The findings from the long-awaited investigation suggest a slight easing of the controversial laws.
Since February this year, former High Court Judge Ian Callinan QC has been tasked with investigating and reviewing the controversial licensing restrictions implemented by NSW's State Government, with the expectation that it would be accompanied by a recommendation to either loosen, maintain or extend the lockouts. Today, Callinan's full 151-page document detailing his findings has been released. Ultimately, it suggests that the government should consider trialling a slight easing of the restrictions: to enable "genuine entertainment venues" to push lockouts back to 2 AM and last drinks to 3:30 AM, an extension of 30 minutes each.
A 12-page executive summary of the document catalogues Callinan's process, addresses arguments and statistics from pro- and anti-lockout groups—many of which are drawn from the 1,800 public submissions the review received—and lists the conclusions drawn from his findings. He says that "if live entertainment is as precious to people in the Precincts [Kings Cross and Oxford St], visitors and providers should be able to programme it so that choice can still be offered up to the lockout, and enjoyed for hours afterwards accompanied by alcohol until 3 AM. Some supporters of the Amendments say that live entertainment should stand on its own two feet and not be dependent on sales of alcohol."
Callinan goes on to conclude that "the two Precincts at night were grossly overcrowded, violent, noisy, and in places dirty, before the Amendments, but that after them, they were transformed into much safer, quieter and cleaner areas," and that in that sense the lockouts had achieved their goals. He does, however, express concern "that live entertainment and those employed in it (including sound and light technicians etc) have lost opportunities of employment" and that the "opportunity for them to reclaim some, at least, of this loss should be considered and trialled." He proposes a trial period of two years for the later lockouts and last drinks times, saying that "a relaxation of the Amendments to this effect may go some way to an orderly restoration of vibrancy and employment opportunities in the Precincts."
Callinan also addresses the controversial restriction of take-away alcohol sales, saying that it "made little or no contribution to violence and anti-social behaviour" whether alcohol was purchased before or after the 10 PM curfew, suggesting this could be extended to 11 PM.
Tyson Koh, the spokesperson for anti-lockouts movement Keep Sydney Open, appeared on triple j's Hack radio program to comment on the results of the review, calling them "pompous" and "out of touch." He told host Tom Tilley that "It's not fantastic, and I really did have higher expectations of what Mr. Callinan has come back with...it's still up to the government if they're going to take up the recommendations... Will half an hour make a difference to venues and punters? Yes it will. But not enough."
NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong also sent out a press release in response to the review, indicating that her party had established a new Night-time Culture and Economy portfolio. "From first glance the report from the Callinan Review suggests that a relaxing of the lockouts and last drinks by half an hour could be trialled, in some venues," she says. "This begs the question – what other measures that can keep our streets safe but our venues open could be trialled?"
It remains to be seen how the State Government will respond and act upon the review.