Opinion / Why it’s time for last orders at 3am

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NOTHING good happens after midnight and certainly not after 3am, just ask any Canberra policeman, ambulance officer or hospital emergency department doctor.

Of course, the evidence goes beyond the anecdotal.

Michael Thorn.
Michael Thorn.

In the ACT, over four years we have witnessed a 32 per cent increase in the number of alcohol-related emergency department presentations, from 5084 in 2009-10 to 6702 in 2012-13.

And all the evidence shows that a very modest change to trading hours for pubs, clubs and bars will result in a significant reduction in alcohol harms.

That knowledge isn’t lost on Canberrans. New polling shows that a majority of Canberrans, almost two thirds (65.5 per cent) of residents, support the introduction of 3am last drinks.

This majority support is across all age demographics. The latest polling found that 50.2 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds favoured the measure, as did 69.9 per cent of 35 to 50-year-olds, 81.6 per cent of 51 to 65-year-olds, and 71.3 per cent of those aged over 65.

Significantly, those who support the modest reductions in trading hours, intended to address alcohol-related violence in the nation’s capital, outnumber those who oppose their introduction by three to one.

Here’s what we know about what happens when you restrict trading hours; alcohol harms decrease significantly.

The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable.

First in Newcastle where the 2008 restrictions had a demonstrable impact on non-domestic violence and hospital emergency department presentations.

And now in Sydney, which has seen a 20 per cent decrease in assaults, with assaults in Kings Cross down a staggering 45 per cent.

St Vincent’s Hospital reported a 25 per cent reduction in admissions to its ICU for seriously injured patients during high alcohol times.

Undeniably, the modest measures have saved lives and continue to do so.

The ACT ReachTel poll conducted last week also found two in every five ACT residents believe Civic to be unsafe or very unsafe on a Saturday night, and the main reason given for feeling that way was people affected by alcohol.

It is abundantly clear that the local community want the ACT Government to follow the example of NSW and Queensland and introduce 3am last drinks.

Not because the ACT should slavishly follow the example of its bigger East Coast neighbours, but because the governments of NSW and Queensland on principle, were guided by the best evidence available, and acted to put the health and safety of their citizens ahead of the financial self-interest of the alcohol industry.

It’s now time for the ACT Government to do the same.

Michael Thorn is the chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education

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