Victoria Struggling With Alcohol-related Violence as Lockout Experiment Comes to an End

by Gopalan on Sep 1 2008 2:21 PM

As the three-month trial of drinking joint lockout comes to an end in the Victorian state of Australia, its leaders are contemplating what next to do in the combat against alcohol-related violence.

Victorian Premier John Brumby himself went on a walking tour of some of Melbourne's most notorious nightlife strips Saturday.

The Premier witnessed street violence and unruly behaviour. He saw young, drunk men placed in custody, another thrown into a police divisional van, and a man who got a taxi home after a nasty verbal altercation with bouncers at a St Kilda venue, newspaper reports said.

The tour comes after the controversial trial of a 2am lockout - at licensed premises in four inner Melbourne municipalities - was called to a halt, ending tomorrow.

The government has yet to announce the future of the trial, which was designed to prevent revellers from entering pubs or clubs after 2am but has been substantially weakened after many venues gained exemption.

It is now reported it would be a 3am alcohol lockout under a compromise deal.

The government will investigate whether to back a statewide 3am lockout from licensed premises when it analyses the results of the three-month drinking curfew trial.

Consumer Affairs Minister Tony Robinson is considering the later entry as part of a raft of options to deal with alcohol-related crime.

The Herald Sun believes Robinson has been lobbied to dump the 2am lockout for a wider policy that many licence holders believe would be fairer and easier to manage.

The proposal, backed by key sections of the liquor industry, is based on the Queensland model, which prevents anyone entering or re-entering a pub, club or bar after 3am.

The Herald Sun believes the Government is anxious about the potential electoral backlash caused by the clumsy implementation of the 2am lockout trials, which end on September 2.

Asked if he believed the lockouts worked, Robinson said: "Well, I think it's been a success. I'd say it's had a positive impact."

But indicating the seriousness the government is attaching to the problem, the minister said it was planned to hit high-risk licence holders with more expensive fees.

He said the Government would release a draft fee schedule this month.

It would cost some licensees more than double existing rates to keep their businesses open. The cost for some licence holders will jump by several thousand dollars.

During 2005–06 there were 24,157 Victorian offenders processed for assault. One in every four of these violent assaults occurred late on a Friday or a Saturday night. Over 8,000 people attend hospital emergency departments every year as a result of alcohol misuse.

According to Victoria Police, the assault rate in Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD)  increased by 17.5 per cent over the year to 2006-07.