Seeing as it’s a local election year, one would think that Andrew Barr and the ACT Government would be doing their absolute best to do what’s right for Canberrans. How far from the truth that would be – just ask the expected 700 people attending this Saturday’s Keep Canberra Open Rally.
Published in April 2016, the ‘Building on Liquor Reform: White Paper’ recommended 40 changes to the ACT’s liquor licencing laws in order to reduce the amount of alcohol-related violence in Canberra. The most unpopular of these recommendations, being adopted by the Barr Labor Government until recently in the wake of mass outrage among Canberrans, were the “lockouts in disguise” – up to 500 per cent increases in liquor licencing fees for venues to remain open until their currently licenced closing time. Not yet back-flipped on, however, is the equally unpopular increased power of the Commissioner of the Liquor Advisory Board to modify occupancy loadings at any time within venues. These powers are open to abuse, and as described by Mitchell Lamb, board member of Keep Canberra Open “aren’t feasible for any venue in Canberra”.
The potential changes now postponed by the Barr government would have placed significant monetary burden upon venues’ abilities to remain open as per their current licenced trading hours, and would have likely resulted in significantly earlier closing times – hence, “lockouts in disguise”.
The Keep Canberra Open movement warned its followers through its Facebook page on Tuesday the 26th, not to be fooled by the Barr’s sudden change of stance, and that all his government has done is “put off not abandoned” making a decision on the ‘lockouts in disguise’ until after the election.
These changes, if they do happen post-election will bring about the Sydney-styled ghost town that small businesses, the music industry and young people alike all dread. Businesses such as Mooseheads, Academy and Mr Wolf would be faced with the choice of either significantly increasing entry fees (yes, even on a Thursday night), or finding other ways to reduce costs, such as by reducing employee wages, or closing shop at 3am- unfortunately – a combination of all of the above can’t be ruled out either.
Not only do these changes solidify the perception that many young Australians today hold – that this country is plummeting further and further into a nanny-state – but it is also worrying that the ACT Labor Government was seriously considering implementing these changes. Although in a bid to “reduce violence”, it would have been to the detriment of student jobs, small businesses and young people just trying to have a good time. That said, the ACT government still hasn’t ruled out that these changes won’t be implemented post-election.
As evidence of the Government’s incompetence in taking serious action against alcohol-fuelled violence in Canberra, Simon Corbell, Deputy Chief Minister in the ACT ruled out mandatory sentencing for one-punch attacks in January 2016, effectively setting the groundwork to punish those who rely on Canberra’s nightlife, instead of the small minority who cause the trouble in the first place. Ironically enough, Andrew Barr ruled out the use of lockout laws in March this year, unaware that in just a couple of months after he made this promise, his government would be planning on implementing the ‘lockouts in disguise’ proposed by the ‘Building on Liquor Reform: White Paper’. Now of course, the government has once again changed its stance in a bid to save itself before the looming election in October.
When asked about how she felt regarding the Chief Minister of the ACT’s approach to combatting alcohol-fuelled violence, local economist and Liberal for Kurrajong, Candice Burch, commented that “these proposals are just another example of how out of touch Andrew Barr’s ACT Labor Government is – ‘lockouts in disguise’ would have had a detrimental impact on Canberra’s hospitality industry, live music scene and youth employment, whilst doing little to actually address the culture of violence. Punishing the well-behaved majority is not the answer”.
Miss Burch went on to say that she was encouraging everyone to attend the Keep Canberra Open Rally being held this Saturday July 30th 12pm at Garema Place, Civic. The rally has close to 700 people expected to attend and over 1300 interested in the event on Facebook. Key speakers Peking Duk (2014 Hottest 100 runner up), Liberal Leader Jeremy Hanson, members of the Australian Sex Party and The Greens will all be voicing their collective outrage and concerns over the detrimental effects the government’s remaining changes will have on Canberra’ nightlife.
Keep Canberra Open will be holding its rally on Saturday July 30th at 12 Noon, Garema Place, Civic