Sydney’s infamous lockout laws have again been thrust into the spotlight with the decision for aspects of them to have been lifted for the New Year’s Eve celebrations across the city.
The 1.30am lockout was pushed to 3am and passengers were allowed to disembark ships after the usual midnight cut-off.
A spokesperson for the Deputy Premier of NSW and Minister for Hospitality, Troy Grant told City Hub that the relaxation of the laws was in response to the extra strain put on the Sydney by the festivities.
“The New Year’s Eve exemptions, which did not include lifting the last drinks at 3am, were a common-sense approach to take into account the unique circumstances of the biggest night on the calendar and huge crowds that line the foreshore,” the spokesperson said.
“There were concerns that boats would offload passengers after the midnight fireworks, leaving minimal time for individuals to enter licensed venues. This could have seen crowded wharves and dangerous disembarking practices, as people rushed through the crowds and into venues.”
The revelation prompted backlash on social media with many asking how the move wasn’t a contradiction.
This anger has been echoed by the father of Daniel Christie, whose death on New Year’s Eve 2013 was the catalyst for the laws being put in place.
“I am disappointed that in spite of all these good things that have happened, the government is now saying, ‘because it’s improved, relax it’. Because we aren’t all getting killed on the roads are we going to up the speed limit? It just doesn’t make common sense,” he said.
Troy Grant stood by the decision but insisted that the relaxation did not dampen the results.
“Since the laws were introduced a year ago, total assaults in the Sydney CBD have dramatically decreased, with local hospitals and police cells also seeing a flow-on effect.
Assaults in Kings Cross have dropped by 40% since the enforcement of the new laws.
A total of 560 assaults were reported up to September of last year. The figure for the same period over the last 9 years has an average of 784 assaults.
But many people point to the fact that the figures were already on the decline and that the drop in visitors to the strip has been even steeper.
In the same time that the assault rate dropped by 40%, foot-traffic in Kings Cross decreased by 84% since 2012. This means that proportionately assault rates are higher.
Despite these statistics, a NSW legislative inquiry has recommended that a review into the laws be undertaken at the earliest possible stage.
A large factor in this recommendation was the fact that since the lock-out laws businesses in the area have begun to struggle immensely.
Douglas Grand from the Kings Cross Licensing Liquor Association, told SBS News that around 500 people had lost their jobs in the area since last year.
“The business community is collapsing, it’s going to keep placing venues under more and more pressure, forcing them to let go of people, close and resell the land.”
The NSW Bureau of Crime will be releasing a report directly into the effectiveness of the lockout laws in the coming months.