to hail a taxi (especially around 2am) and make the problems worse.
Part of the solution is for the State Government to start looking seriously at Victoria’s public transport system. We need trains and trams running regularly all night and a more frequent and integrated Night Rider bus service. With a massive budget surplus, there is also no reason why late night transport shouldn’t be free.
Telling people when and where they can drink and using the law and order methods of lockouts and more police will not go anywhere towards solving the problems. The issues of binge drinking and anti social behaviour are social problems and therefore require social solutions. If the government was serious they would address the problems at the source and not use the issue to further encroach on our civil liberties.
The motives of the government are political. They aim to win a few votes from older people by being seen to ‘do something’ about binge drinking. The genuine health and safety concerns of people enjoying themselves are not the motivating factor for these right wing politicians. They will always put getting votes and supporting big business before our interests.
The Socialist Party stands for a new type of politics where peoples’ interests come before the almighty dollar. We support the fight to stop the 2am lockout – but we need much deeper changes that will only come from radical ideas and action.