Matter of Public Importance - Liquor Licensing

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:40): Thanks to Senator Leyonhjelm for initiating this debate on lockout laws. I must say that I agree with Senator Leyonhjelm's comments about the nanny state and the propensity, particularly of Labor governments, to try and protect people from themselves on the basis that they, as Labor Party politicians, know better about how people should act and how they should conduct themselves than people themselves do. Of course I always smile at that, because Labor Party politicians, who are always trying to introduce these laws to regulate the habits and actions of others, usually come from a very limited background with not a lot of understanding of real life—that is, real life outside the union movement or the ALP political party. So I agree with Senator Leyonhjelm that we should be encouraging people to be responsible for their own actions. They should be able to be self-reliant and be helped to understand those responsibilities that they, as young adults—and older adults, I might say—would be expected to abide by.

In this debate, you have heard from my colleague Senator Paterson, who is much closer in age to that cohort of our society who is vitally interested in these lockout laws in the various states. You should take notice of what Senator Paterson has said. Of course his comments about supporting small business as opposed to big business—again, part of the coalition's philosophy these days—seems to be contrary to the Labor Party's philosophy, which seems to be more interested in supporting big business and those very wealthy people who run casinos around the country.

Having confessed to my limited personal knowledge of the lockout laws, I say that I am very close to the Young Liberal National Party of Queensland and I interact often with those young people. I employ some of them, and you can be assured that I understand this particular issue from talking to them.

Others have spoken about other states—although Senator Ketter spoke about my home state of Queensland—but in Queensland, the Labor Party in its wisdom has again sought to impose the view of Labor Party politicians on young people rather than helping young people to understand their own sense of responsibility and individual worth. What has happened in Queensland is that the Labor Party has introduced these new laws where you cannot serve high-alcohol drinks after midnight and, after 1 am, you can be in a club, so I am told but, once you are there at 1 am, you cannot leave and go to another club until 3 am when the whole industry is shut down.

This never seems to worry Labor politicians, particularly in Queensland, but it is impacting very heavily on unemployment and youth unemployment in Queensland and particularly in Townsville, which has a real problem with youth unemployment, where a lot of young people are employed responsibly in the club industry. A lot of them are still going to university and they cover living costs to attend university by working at night in these pubs and clubs.

The result of this new action by the Queensland Labor government is that there is going to be quite substantial loss of employment for young people in the Townsville region and in Cairns. I am also advised by the Cairns branch of the Young Liberal National Party of the impact that this new action of the Queensland Labor government is having on employment opportunities in the Cairns region. In fact, I am told that the changes—these new ideas and new legislation—could cost that city more than 240 jobs and $25 million in revenue.

In Townsville, the James Cook University student union has also condemned the state Labor government for these job-killing, nanny-state lockout laws. They have done that in the strongest possible terms. In a media release issued earlier this year by the student association president, Mr Edward Harridge, he said:

Many of our members work in the Hospitality industry to support their studies and face losing their jobs as a result of the proposed laws.

He went on to say:

In Townsville, the 80 licensed venues which employed more than 300 people were worried about their staff and businesses.

This is the result of action taken by the state Labor government, which really is clueless in Queensland about anything but particularly when it comes to employment creation for young people.

By contrast, the Liberal National Party of Queensland has a positive plan to address issues relating to alcohol related violence. I do not have time to go through them all, but one of the key elements of the LNP's strategy on the drug and alcohol problem at night-time amongst young people was compulsory drug and alcohol education in Queensland schools from years 7 to 12. That seems to me to be a pretty good idea. They were also going to establish 15 safe night precincts across Queensland to ensure that popular nightspots had coordinated prevention and support initiatives in place to keep patrons safe. Other elements were: a new offence of unlawful striking causing death, carrying a very severe penalty; increased penalties for other violent and antisocial offences; empowering police to issue banning orders; ensuring police have resources to have a presence and ability to respond quickly to alcohol and drug related violence; stronger and better coordinated action to ensure licensees provide safe environments and comply with the code licensing rules; and an awareness campaign, including advertising, to promote clear standards for responsible behaviour for patrons, licensees and the police.

A common-sense thought is that we should not be banning young people from having a night out. Why you would want to stay out until 5 am I cannot quite understand. It is a bit foreign to me at my age, but apparently that is what the young people like to do today. But no longer is this possible in Queensland. The evidence has already shown that this great new nanny-state regulation by the Queensland state Labor government has not made any difference to the amount of violence on the streets at night. What I would like to see is a greater police presence, not just for enforcement but for support and help.

Remember, most young people who go out for a night on the town are non-violent people. They go out to have a good time. There are one or two bad eggs. They should be addressed. Those troublemakers should be targeted by the authorities, rather than stopping everybody's enjoyment and their good times at night because of the issues of one or two who should be dealt with in other ways.

I thank Senator Leyonhjelm for raising this important issue. I make a plea on behalf of young people in Queensland that the Queensland government might reassess and re-evaluate their nanny-state proposals and try to encourage in young people the self-reliance and self-respect to look after themselves rather than introducing these silly laws which, as I say, benefit only the multinational owners of the casinos and the big establishments around Queensland. It would be good if the Labor Party could acknowledge and recognise that they have made a mistake and do something serious to address the issue, but in a way that is appropriate and does not cost the jobs of young people.

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