An Australian health care group has proposed the implementation of nationwide lockout laws in order to reduce alcohol-related harm by 20 per cent before 2025.
St Vincent’s Health Australia (SVHA), Australia’s largest not-for-profit provider of health and aged care services, is calling on the Coalition, Labor and the Greens to commit to the creation of nationally consistent alcohol outlet trading hours, which would see no alcohol sold in any Australian pubs or clubs after 3am, all bottle shops closed at 10pm and all existing 24-hour alcohol licenses abolished.
SVHA’s new policy document ‘Restoring the Balance’ also recommends stopping alcohol companies from being able to sponsor music events, an increase in the price of alcohol to reduce consumption, and pictorial health warnings on all alcohol products similar to those seen on tobacco products.
SVHA CEO Toby Hall says the organisation’s recommendations should be adopted by all three of Australia’s major political parties.
“The policy on reducing alcohol-related harm and violence we’re launching today, should be the same policy put forward by each of the parties this election campaign – we’ve done the job for them,” he says.
“Ask any health worker at any hospital — ours or anyone else’s — whether illegal drugs or alcohol do the greatest damage and they’ll answer ‘alcohol’ every time. So why don’t the parties ever address it come election time? We need to hear what they have to say.
“If governments pursue our recommendations, I’m confident we’ll not only see significant change, but we will literally save hundreds of lives. It’s now over to the major parties for their response.”
SVHA is also calling for the abolishment of alcohol advertising on free-to-air TV sporting broadcasts, a significant increase in funding for alcohol dependence treatment services, and a national strategy on reducing alcohol-related harm.
Keep Sydney Open Campaign Manager Tyson Koh, a leading anti-lockouts voice in Sydney, has told The Music that it’s not up to groups like SVHA to determine how to fix complicated issues.
“St Vincent’s are to be applauded for the work they do with sick and injured people, but it’s a stretch to suggest that they are in any way qualified to dictate on complex cultural and urban planning issues,” Koh says.
“Sydney has already been savaged by these reckless laws, and now St Vincent’s are suggesting that Australia’s most vibrant city Melbourne go down the same path. It’s quite mad, really.
“It’s a mistake to think that the lockouts address alcohol when so many retail businesses, restaurants, theatres, taxi drivers and music venues have also been hit. Concert ticket revenue declined 40% in the year after the lockouts were introduced in Sydney, which is an absolute disaster.”
New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory all have varying lockout laws in place, but SVHA’s recommendations would see tough Sydney-style regulations implemented across the country. Perth is already bracing for tougher lockout laws, and so is Darwin, while Victoria, the ACT and Tasmania are steering well clear of the harsh regulations.
SVHA is hoping the next federal government implements its suggestions following the upcoming federal election on Saturday, 2nd July. The organisation’s ‘Restoring the Balance’ policy document can be viewed in full at the SVHA website.
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