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Are alcohol lockout laws a 'cultural backward step'? -

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MATT WORDSWORTH, PRESENTER: The pushback against alcohol lockout laws is growing.

In New South Wales, the state's Deputy Premier has promised a review of how the laws affect central Sydney will be open and transparent. And in Queensland, the state's Premier is facing an uphill battle to get proposed alcohol restriction laws through Parliament.

The purpose of the laws is to curb alcohol-related violence, but opponents in Queensland argue the 1 am lockout and 3 am last drinks in popular nightspots is a step too far, as Peter McCutcheon reports.

PETER MCCUTCHEON, REPORTER: It's early drinks at The Bowery in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley. It's one of a growing a number of clubs and bars that fosters local music talent.

Patrons can get in doors here until 3 am, but under proposed new laws, they can't walk in after 1 and there are fears this could destroy Brisbane's nightlife.

So how many late-night drinking places are here in the Valley?

NICK BRABAN, VALLEY LIQUOR ACCORD: Yeah, there are approximately 80, Peter, that trade past midnight.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: Nick Braban heads the Valley Alcohol Accord representing licensees in Brisbane's busiest nightspot.

So a place like Ric's Cafe Bar over there, would it really be disastrous for them if they had to cut back a couple of hours?

NICK BRABAN: Look, it's not the cutback of the couple of hours that's the worry, it's the 1 am lockout that would be imposed. That's really - that's a killer for a small place like Ric's, which is predicated on live music and is a bit more of a boutique offering.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: These are the scenes of alcohol-fuelled violence that prompted the State Government to crack down on late-night trading.

18-year-old Cole Miller died in the Valley just over a month ago after a one-punch attack in the early hours of the morning.

ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK, QUEENSLAND PREMIER: I don't want to see any more tragedies and we must do something.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: The Queensland move is part of a national trend that started in Newcastle seven years ago when the city stopped alcohol sales in the CBD at 3 rather than 5 am.

KYPROS KYPRI, UNIVERSITY OF NEWCASTLE: What was new about Newcastle was that it was the first time in the last 20 or 30 years that restrictions had been placed - that the hours had been wound back.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: Health researcher Professor Kypri says there's a clear correlation in Australia and overseas between reducing the hours of late-night alcohol sales and a drop in violent crime.

KYPROS KYPRI: In Sydney, there's been a 45 per cent reduction in assaults in Kings Cross, which was subject to specific restrictions and a 20 per cent reduction in the wider CBD, which is a big area.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: The statistics are backed up by the experiences of emergency doctors.

TONY GRABS, HEAD OF TRAUMA, ST VINCENT'S HOSPITAL: Well it has been a breath of fresh air for this hospital. We see trauma patients coming in from car accidents not related to alcohol, we see people that have falls not related to alcohol, we look after people which we've really wanted to look after for a long period of time. But what we see now is the number of people coming in with associated head injuries and alcohol-related violence has dropped dramatically.

TIMOTHY STEEL, NEUROSURGEON: Yes, we've seen a dramatic reduction in the number of serious head injuries but it's also even the minor head injuries and the patients injured with assaults, with broken jaws, with fractured skulls whose lives are irrevocably changed by this sort of violence - these are the patients that we're not seeing.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: But there's a catch. Although shorter trading hours are linked to lower levels of violence, there's less evidence that stopping people from entering venues after 1 am, the so-called lockout or one-way door, has any beneficial effect.

KYPROS KYPRI: It keeps people in the premises. They can remain in the premises and continue to drink, so it does nothing about the consumption. Police like them, but there isn't evidence that they reduce assault rates.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: The backlash against these lockout laws is being led by the music community, turning a 1980s classic into a protest song about how the Sydney night scene is suffering.

The NSW Deputy Premier yesterday slightly opened the door for a possible compromise by promising what he called an open and genuine review of the laws.

TROY GRANT, NSW JUSTICE MINISTER: The NSW Government and I recognise that Sydney deserves a safe and vibrant nightlife. We are a global city and we need to ensure the safety and vibrancy of that nightlife for not only the operation, smooth running of this city.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: The music community in Brisbane is watching closely and complains it's being ignored by the Queensland Government.

JOHN COLLINS, TRIFFID NIGHTCLUB: The Government has not talked to us. This is what upsets us. They've talked to the Craft Beer Association; they haven't talked to the music association.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: John Collins was one of the founding members of the Brisbane band Powderfinger and owns the Triffid nightclub just outside the valley. He fears for the future of the city's music scene.

JOHN COLLINS: We run a real risk of losing a great industry that we have in Brisbane, the music industry, that is. Quite honestly, we're the envy of the southern states with our industry at the moment. We bat way above our weight for our population. And I think that is a real risk if we start closing the lockout laws and then I think the venues'll suffer.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: The proposed Queensland laws also go further than elsewhere in Australia as they apply to the entire state, not just selected problem areas. And this could be their undoing, that the minority Labor Government so far failing to convince crossbenchers in regional areas to support its bill. Although the Queensland Premier is showing no sign of backing down.

ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK: How can anyone sit by and not have a conscience when it comes to these laws? These laws are about public safety. These laws clearly will demonstrate a reduction in the level of harm.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: And many businesses in the Valley don't argue with that, saying they can live with last drinks at 3 am. But Pez Collier, who recently opened the Apo Bar, says the lockout of new patrons from one is a game changer.

PEZ COLLIER, APO BAR: I think it's going to be remarkably crippling. I think in Brisbane, trying to be this, you know, new world city and this 24-hour city, I think it's a huge step backwards culturally, and obviously from my perspective, professionally as well.

JOHN COLLINS: All the venue operators have a better take on venues than the doctors and we don't have - I don't have an idea what the doctors and the scientists are saying, but I know music venues. I'm just trying to ask the Government to come and talk to us and see if we can work out something that benefits everybody.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Peter McCutcheon.