Okay, let’s get this straight.
Newcastle is a city. The state’s second biggest and the nation’s seventh largest.
The CBD of a city, by its very nature, is where you find a whole lot of things that you don’t find in the suburbs or rural communities. So it’s where people go to see those things, day or night, right?
Well, not really. Why not you ask? Because just under a decade ago, it was decreed that 15 Newcastle CBD venues would be punished for the errors of just four.
All sorts of restrictions were put in place, including: lockouts, drink restrictions, networked communications and onerous audits.
But it wasn’t only the venues who were punished, was it?
Newcastle the city, and its people, were punished too.
What was once a globally renowned live music hotbed and vibrant nightlife for thousands of residents and visitors alike became a ghost town virtually overnight. Foot traffic declined massively. And, not surprisingly given the vacuum created, so did the assaults.
And this begins the problem I have with those sprouting that the so-called Newcastle Solution was and still is the answer to the problem of ant-social behaviour.
Firstly, they constantly claim that the reduction in assaults is a direct result of the lockouts. They are claiming credit where credit is not due. The removal of the masses of people from the city’s vibrant nightlife means substantially fewer people. Substantially fewer people means fewer assaults. It’s like taking credit for a reduction in shoplifting by banning shoppers from Westfield.
And then these members of the vocal minority fail to acknowledge that, even after the lockouts, assaults once again increased in 2010 and 2011.
It was then the venue owners themselves stepped in with the real solution. They implemented a scanning system that identified individual miscreants and made them accountable for their bad behaviour. It is this accountability, not the lockouts, that finally led to a sustained reduction in assaults.
The naysayers, wanting to protect their position (political or otherwise), completely fail to acknowledge this. They harp on about their lockouts with NO real debate or discussion – they just want their so-called solution maintained, regardless of the greater good.
So, rather than properly resource the city’s police with what would be required to deal with those few individuals who behave badly, it was more expedient to just shut down the city after dark and punish everyone. Lazy and ill considered.
And rather than put in place a well planned transport system to take people home after a night out, they choose to shut the city down.
How is it that these people can completely fail to listen to or consider any other solution than closing the city and causing unemployment, financial hardship, the destruction of the live music industry and, most importantly, the removal of the choices we have moved to the city for?
Surely they are obligated to look at all avenues, not just an indiscriminate and harmful shutdown of the city.
Right now, there is a review underway. On behalf of venues, the AHA has requested our drink choices (currently limited) are extended from 10pm to midnight and that the lockout and closing times are made uniform, not removed.
Get that? THEY ARE NOT ASKING FOR THE LOCKOUTS TO BE REMOVED!
Over recent weeks there have been sensationalist media articles purporting that the review is about removing lockouts. Again, this is simply not true.
Basically, the review is seeking parity with Sydney, who succeeded in restoring some small changes after only two years of restrictions. We have had our restrictions in place for almost a decade. It’s time.
No right-minded member of the Newcastle community wants policies that unfairly penalise venues or patrons who simply want a safe and fun night out. Yet that is what is happening.
Punish the perpetrators, not the rest of us.
It’s time, Newcastle.
It’s time to get our city back.
If you think so too, please sign the petition.