Sydney lock-out laws are not the answer

01st May 2018

Beyond the Sydney lock-out laws

There is no denying that tough new Sydney lock-out laws introduced by the New South Wales government have had the desired effect.

Introduced in 2014 with the objective to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence, the legislation requires 1.30am lock-outs and 3 am last drinks at bars, pubs, and clubs in Sydney’s Kings Cross, Darlinghurst, Cockle Bay, The Rocks, and Haymarket.

The result has seen what I would call a dramatic reduction in the number of serious head injuries admitted to the hospital.

Dubbed the lock-out laws, concern has been raised about the impact of the legislation on the city’s night-time economy. Several Kings Cross venues have been forced to close as a result of revenue drops while up to 20,000 people have taken to the streets to protest against the laws and call for them to be overturned.

But the truth of the matter is, they have worked.

The results are not just anecdotal either with a 2015 report from the NSW Bureau of Statistics and Research showing a 26 percent reduction in assaults in the lock-out area.

The big picture

Whether or not there is a reasonable alternative that still allows patrons to have a good time and for these to have the same impact is a tough question.

I understand that drinking is a big part of the Australian culture and that the lock-out laws are not the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to addressing this issue.

There has been ample evidence that a lot of people are buying cheap booze and then consuming it at home before heading into the city.

But while under current laws, they are not drinking and therefore not subject to the same rules, by the time they hit the nightclub they’re probably more intoxicated than they would be if the lock-out laws hadn’t existed.

In taking into consideration concerns that the problem has been moved to areas not bound by the legislation, I believe we may end up following London’s lead where there are local off-licenses where patrons go to have a drink rather than a big pub or nightclub.

That said, I believe there’s always going to be a certain element of society who don’t understand what it means to control their temper. If they have had too many drinks, they struggle to find an alternative to lashing out physically.

Importance of public education

But the truth of the matter is the fall-out is massive. Their decisions and their actions wreck lives. And it’s not just the victims who suffer—the perpetrator and the families and friends of both sides are also severely impacted.

I believe public education is one of the ways forward. It’s important that whether it’s as the result of one punch, a drink-fuelled fight or sports concussion, many people never walk away from these types of traumatic head injuries.

The concept of a brain injury resulting in permanent damage needs to percolate down and people need to understand that if you hit somebody in the head and you cause a brain injury, there’s a good chance your life and your victim’s life will never be the same.


About Dr Richard Parkinson

Dr Richard Parkinson is a Fellowship trained neurointerventional neurosurgeon and minimally invasive spinal surgeon based in Sydney. He has been performing minimally invasive and complex spinal surgery for 18+ years and has built his reputation on his conservative approach to surgery. He operates at Sydney’s leading private hospitals and has performed surgery on a very significant volume of patients requiring both straight-forward and complex spine surgery. Read his full biography here.