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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 2 Hansard (28 February) . . Page.. 373 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

By changing to specific trading hours, for about an hour the police will be able to help everyone go home and to spend the rest of the night doing the serious policing they do not have time for at the moment. I am convinced, and so are most of the interest groups affected by the problems that are going on, that limiting the trading hours is an achievable way of dealing with the violence and drunken behaviour we have.

There are other things I would like to see happen, such as more police and giving them greater powers, but I am a realist and know that that is not going to happen. Another advantage would be in having the right number of taxis available at the right times. This is actually one of the main reasons why I have finally settled on 3.00 am. At the moment, most taxis change drivers at 5.00 am, which leads to all kinds of problems in the taxi queues. With a 3.00 am restriction on liquor sales, the majority of people would be gone from the town centres before the changeover takes place. I discount the arguments against the intent of this Bill as being overdramatised and fostered by those who have put the state of their wallets ahead of what is good for our community. It is true that the Liquor Licensing Board can regulate the liquor trading hours if a specific licensee gets caught breaching the terms of his licence. I am convinced that it is important for us as legislators to be able to regulate the trading hours as well, and in a much broader context.

The second reason why I have brought this Bill before the Assembly is to promote the responsible use of alcohol, which is something I am sure we all want. Laws send a message of what is and is not acceptable in our community. By allowing clubs and bars to be open 24 hours, the underlying message we are sending is that it is acceptable to go to them for 24 hours, which in my view is not okay. Alcohol is the most serious drug problem we have in Australia, and the message we should be sending out is that there should be limits. Society needs controls that are both effective and reasonable. The move to 24-hour availability of alcohol was a social experiment that Canberra pioneered, and it has clearly failed. It has failed especially for our young people, who have misinterpreted the signal and the freedom they have been given. It is our duty as legislators to send positive signals to our community about alcohol, and a reasonable limit on our liquor trading hours would be a step in the right direction.

Members are not being asked to support a specific set of trading hours in this Bill. However, I am obviously expecting that we will also be voting on that issue in the near future. I have made it no secret that I would like to see the trading hours I have put forward, between 7.00 am and 3.00 am, at least given a six-month trial that is monitored by the Institute of Criminology and a community-based committee. While this Bill does not set the trading hours, it allows the Government to set them by regulation, and if we find that they do not work we can change them back. But if they do work, and I think they will, we can limit them even further. As well as this trial, I am giving members notice that later this year I will be calling for the Legal Affairs Committee to conduct an inquiry into all aspects of our alcohol legislation, so that the grass roots of the industry can hand the Government some sensible recommendations on how to deal with our city's alcohol-related problems. However, this Bill needs to become law before any such regulations can be proposed. I commend the Bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Humphries) adjourned.

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