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Someone asked about lockouts on Q&A last night – it didn’t go so well

Spare a thought today for Tom from Sydney who decided to raise the thorny issue of the city’s lockout laws on last night’s Q&A.

Wedged between questions on the role of alcohol in sports and domestic violence, Tom asked the five panellists whether they agreed that NSW’s “nanny state laws are to the detriment of Australia as a whole”.

“What sort of international hub does Sydney see itself as – where shops close at 5:30, food can’t be served past midnight, and you can’t get into a club after 1:30?” he asked the four panellists, including Australian of the Year David Morrison.

It didn’t go down so well.

First to respond was Senior Australian of the Year Gordian Fulde, the Director of Emergency at St Vincent’s Hospital and Sydney Hospital and an outspoken supporter of the lockouts since their implementation in 2014.

“Nobody is stopping anyone from drinking at 1.30am,” Professor Fulde shot back. “You can go home. Sixty percent of people who get in trouble bought their alcohol from liquor outlets – it’s not in hotels or pubs or all that sort of stuff. It’s not saying you can’t drink. You can drink at 4am. Go home, have a bottle of champagne – whatever … I hate the expression of lockout law,” he continued. “because it’s a raft of things.”

Undeterred, Tom decided to take a different angle.

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“Do you not see how that ruins Sydney nightlife though? The tourism that comes in and the people that want to come to this country. Why would an 18-year-old want to go out in Sydney when they could go overseas and not have to deal with these naysayer laws.

Professor Fulde was unimpressed.

“You can go to the casino,” he said, referring to The Star in Pyrmont – which despite being one of the most violent venues in NSW is exempt from many of the government’s efforts to curb alcohol-related violence. “In the party precinct that my emergency department [services] there’s less violent out-of-control people out on the footpath. Whether you’re a girl or boy walking along, you’re no longer in danger of getting really into trouble where there’s this group of out-of-control people coming along.”

Professor Fulde said he had seen a significant decrease in the amount of late night injuries to patients since the lockouts were implemented in 2014. “We saw a 25 percent decrease over the weekend in really serious injuries due to alcohol. That’s the people who got hit, the people who try to cross the road while drink. People who do dumb things like try and climb high walls. It’s really astounding how much benefit there was to stop these serious injuries.”

And then Tom said this: “Shouldn’t it be our decision to put ourselves in dangerous situations? If you don’t want to do that, you can just not go out that night.” Oh, Tom.

Former journalist and literary editor Catherine Keenan, the co-founder and executive director of the Sydney Story Factory, was asked to weigh in. “Are you worried about this nanny state notion?” host Tony Jones probed.

“It’s always your own decision if you want to fall off a wall, I suppose,” she joked. “The benefits [of the lockout laws] are obvious and they’ve really helped. I know people that live in that area, I used to live in that area, it’s much nicer to walk around.” 

Professor Fulde couldn’t help himself.

“It’s not all about the individual,” he fired back at Tom. “The cost to the system – the hospitals, the ambulance, the police, the loss of income, a lifetime of brain injury care. It’s not just about a single decision.”

Since the lockout laws came into place in March 2014, Sydney has seen the closure of iconic Kings Cross nightspots Soho, The Backroom, Trademark and The Bourbon, along with Darlinghurst’s Flinders and the enormous Q Bar complex on Oxford Street. Most recently, Hugos Lounge in Kings Cross closed blaming the lockout laws for an 80-percent drop in customers, with owners announcing they intend to sue the NSW Government for the loss of revenue.

Watch the discussion on Q&A:

Q&A HIGHLIGHT – “There are less violent, out-of-control people on the footpath” Gordian Fulde defends his advocacy for lockout laws and the benefits to the system.

Posted by Q&A on Monday, February 1, 2016