Inquiry Urges Lockout Laws be Scrapped in Sydney CBD

Five years on from the introduction of Sydney’s controversial lockout laws, a NSW parliamentary inquiry is urgently recommending that the laws are softened in an effort to boost the city’s underperforming night-time economy.

The inquiry recommended that the laws should be axed in Sydney’s CBD and the 1.30am lockouts and 3am service cut-off should be removed with “appropriate urgency”.

Bans on shots and ready-to-drink beverages after midnight should also be lifted, the committee found.

Describing the 2014 laws as an appropriate “circuit breaker” to control escalating violence, committee chair Natalie Ward said that it was now appropriate to consider whether the 2014 laws are still proportionate.

The Liberal party MP referenced a Deloitte report which estimated that the city is missing out on $16 billion a year in after-dark economic activity.

“Rather than having an economy of $27 billion, it could be worth $43 billion.”

The legislation was introduced by then-premier Mike Baird in 2014 in a bid to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence in Kings Cross after the “coward-punch” deaths of Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie.

Lockout laws
▲ The inquiry recommended the laws stay in place in Kings Cross.

While the inquiry recommended the removal of the laws in the CBD and Oxford Street to increase business, it also said Kings Cross had not sufficiently changed to warrant a complete reversal.

“Due to the historical nature of Kings Cross, venue density and the small size of the precinct, there is a high risk that if the 2014 laws were removed, violence would increase,” the committee wrote.

The finding echoed NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s comments earlier this month that the laws should be scrapped in the CBD but not Kings Cross.

Both the premier and the committee chair Ward said that Sydney is Australia’s “only” global city.

“It is crucial for Sydney and Australia as a whole that we reach our full potential,” Ward said.

An inquiry into Sydney’s live music and arts industry in 2018 found that more than 170 venues across Sydney had closed since the lockout laws were introduced by the Liberal-National coalition.

City of Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore, who has long criticised the laws, welcomed the inquiry’s findings.

“Repealing lockouts in the CBD and Oxford Street is an important step that will breathe oxygen into Sydney’s nightlife.

“The news that lockouts will soon be a thing of the past is music to our ears.”

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