On Saturday July 29, the Keep Canberra Open rally-turned-concert was held at Westside Acton Park. The event was held in response to the serious threats made by the Barr Labor government to Canberra’s nightlife.
Labor’s Andrew Barr proposed to adopt certain elements of the recent Building on Liquor Reform: White Paper, published in April 2016, which recommended 40 changes to the ACT’s liquor licensing laws. The intention was to reduce the amount of alcohol-related violence in Canberra. Until recently, the most unpopular of these recommendations, which had been dubbed “lockouts in disguise”, was being adopted by the Labor Barr Government. These changes proposed up to a 500% increase in the liquor licensing fees for venues that remain open until their current licensed closing time.
The Keep Canberra Open movement played a pivotal role in pressuring the Labor Barr government into dropping the policy.
The potential changes now ruled out by the government would have placed significant monetary burden upon venues’ abilities to remain open as per their current licensed trading hours. This would have resulted in significantly earlier closing times- “lockouts in disguise”.
It is uncertain whether this policy was dropped as a result of a sudden change of heart, or the government’s fear of potentially 700 individuals knocking at the Legislative Assembly’s door during the rally. Andrew Barr only backed down from his proposed plans to implement these “lockouts in disguise” just days before the rally was to take place.
The crowd celebrated the movement’s victory in preventing the changes to Canberra’s nightlife. Eateries in Westside Acton Park made the most out of the hundreds of patrons gathered for the concert, which included performances by Canberra’s own Peking Duk and The Aston Shuffle.
There was excitement and relief from the young adults and local businesses who rely so heavily on the survival of Canberra’s nightlife. The support of both locally and internationally recognised acts helped create a vibrant atmosphere at what was originally planned as a protest rally only 72 hours before.
Keynote speakers included the Canberra Liberal’s leader, Jeremy Hanson, and The Greens’, Shane Rattenbury. Local Liberal for Kurrajong, Candice Burch, was also at the event. Referring to the Barr Government’s backflip, Mr Hanson warned constituents to “be wary of a government that campaigns for something for three and a half years and reneges just before an election”. Labor however couldn’t respond to these comments, as there were no representative of the party speaking at the event.
Many are suggesting that Jeremy Hanson is the Liberal Party’s best shot in years to lead the Canberra Liberals to victory in the Legislative Assembly’s October election. Mr Hanson is dedicated to improving safety for all in Civic. The local Liberal Leader spoke strongly of his commitment to push for tougher coward punch laws, increased police presence in Civic, and providing more late night transport options.
One can confidently say that the Keep Canberra Open Movement and the rally-turned-concert on the 29th July was an absolute success. Nearly 5,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook and the resulting local Labor government’s backflip has resulted in not only the raised awareness of the serious threat to Canberra’s nightlife, but a clear message has now been sent to Andrew Barr that Canberrans will no longer stand for his ill-conceived policies. The biggest task ahead is to make sure that these policies are never ever brought back.