By Bernard Thompson
Brisbane Bar owners say a moral panic over alcohol related crimes have been fuelled by media hype and social media.
Small businesses owners and government ministers today gathered for the Inaugural Accord to discuss how to better control alcohol related violence in entertainment precincts.
The meeting happened after a similar community forum was hosted by the gay and lesbian community who voiced their concerns to state members about violence directed towards them.
The forum called for reform and regulation to better protect them as a group.
However, the Fortitude Valley Police Department and Valley Community Safety group say Brisbane is safer than Sydney and that violence has decreased over the previous decade.
REFORM NEEDS TO BE BALANCED
Fortitude Valley Liquor Accord chairman Nick Braban acknowledges the potential risk of alcohol consumption and says he understands the need for liquor licensing.
“We nod our head at it, we know it is there,” Mr Braban said.
“We need to find the right way to balance it out and do the right thing by everyone.”
Mr Braban suggests a moral panic has been brought on by media hype and the advent of social media.
But he says previous ideas are not enough to combat the problem.
“There is a definite cultural issue there and I don’t think a response to simply change trading hours, liquor prices or fee structures will address this,” Mr Braban said.
“It needs to be something smarter and more long term to change the way people think.”
Mr Braban argues future regulation needs to be balanced to ensure the Fortitude Valley economic system is not harmed.
He also says the Fortitude Valley’s unique and vibrant culture is at risk.
“What I’m worried about is that they are being pushed out,” Mr Braban says.
“What we are heading back to is a sterile and risky way of doing business.”
Mr Braban argues increasing inflation and heavy liquor is killing businesses and costing jobs.
Mr Braban says he has concerns the main culprits are getting away with it while small businesses are left high and dry.
“It was the smaller venues and the independent venues that struggled,” Mr Braban said.
“The bigger groups and the larger high volume venues that can ride this out and that is an unfortunate side effect of the way we’ve gone in Queensland.”
“Business will invariably close because of a change in structure but the community will suffer.”
Mr Braban says federal government should help state and local government by reinvesting tax revenues generated from alcohol excises.
Discussion at the Accord quickly moved towards the under 25 age group who are seen as having alcohol issues.
Lives Lived Well CEO Mitchell Giles says a recent study shows young people do not know how to drink.
He says Australia’s culture of drinking was directly contributing to the death toll.
“One in five hospitalisations of people under 25 is due to alcohol,” Mr Giles said.
“That doesn’t sound like people who know what they are doing.”
Mr Giles argues perceptions that alcoholism and alcohol dependence are the biggest problems are incorrect.
Mr Giles says drink driving and alcohol induced violence are far greater issues and frequent episodes of intoxication should be considered as a drinking problem.
“Drinking to intoxication, or being drunk, is a major cause of short term related alcohol injury and illness,” Mr Giles said.
“The reality is that excessive single occasion drinking produces far greater and wide reaching harms on health, safety and wellbeing of individuals and communities.”
VALLEY SAFER THAN KINGS CROSS
Fortitude Valley Inspector Ray Brown says there has been a significant amount of improvement in maintaining safety of Fortitude Valley patrons.
Detective Brown says challenges exist but Queensland Police are working with industry partners to ensure safety in bars around Fortitude Valley.
“Over the last number of years we’ve seen a whole government response including police security response,” Inspector Brown said.
“Everyone is on the same song sheet at the moment and we’re all trying to work together to make it a safe place.”
Valley Community safety group chairwoman Gordana Blazevic agrees and says state and local government are working hand in hand with industry partners.
Ms Blazevic says though violence still occurs in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane is ahead of Sydney in terms of controlling alcohol related violence.
“It is what happens when you’ve got 10 of thousands of people in one space,” Ms Blazevic said.
“We’ve been working long and hard over a decade on trying to create the safest possible entertainment precincts that we can.”
“The evidence of that is in the drastic measures the NSW government is currently trying to implement.”