After NSW Premier Mike Baird posted a lengthy Facebook rant plugging Sydney’s controversial lockout laws yesterday, he kicked up a shitstorm of dissent. The backlash from social media’s Sydneysiders was great, terrible and damn near unanimous, with many commentators accusing Baird of using misleading figures to spruik the virtues of the lockouts.
And now, the state’s leading crime number cruncher has echoed those same claims.
Speaking with ABC Radio (via SMH), NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics Director Don Weatherburn attests that the Premier’s claim about alcohol-related assaults in Kings Cross dropping by more than 60 per cent, and assaults in the CBD being down by 42.2 per cent since the introduction of the lockouts, is well off.
Plus, assaults in Sydney have not actually decreased by as much as the Premier claims.
First, he says that Baird compared the situation directly before and after the lockout laws were introduced in February of 2014, despite the fact that assaults had already been declining since 2008.
“You can’t really compare before and after if the assaults are already down,” Weatherburn tells ABC. “What the lockout laws did was accelerate that downward trend so it fell even faster after the lockout laws.”
After analysing 16 months’ worth of data following the introduction of the laws, the Bureau found that the figures are actually closer to a 45 per cent drop in Kings Cross and a 20 per cent drop in the CBD.
But then, as many savvy punters on Facebook have also pointed out, this still fails to take into account the massive drop in foot traffic in the region since the lockout laws were introduced (up to 80% in the X for certain times of night), meaning assaults have actually increased per capita, and the area is technically more dangerous than ever before.
Weatherburn has also flagged a number of other interesting findings from the Bureau’s research.
In news that will likely surprise no one, there has been an increase in alcohol-related assaults in Pyrmont, “particularly around The Star casino, which is exempt from the laws”, since they were introduced.
Also, despite a wealth of anecdotal evidence and even some statistical evidence indicating that the lockout laws have pushed the violence into neighbouring Sydney suburbs such as Newtown and Bondi, Weatherburn says that the Bureau’s findings actually don’t reflect this.
“There is huge seasonal variation in a place like Newtown; the numbers will go up in summer and down in winter so it probably looks like it’s getting worse or better. But has it changed statistically? The answer is no.”
As part of their passionate yet well-reasoned rebuttal to Baird’s pro-lockouts rant, anti-lockouts organisation Keep Sydney Open stated, “A 42 per cent drop in assaults is pathetic when measured against the harm done to jobs, businesses, the live music scene and freedom” and now that we’ve got expert confirmation that this figure is actually closer to 20 per cent, it just seems even more pathetic.
But I think the biggest thing that we can take away from Weatherburn’s statements is the fact that assaults had already been declining in Kings Cross and the CBD since 2008.
Declining since 2008.
Where was this information when politicians and the mainstream media were whipping the public into a moral hysteria about the apparent epidemic of one-punch assaults happening in our fair city in early 2014, when the lockout laws were hastily slapped on in the first place?
No wonder the dodgy figures don’t add up.
In the meantime, another beloved Sydney venue has just announced its impending closure, and DJ Alison Wonderland has added her two cents about the lockout laws, slamming Mike Baird in an ass-kicking open letter.
A 2-year review of the lockout laws is about to get underway. Email Mike Baird your thoughts about the policy today.