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Impact of violence on young Australians

CHAIR (Ms Annette Ellis) —I declare open the public hearing section of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family, Community, Housing and Youth inquiry into the impact of violence on young Australians. The inquiry was announced on 16 June last year, when written submissions were called for, and to date 62 have been received. I warmly welcome Mr Tom McGuire and Mr Bill Healey, representatives of the Australian Hotels Association, to our committee hearing. Although the committee does not require you to speak under oath, you should understand that these hearings are formal proceedings of the Commonwealth parliament and the giving of any false or misleading evidence is a serious matter which may be regarded as a contempt of the parliament. I thank you for the submission that you have sent to us. Would you like to make any brief introductory statement before we get into discussion?

Mr Healey —Yes, thank you very much. I will make some opening comments and Tom will add to them, being president, as he chooses. I should mention that Tom is also the president of the Queensland branch of the AHA and an operator. He has 10 hotels in South-East Queensland. He has spent most of his life in hotels so his perspective on what is happening out there is perhaps better than mine. We understand that the focus of the inquiry is young people, who have been defined as aged between 14 and 24. We would tend to focus, in our submission and more importantly hopefully in questions and answers today, on the issue of alcohol and alcohol fuelled violence because obviously there is concern out there in the community about violence and the impact that alcohol may have on that. We think that we should look at this in two groupings: firstly, the under-18 age group which is not legally entitled to purchase alcohol; and secondly, the over 18 to 24 age group.

As I said, there is a perception out there that there is a major problem with alcohol fuelled violence around late-night venues. The Prime Minister has raised that. We have had a COAG referral in relation to that and we have had the Preventative Health Taskforce attempting to address it. I note that recently, when the Prime Minister raised concerns, that he said to premiers, ‘I don’t have a prescription, but I believe it’s a national discussion we’ve got to have,’ but he also noted that society was witnessing a major change in family structures, with young people facing family breakdown and often spending more time with their friends or on the internet than they spend with their families. In many cases, violence that is associated with venues is an extension of what we see as a much broader community issue.

If you talk to our members—and this is anecdotal, but I think Tom will confirm it—generally the view is that the level of violence in quantity is not necessarily much greater than it was 10 or 20 years ago. What has changed is the extent of the viciousness—guys are going outside and knocking each other down; coming in and having a beer together has changed. It is far more intense. Secondly, there is the use of weapons and, thirdly, the threshold around which violence is instigated has dropped alarmingly. In the past, if you knocked someone people would joke about it; now it might initiate violence.

Just to fill you in—and this is hard for us to get our point across—Australians tend to drink less today. If you look at per capita consumption of alcohol, Australians are drinking less, but there is a tendency to drink more intensely and binge drink, which can exacerbate this problem. In relation to the under 18 group—of course, they will be a major focus of yours—we alert you to the Australian secondary school students’ use of alcohol in 2005 report. That shows that predominantly people under the age of 18 are getting the alcohol from anywhere but pubs, clubs and licensed premises. The majority is from their parents and in her home, and they are drinking a lot outside licensed premises. There has been a major shift away from licensed premises. Something like 70 per cent of alcohol today is packaged liquor—which I think our submission notes—which is consumed predominantly away from licensed premises.

In relation to the late-night venue area and the over 18- to 24-year-olds, obviously there has been a focus on that. We are keen to work with the community, the government and the police to address that. We find that when we set up liquor accords we can have a demonstrable impact on the behaviour in these precincts, but people have to understand that we have over 6,000 hotels and probably fewer than 200 would be open after two o’clock in the morning on a weekend. There are some high-profile precincts where a lot of this concern is focused. We make reference to a quote in our submission from a senior Victorian police officer. I also have a quote from the commissioner there who says that he believes that the continual showing of violence and CCTV footage tends to create a much deeper perception of problems than exists. In saying that, we still believe that one problem is too many. There is the honey pot problem. For example, in Darwin you may have anything up to 8,000 people in the CBD of Darwin, which is 10 per cent of the population. That is going to create some problems. There is Nightcliff in WA or the Valley. Tom will tell you that in the Valley on any Friday night you might have 32,000 or 35,000 people in the precinct and you only have 12,000 licences for the venues.

Mrs MOYLAN —For the record, it is Northbridge in Western Australia.

Mr Healey —I do not frequent those venues!

Mrs MOYLAN —I would not know about the other states; I am trying to be helpful!

Mr Healey —There is a general view that in a lot of these precincts, in the main, many people go out every weekend, enjoy themselves, go home and do not see violence. Notwithstanding that, from time to time there are problems.

Just to wrap up, there is a problem in addition to that with illegal drugs. One of the questions we ask ourselves is: where does alcohol contribute and where do drugs contribute? If you know how those substances affect your body, you sometimes question how a lot of these assaults can be the result of excessive alcohol, because it affects your coordination and in that state you cannot punch a person. We know that there is research that shows a large number of people presenting to hospital with alcohol or intoxication related symptoms are also exhibiting the results of testing positive to drugs—amphetamines.

As I said, we are committed to work to try and address the behaviour around late night precincts, but one of the things we caution is that a licensed premise is a controlled environment. If you make it harder for licensed premises, which are subject to stringent regulatory behaviour requirements, to operate and you push drinking behaviour out into the parks, the backyards and all of that, you are actually going to create an environment where drinking will be less regulated and the potential for uncontrolled violence will be more evident. We spend, I think, about $500 million a year on security, so that is an issue.

Generally, we are asking the committee to recognise that we understand the products we sell have a potential to create problems for young people. We endeavour, wherever we can, to minimise those problems and we are keen to work with the community to create a culture which is about responsible consumption rather than a drunkard culture. That is why we are here today because, in some ways, it is part of a broader charter that we want to be good community citizens.

CHAIR —Tom, do you want add anything at this point?

Mr McGuire —The reason that I am here today is primarily to give my view, because my history has been totally in hotels. It is terrible to admit it, but I am turning 57 this month, and I have lived in pubs since I was a kid.

Mrs MOYLAN —Just a spring chicken!

Mr McGuire —Yes, that is right—it is hurting me, anyway! In that history of the hotels I have lived in—and some of them have not been in the greatest areas of that time, but are now quite fashionable—I could see as a kid what happened, I studied law, and then I went straight back into the hotel industry. So my memory virtually encompasses 50 years and I can see the changes that have occurred.

Sure enough, there has always been violence to a limited extent in the hotel industry. It is in every history book; just the fact that where people do drink and gather in numbers arguments will be created, rightfully or wrongfully. The change has been in the degree of violence that we see out there. We are getting people, as Bill alluded to, that are going out at night; having a shave and a shower and putting on the aftershave—and slipping a knife in their pockets. It is a very strange attitude to go out with to have a good night. This is where we see that there has been a significant change in social concern for one another. That is starting off with kids at school all the way through. We are at the front line with everybody else confronting it as virtually a reality. We have not created it; we are living with it and we then try and go through our minds as to how we would try and change it over a period. It is not going to be a quick fix. We will put our hands up and say, ‘Alcohol is a part of it,’ but alcohol is not the sole cause of it.

I have alluded to the fact that we are losing respect for other members of society and our community. There is also just a general lack of respect for authority. We see it out there all the time. This is not a criticism of the police force—I would not want to be a policeman. To go out there and arrest somebody—often enough it is easier not to arrest somebody, because of all the hoops that we have had to put our police forces through. So sometimes it is easier for the police to turn a blind eye. We do not blame them, because they are not really getting the backup that they deserve. They are between a rock and a hard place as well.

I run 10 hotels all the way through from Brisbane down to the border. I have two that are in what we call the night economy, that go to 3 am. We ask police to remove people, and these guys and girls—gender does not really show any favouritism—just abuse the daylights out of the police because they know they can get away with it. And you do not blame the police for—the moment a policeman puts his hand on a person then a whole process starts where they are under scrutiny. I am an outspoken advocate for it, but if society looked at the amount of money that is put into effecting the arrest of a person—getting the two policemen, putting the detainee in the car, taking them to the watch-house, processing him or her there, going to court—what does that cost? I do not know, but it would be a lot of money. For our purposes here say it was $500—it probably would be far greater—when a person goes to court, they only get fined $100, so it is costing the community a hell of a lot to deal with somebody that we are not getting the money back from. Touch wood, I do not think my kids have been in trouble—they are a bit old for it now, but I have led a bit of a charmed life—but I was talking to somebody the other day and they said if you get arrested you can be out in three or four hours. So if my child was 20 and thought ‘I could go out’ and gets arrested at midnight, he is back home at four or five and I have no idea as a parent that he has been in trouble.

The Hotels Association in all of the states keeps bringing this point up: we have to target the offender more seriously than what is happening now. We have to make it harder on them because at the moment lot of them get a slap on the wrist and then they come back next week because there is no pain involved. We are not advocating that everybody gets thrown into jail because that is another cost down the line and obviously repeat offenders will, but we say that being a community gives all of us some advantages. If a member of the community does not abide by the community’s principles, the community should start to withdraw or restrict some of those privileges. Some of those privileges could be your drivers licence. In other words, if I was a kid at school at the moment and I had been shoplifting or whatever and I am a repeat offender, maybe it is that you just do not get your licence. If you can apply for it at 17 then you cannot apply for it until you are 18, or those sorts of things. The penny will drop.

We are at the front line, we are seeing it. We are not trying to run away from our responsibilities. As Bill has indicated, we have large amounts of capital invested in our businesses. We have licences that can be taken away from us. So it is not to our advantage to try to flout the law or to try to short cut. We want to stop it and we want to work with the various organisations—not only the police, but there is social welfare, there is chaplaincy et cetera—to have a concerted involvement all the way through. But as I said, we seem to be at the front line. The problem was created a long time before those people get to us. And sure enough, when they have alcohol, yes, that does amplify some of their character flaws and turn them into different beings.

Bill has alluded to the drug problem. When I go to our various meetings throughout Australia, those that are involved in the night economy say that the influence of drugs is far greater than is being acknowledged. We can see it with people that we throw out of our places. A guy can be four foot two and weigh 30 kilos, but he has the strength of 10 men. He has not got that out of grog, he has got that out of some illicit substance. I would say to you that if you have kids of that age, go and ask them if they think drugs are out there. They will tell you. If you do not have kids of that age, go to some of your staffers who are in that environment and say, ‘What do you think?’ They will say, ‘They’re there.’

So it is not only about alcohol. As I said when I started, we will put our hands up and say, ‘Yeah, we are part of it.’ But we are not the total answer. I do not think the police need to be given greater powers but they need some more resources to take the problem on a little more aggressively. I notice we had that campaign prior to Christmas across Australia where every state said, ‘We’re going out to enforce the law.’ They got more arrests but they did not have as much trouble. I noticed that up our way the press were saying, ‘Oh well, that enforcement period is now going to be reduced so now we are going to expect the trouble to go back up.’ It shows really that they are on the right path. If you enforce it through the right mechanisms then you will get a beneficial result. It will not cure it; but it will lessen it.

We see people come to our hotels—and I imagine in most places, and probably Northbridge, it would be the same—on a Saturday night. They just come out at 11 o’clock because they have been at another venue—at their house or wherever—having a drink, maybe because it is more economical to drink it at home. Then they come out to enjoy themselves with us. When we do refuse them service, that is when the trouble occurs. As Bill alluded to, places like Fortitude Valley have a huge population out there on a Friday or Saturday night. If you equated the numbers that are in the venues you would see that there are far more people outside, and that is where the trouble is occurring. It is not really happening inside in the main because we have the security there to contain it. It is all these people who are outside. I imagine it is the same in a lot of the other states. So, in summing up from the AHA’s point of view, we are there to help and we will do our best but we are inheriting a problem that society sowed the seeds of a long time ago.

CHAIR —Thank you. Before we go any further I want to welcome to the table Kirsten Livermore for the electorate of Capricornia and Chris Trevor for the electorate of Flynn. I will open questions but I am very keen to pass to my colleagues. I am sure they have a lot to talk to you about. I really want to come back, Bill, to what you said at the beginning around your observation of the increasing intensity of violence and the use of weapons. Are you in a position to elaborate on that? I am not suggesting for a moment that you are a psychologist—I do not know if you are—but could you talk to us a bit more about that particular point. That is what I think we see on the TV news at night as well: young people kicking each other and people getting fractured skulls. Unfortunately that is what we see on the news at night.

Mr Healey —As I said, in the old days violence tended to be ritual in pubs. Blokes would go outside. Today you hear stories of gangs. There used to be an unwritten rule that you would never kick a person when they were on the ground. What is happening now is that if somebody falls to the ground, and there have been a number of high-profile cases of this, then people literally jump on that person’s kidneys, ribs and head. These kids have been exposed to substantial amounts of violence in what they see on TV and in video games. I have a view that, watching over even the last 25 years, they have actually not experienced a lot of the pain that goes with violence. They do not get hit at school. The empathy factor of knowing what it feels like when that sort of thing happens to you is important. I do not know if that is an issue here. I do not think these kids are sociopaths or psychopaths who have totally no respect for another human being. I think sometimes they do not know what they are doing. The other issue is king-hitting people from behind and those sorts of things. There was a rule of the street that governed certain behaviour. I just do not know why people feel that that is acceptable now.

Mrs MOYLAN —I was going to ask about the degree of violence. You have clearly stated that there is not a markedly higher level of violence but that the degree of violence is much worse. I hear often as well of the glassing attacks in hotels and clubs. I would agree that drugs seem to be a big part of the problem. When you talk to young people they tell you that they go to clubs and pubs and the drugs are being pushed there. Can you comment on that and on what could be done to prevent the pushing of drugs in clubs and pubs? That is what young people tell you, so presumably it is happening. It is also happening in the precincts around the clubs and pubs.

Mr McGuire —Yes, it is. In some of the cases I have been associated with, we are now getting advice from the police on what to look for, such as how to design the rooms that people are in so that there are no dark corners and that sort of thing. CCTV is a big thing there. A lot of that is positioning the cameras to see people going to the restrooms and returning. We have the signage out there saying, ‘You are being looked at.’ If you are going in and out, other than you have a bladder problem, you are suspect.

I think a lot of it now is the next wave from us and how to design our rooms. I know we are doing that in Queensland with the liquor licensing authority up there. That is where my expertise is. I assume that it is happening in other states. Once we are made aware of it, we can help contain it. At the moment there is a thing occurring, all over Australia I think, where people going into venues are showing ID. I know of cases where, when the ID records have been gone through by police, they have said, ‘You’ve had this person come in who is coming from 40 miles away. Now, your venue is not that good.’ There could be a reason behind that. With police cooperation, as I say, we are there to work right at the front. If they can give us advice, we will take it.

Mrs MOYLAN —What is the police position in trying to arrest people pushing drugs in hotels and the nearby precincts?

Mr McGuire —In my experience I have found that they are quite proactive in trying to do it, because I think there is that abhorrence of drugs and the way that it is being done. I do not think they are pulling back from it, but I think there has not been an acknowledgement from outside that the problem is as big as it is.

Mrs MOYLAN —It is just that, when kids talk about it, it seems to be done fairly openly.

Mr McGuire —Yes. When I came down today, I noticed an article in the Courier-Mail about a police inquiry into drugs on the Gold Coast, and that was alluded to. It was just a press report saying that drugs are easy to obtain so why do the police not know about it. In my case, I say that I should know about it too at my venue. Somebody should tip me off. My own surveillance should get there. In some cases the police have said, ‘Listen, did you know?’ I have said, ‘No, I didn’t.’ So that is the whole thing: ‘Do you know?’ If you do know, you have no excuse if you have not tried to rectify the situation or reduce it.

Mr SECKER —I have had a quick count and I think there are 48 pubs in my electorate, and I still have a few to go. Obviously I see things along the way. In my experience I think there has been an increase in security and the security of staff. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes that might actually cause a problem. Do you think there should be better training for security staff?

Mr McGuire —I think it is a twofold thing. I feel sorry for security staff, because it is very hard. The first is that you have to be a great person to stand at the door half the night and get abused, and, if we are being frank, the gene pool is probably a bit limited. The second is the way that we refer to them. You have referred to them as security staff. The press and a lot of my own industry refer to them as bouncers. I would love to see the word ‘bouncer’ go out of fashion. Years ago, when I was a kid, we had the term ‘barmaid’. You do not hear that term ‘barmaid’ anymore. So I would like to see them referred to as security personnel, not bouncers. One of our guys has a term: ‘door greeter’, or something like that. But better terminology does help to move through, and training is a big part of it.

Mr Healey —There are some licensing regimes, depending on the state. So there is an attempt to do that. The second thing is that in some cases their interpersonal skills could probably be better. I think an old publican would have got a problem person out of a venue a bit more easily. In one state people had to declare whether they had a criminal record, and we lost about 30 per cent of our security guards. We have a problem. We are damned if we do.

Ms CAMPBELL —It is a serious issue.

Mr SECKER —I was interested in your observation about when violence might more often occur—perhaps on a hot night or a full moon.

Mr Healey —We talked in our submission about the rage concept, about people’s tolerance for frustration. There are all those factors. We live in a highly stressed world, so any external factor that ups your stress level can lead to some sort of outburst. Obviously if you have something to drink your tolerance level is even lower. We would think hot weather is a factor. The problem is that if it is cold you probably do not want to take your jumper off and get into a fight.

Can I come back to this question about glassing. We have some concerns about the term and the perception out there about glassing. ‘Glassing’ was a very specific thing in our industry, where it was basically the use of a glass as a dangerous weapon. The term should be ‘assault with a deadly weapon’. This comes back to my observation. I did say that we do not see that it has increased. Part of the problem is the stats on it. The stats are very limited in terms of what is actually happening out there. On one side we see the police misreport substantially. On the other hand, people say there is under-reporting. In some states, if you cut your foot on a broken glass it goes into the police report as a glassing.

Mr McGuire —It did in the past.

Mr Healey —It did in the past. They have changed that now. The other thing is that there is copycatting now. This would never have been dreamt of, but now people are hearing it.

Mr McGuire —That is the part that I see.

Mrs MOYLAN —It seems to be happening more to women in pubs.

Mr McGuire —I would think, as Bill said, that the term is being misused from the traditional way that those of an older generation think of it, when the glass was lifted and, ‘Bang!’ it was at you. In Queensland every incident involving glass where there was an injury was included. That has been tidied up to where the glass has been used as a weapon. Where that has been mentioned in the media, it does hype people up to say: ‘It’s happening everywhere. I may as well be part of it.’ It is like the Gateway Bridge. When they opened that in Brisbane 20 years ago people were jumping off it, and it was being publicised that so many jumpers a week were going off it. They stopped publicising it and I think probably the number of people jumping off it reduced. It is not a criticism of the press; it is just the environment that we are in. A term is being used which is exacerbating some people copycatting.

CHAIR —I am conscious of the time. I want to move around the table.

Ms COLLINS —If I could go back to the drugs issue that Judi raised. You talked about drugs on the premises. I am curious as to whether you have any research or anecdotal evidence about how much of the drugs are consumed on the premises as opposed to those being consumed outside or before they come on to the premises.

Mr McGuire —I honestly do not know, Julie. There is obviously some that happens on the premises. I think as surveillance gets tighter the actual transaction is harder. The consumption could be of a tablet you have in your pocket. I do not think I can ever stop that. But if you come to my establishment and go into a corner I can definitely try and reduce that. So I would say we have consumption, which is where somebody pops a pill. One of the problems is that we are seeing and old unintended consequence.

I think Jodie was there a few years ago when I was talking about Jeffrey Archer, the novelist, who went to jail. He wrote diaries about being in jail, and the problem in jail is you want to escape. You cannot escape because you have bars, so you try and escape through your mind. So everybody was on drugs. The drug of choice was marijuana, so the powers that be said, ‘We’ll have a crack at marijuana and we’ll stop the use of it.’ The problem with that was that marijuana stays in your system for a lengthy period of time. Heroin can be flushed out within a relatively short period of time, so the drug of choice went from marijuana to heroin.

The problem we can see is that, the more expensive our drinks become, the more attractive the drug is. I do not know what the answer is, but there is an unintended consequence. The kids can add up. One thing we have taught them over the last 30 years is arithmetic skills—adding up and taking away. They know where they will get a better bang for their buck.

Mr Healey —We think, depending on the substance, they preload. They drink, as Tom said, and they drop the pill, unless they purchase it there. There are other drugs, like cocaine, where they will go into the toilet, and of course you cannot do anything there because you are not allowed to have security cameras in there. But I would have thought in the majority of cases they are probably taking it before they get there. But on average they are going to spend $80 on alcohol for the night, buying 10 drinks or so, or $20 for a pill. We are talking to Treasury this afternoon about increased alcohol taxation, so you might want to take that one on.

Ms COLLINS —I was really curious about your figure for the consumption of alcohol and the majority of it actually being off premises. I wonder if you have any ideas for government about what we should do about that, because I found as a parent of a teenage daughter that other parents, under the current laws in my home state—they are actually about to be changed—could provide my daughter with alcohol without my consent.

Mr Healey —That is one of the national issues. I think you have to look at underage drinking as a discrete issue. We are a member of DrinkWise, and DrinkWise is a body that has been set up to look at the responsible promotion of alcohol. I think that a statutory obligation on parents, or on other parents to have permission, is the way to go. In actual fact, the stats do show that young people have been drinking less and drinking at less risky levels over the last decade.

Ms COLLINS —That is reassuring.

Mr Healey —Yes. I think it has gone from something like 34 per cent down to about 28 per cent. Part of the problem you are going to have—and this is another thing with violence—is that there will always be a group of kids that are problematic in our society. As Tom said, in many cases they are the ones who are really causing the trouble. There was an incident last night in the UK of a kid who killed someone with a knife through the heart. What they are saying in the UK is that this kid has been a problem for the last 10 years, but we do not intervene. The intervention is to stop problem kids from troubled social backgrounds.

But I think parents should know whether their kids are getting alcohol. What DrinkWise are endeavouring to do with their ad campaign is to make parents aware that kids absorb their drinking. Kids will follow, I think. I do not know if Tom would agree. In 1975, when I started drinking, the bulk of alcohol was consumed in a pub or in a licensed premise. That has virtually changed over, and I think we have made drinking more accessible and more visible to young people.

Mr McGuire —Bill, you might remember his name. There is a solicitor in Queensland—

Mr Healey —Adair Donaldson.

Mr McGuire —Yes. Have you guys seen the stuff that he has put out? You should get it. The one that really got to me was when the daughter comes to the parents at the age of 16 and says, ‘Mum, I’m having a few people over for a party,’ and she says: ‘Fine. I want to ring up the parents.’ The daughter said: ‘Fine. Can we have some alcohol?’ ‘Oh, yes, I suppose you can have some.’ So that is the start of it. The party gets out of control because the daughter invited only six but 66 came. The problem evolves, the ad goes through all the bits and pieces, and the real killer at the end was six months later. The mother is sitting at home, walks out, gets the mail and opens it up, and it is a letter from a solicitor. One of the kids at the party had suffered some injury. She was getting sued. Every parent that has seen it says, ‘Wow.’ That should be put through every school in Australia, just to let the P&Cs know. If you have not seen it, we will get you a copy, because it is really well worth it.

CHAIR —Okay. Thank you.

Mr McGuire —And this guy did it on his own.

Mr SIMPKINS —I certainly like the idea of having actual laws to control parents supplying alcohol, even to their own kids; that should be against the law as well. With regard to the police, it seems that magistrates these days are reticent to allow any charges against a person for abusing police. It used to be the case, I am sure, that if you use the f-word against a policeman you would be charged for it and dealt with. That does not seem to be the case anymore. Do you think that is part of this lack of respect?

Mr McGuire —No, because the kids know—there is no sense of responsibility. I can just tell you what I think of you and that is it—then I can push you and do all that sort of stuff—and the poor old policeman is copping it. We feel sorry for the police.

Mr Healey —There should be some type of penalty, particularly for physical abuse of police, because you have two issues. One is that you have an increased number of females in the police force now. In the old days you had to be six foot, so you have a much smaller person now. Their physical presence is perhaps not as daunting as what it was when I was growing up.

Mr SIMPKINS —Some of them are pretty good now, I can tell you.

Mr Healey —Some of the women with the batons are pretty good too, but what I am saying is that I just think that, as a community, we need to provide support for the police. It is all right for people to say, ‘I was drunk,’ or ‘I was on drugs and I didn’t know what I was doing.’ That is not the case. It is amazing how people change their views.

Mr RAGUSE —I would like to follow on from what Patrick said about security guards and security. Has the situation in Queensland, particularly, the credentialling and certainly the upskilling of many of the people taking on traditional bouncer roles, shown any improvement, do you think, in terms of that—

Mr Healey —Definitely.

Mr RAGUSE —So that has worked. On legal issues, then, there was a media report in which I remember reading about the issues of glassing and that there was a move for hoteliers to take civil action against those who had been involved or convicted of a glassing offence criminally and that the hoteliers were looking at possibly taking it a step further. Is that something that—

Mr McGuire —One hotelier in Queensland is going down that path, and I would imagine that if he is successful the cavalry will come over the hill and everybody else will alter it.

Mr RAGUSE —So it could be, do you think, a successful tactic?

Mr McGuire —Yes.

Mr Healey —We did some research on the Gold Coast and the level of glassing was very limited.

Mr McGuire —It is spasmodic; this is the thing.

Mr RAGUSE —I know your pubs very well but there is one issue about the type of venue. Logan Village comes to mind as a pub I have known for 30 years. It is a huge venue, with lots and lots of people—large crowds—and yet, in all of the time I have known it, I have never seen any act of violence. This may be purely anecdotal but is there something about the type of venue and the type of entertainment and other things?

Mr McGuire —There is a little bit in that in the sense that those are the hours in which we operate too. You think that it is a large pub but to us it is a small pub. It looks like a little country pub. There is karaoke there on occasions.

Mr Healey —Absolutely—not real happy.

CHAIR —Do bad things.

Mr Healey —We tolerate those things.

Mr RAGUSE —Accommodate me.

Ms CAMPBELL —I have some comments. My first comment goes to what Tom was saying about the party that got out of hand. In Launceston we have two organisations. One of them is the Northern Safer Communities Partnership and the other side partnership is the Launceston Safer Community Partnership, which is run from the local council. I used to be a part of that, and we came up with an initiative called PartySafe. We got funding for that through state and federal government. It took the message out that parents can register their parties with the police. It has been very, very successful, so I would like to get some information for this committee, because it is an initiative that other areas, other councils and other communities could use, as it is effective and it does work. My question is about antisocial behaviour. You are saying that it is not worse than it was 20 or 30 years ago—in your submission, paragraph 3. You have come back with some statistics from Victoria, so I wondered whether you have statistics from other areas of the country that you might be able to provide.

Mr Healey —I think we were talking more about violence rather than antisocial behaviour.

Ms CAMPBELL —Yes, it comes up as your antisocial behaviour clause. If you could provide some stats for some other areas, I think that would be useful, and also information on the responsible serving of alcohol and the course that you do—and, Tom, you might like to comment on that. Do you think that it is adequate, and when you have young staff or new staff are they capable and confident enough to be able to stop that serving?

Mr McGuire —I do not know how long we have had responsible service of alcohol, but let us say it has been 10 years. It probably has been. Initially, I think it was hard for some of the younger staff to say enough is enough. Now that is not an issue. They know they are going to get the backing of the management and all of the bits and pieces, so that has been a very positive thing. It is a difficult thing sometimes to ascertain what the tipping point is, and we all know that that is there, but responsible service of alcohol has been worth it, also because there are penalties on us for not doing it and also on the staff member. It has been well worth while.

Mr Healey —COAG has asked the ministerial council to look at a consistent national approach to responsible service because it is patchy, and we are supportive of that. We think it will actually build on what is already operating well.

CHAIR —I want to ask one last question, but we will need to keep it very tight. The thing that we have not talked about at length here this morning is the question of binge drinking itself. I get quite distressed hearing a young friend or a young person I know say, ‘We’re going out tonight and we’re going to have one of those nights.’ You know exactly what they are talking about. Do you have a view or anything you want to share with us about your opinions on binge drinking itself? You are right; probably the levels of drinking overall have dropped, but the intensity of when and how they do it has really escalated, in my view. Do you want to make a comment?

Mr McGuire —I can comment on that. Over the years you would go into our hotels all through the week and there would be guys coming in having two or three drinks and then going home. Now you do not see them for four or five days, and they make Friday or Saturday night their hit out and in they come. In other words, they are saying, ‘We’re abstaining for that number of days, but boy, we’re going to make up for lost time down the track.’

Mrs MOYLAN —As a supplementary to that, have you noticed a change in what people drink, say from beer to hard liquor, or is there a trend back to light beers, for example? What is going on?

Mr McGuire —In late night entertainment venues, beer drinking is probably quite small—it is more spirit based. That is a fact, because, as we all know, if you have so many beers, you get bloated and all the bits and pieces, so you become uncomfortable.

Mr Healey —The real growth sector in beer is mid-strength beer.

Mr McGuire —But during the day mid-strength—

Mrs MOYLAN —But is the higher alcohol content in spirits contributing to the problems?

Mr Healey —The real growth in spirits is probably in RTDs—the ready-to-drinks—which are really equivalent to a beer anyway. The biggest issue is educating people about what alcohol does. That is why we have worked very hard to get the standard drink concept and to teach people about what alcohol does to your body. I think there is a tendency to drink to get drunk. Rather than saying ‘responsible drinking’, we are a big believer in creating a culture that says to people, ‘Don’t go and drink to a point where you can harm yourself or someone else.’

Mr McGuire —There has been some good stuff too, which we will have sent to you if it has not been done already. Diageo are the big spirit company. They developed a course called DRINKiQ, which very quickly basically gets you to the stage where, if you are having a good time, you know that, if you keep having more, you are going to get worse for no greater effect. They have done a great course on trying to educate people on that.

CHAIR —Following today, we would welcome anything that you have in the form of information or background that would be useful to us generally.

Mr McGuire —Those are two that I recommend. We will get them to you.

CHAIR —Thank you. I want to thank you very sincerely for the submission and for your time this morning. It has been a really good discussion and I thank you for your contribution to our inquiry. Hansard has been recording it, and a copy of the Hansard will be sent to you to look at just to make sure that we have it correctly transcribed. I want to thank all the committee members, Tom and Bill from the AHA, our staff and Hansard very much for their assistance this morning.

Resolved (on motion by Mr Secker):

That this committee authorises publication, including publication on the parliamentary database, of the transcript of the evidence given before it at public hearing this day.

Committee adjourned at 11.10 am