Traffic, not alcohol, causing assaults to rise: Federal Minister Ciobo

09 August, 2016 by

By James Wells

The Federal Minister representing the Gold Coast claims it is poor traffic management, not consuming too much alcohol, that is causing an increase in assaults within his electorate.

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Speaking at the Australian Liquor Stores Association (ALSA) Conference on the Gold Coast, the Minister reflected on his 25 years living in the area when it came to understanding the changes in behavior among patrons after they leave venues. His views reflect many of the submissions to the NSW Callinan Review, which said that difficulties getting home caused tensions to rise at the later stages of a night.

Ciobo told the Conference: “I have experienced Gold Coast Night Life as an 18-year old myself when I used to be here, and although it was a long time ago, I don’t think anything has changed with respect to the reason why for example assaults take place on Gold Coast streets.

“And it is not in principle because people have had too much alcohol, the primary driver, from my observation, more often than not is the fact that the traffic management out of Surfers Paradise is an absolute disgrace and what happens is that people spill out of the pubs and clubs and they are forced to wait on the street and often they will be waiting in excess of an hour to be able to get transport to be able to take them home. And is it little wonder then that people are involved in fights when someone tries to jump the taxi queue.

“And here to make matters even worse here in Queensland, the state government, because they don’t want to pay compensation on taxi licenses, has just ramped up the fines for Uber drivers by a significant amount so it is now something like a $2500 fine for the poor old driver of an Uber vehicle. Precisely for one reason and one reason alone, because the Queensland government do not want to pay compensation for taxi licenses.”

Minister Ciobo also drew direct comparisons between the Gold Coast and places such as Las Vegas where alcohol consumption is regarded as widespread and relaxed, but without the same violent consequences.

“I contrast [the Gold Coast] with a city like Las Vegas. I talk about it because it is important in understanding tourism destinations. I have no doubt that many of you have been to Las Vegas and you would be aware of how relaxed their approach is with respect to the sale of one thing, alcohol. A far more relaxed approach, a far more solid belief in the individual making decisions and empowering of the individual with respect to how they want to spend their night out. But you know what, you don’t see the problems with alcohol-related violence in Las Vegas that you do in places such as Kings Cross, or used to in places like Kings Cross and places like the Gold Coast. And the reason being because their approach to dealing with patron safety is so radically different. Their local government together with the state government has taken responsibility to make sure people get out of venues in a timely and efficient way.

“Their venues have control as well with respect to the way in which people are actually put into taxis with private security so that they are not spilling straight on to the streets. And it is just underscores for me as Australia’s Tourism Minister the difference in approach between those governments who are prepared to take responsibility for their decisions and make sure that they are actually first and foremost the consumer and the constituent in mind versus those who like to lecture down to people about what they can and can’t do and seek to resolve these matters through the imposition frankly of what I think are ridiculous laws.”

During his speech the Minister also told liquor retailers that they should “push back against moves from so many people who are seeking to regulate the industry” and described fellow parliamentarians Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie as “dangerous”.