Premier Nathan Rees: I thank the member for her commitment to our partnership on this important issue. The Government is committed to driving down alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour in licensed venues. We make no apologies for having zero tolerance for alcohol-fuelled violence. It is for that reason that last year the Government imposed tough conditions on the most violent venues.
Clover Moore MP: My question is addressed to the Premier. Will the Premier inform the House of the progress of the Sydney Liquor Task Force for the immediate term and what can be achieved during the year of the licensing freeze?
George Souris: Have any of them improved?
Premier Nathan Rees: From memory, glassings reduced from 17 to 0 over the same recording period last year, an indication that these measures work. For the record, the measures were opposed by the Opposition. The Government has worked, and will work, in partnership with industry to get results. The conditions that were imposed included no glass drinking vessels after midnight, a 2.00 a.m. lockout and limits on the number and type of drinks patrons can purchase.
The Speaker: Order! I call the member for Epping to order.
Premier Nathan Rees: This was strengthened by the development of categories of venues with the most assaults. The Government recognises that unique issues arise only in some areas, and specific measures are required in some locations. The public tells us that there are unacceptably high levels of alcohol-related violence occurring in the Sydney central business district, and it has evidence to back that up—approximately 1,900 licensed premises and four times the New South Wales rate of alcohol-related assaults. The Government will continue initiatives in relation to venues and streets in the central business district.
On 25 June, together with the Lord Mayor and member for Sydney and industry groups, I announced the establishment of the Sydney Liquor Task Force. The task force reports directly to me and the Lord Mayor. It comprises representatives from government agencies, the City of Sydney and industry groups—the Australian Hotels Association, Clubs New South Wales, the Liquor Stores Association and Restaurant and Catering, New South Wales-Australian Capital Territory. The first job of the task force was to impose a 12-month freeze on new licences designated entertainment precincts in the city, where there is a high density of licensed venues at present. The licence-freeze precincts focus on areas with a high concentration of licensed premises—particularly those with late night trading—and identified trouble spots for alcohol-related antisocial behaviour and violence.
The Speaker: Order! I call the member for Upper Hunter to order.
Premier Nathan Rees: The areas include Kings Cross, the Oxford Street precinct and parts of the southern central business district. Close monitoring of the effect of the licence freeze will allow the Government to consider and strengthen the restrictions if this proves necessary. As the member for Sydney has pointed out, the freeze will allow the task force the opportunity to develop longer-term strategies for the city. That will include looking at public areas and compliance with responsible service of alcohol legislation, which is important to sustain vibrant entertainment precincts that are safe and agreeable for visitors to Sydney and Australia.
The Speaker: Order! The House will come to order.
Premier Nathan Rees: The task force will meet again today to work on the next steps. The task force provides an opportunity for government, the City of Sydney and industry representatives to work together, allowing a wide-ranging approach to addressing alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour. Finally, I acknowledge the contribution of the Lord Mayor to reducing alcohol-related violence in Sydney.