In our last legal update, we foreshadowed some possible amendments to the liquor laws in Queensland. On Sunday, the Queensland Government released its “Safe Night Out Strategy”, a draft plan to tackle alcohol-related and drug-related violence that occurs in or around licensed premises in Queensland, and follows New South Wales’ recent legislative changes to address anti-social behaviour arising from excessive drinking.

The draft plan attempts to provide a holistic approach, with “sober safe centres” in 15 new “Safe Night Precincts”, harsher penalties, school education programs and substantial new powers for the Regulator addressing this much-publicised problem.

Like New South Wales, the Queensland Government proposes a suite of legislative measures to tackle alcohol and drug-fuelled violence including:

  • life imprisonment for those convicted under new “One Punch” laws where the offender is intoxicated by drugs or alcohol;
  • the removal of voluntary intoxication by drugs or alcohol as a mitigating factor when courts determine a sentence;
  • convicted defendants requiring to serve at least 80per cent of their life sentences behind bars, before being eligible for parole;
  • the maximum penalty for aggravated serious assaults on ambulance officers will increase from 7 to 14 years imprisonment;
  • penalties for steroid use will be raised to match other dangerous drugs such as ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine;
  • on-the-spot fines for public nuisance raised to $660 with a maximum fine of $2,750 or 6 months imprisonment;
  • patrons who refuse to leave a licensed premises could face penalties of up to $5,500; and
  • police having the power to impose an immediate 24-hour ban for a troublemaker from a precinct.

Many of these new legislative amendments, similar to those introduced by the New South Wales Government, target those people who behave irresponsibly when they are out at night in Queensland’s licensed premises.

However, the legislative reform proposed under this new draft plan does not just target the “punter”.

The draft plan looks at implementing new ways to ensure licensees provide a safe environment for their patrons with stiffer penalties for those licensees who fail to do so.

A legislative review of the regulation of Queensland’s liquor industry will be designed to ensure that the Regulator is given sufficient power to:

  • undertake covert and overt compliance monitoring programs;
  • target serious non-compliance with the Liquor Act 1992; and
  • introduce mandatory requirements to operate networkable ID scanners for venues that trade after midnight.

No change to trading hours has been mooted as the Premier wants a night life in Queensland but the State is “to be the safest place in Australia for people to go out and enjoy themselves”.

The draft plan proposes to approve a final extension to the moratorium originally imposed by the previous Government nearly 5 years ago on decisions about late-night trading until the 31st August 2014, to allow the measures proposed in the plan to take effect.

The Government, after listening to 12,000 Queenslanders’ feedback on addressing anti-social behaviour at licensed premises that were obtained from the Government’s recent online survey, believes that tougher penalties and better education is the best way forward.

The Government intends to make it compulsory for every student from Years 7 – 12 to undertake education about “drink safety” together with the Government conducting a public awareness campaign about the clear standards of behaviour for patrons to stop alcohol and drug-related violence.

This draft plan is now subject to a further month of public comment. The survey is available here and will close on Monday 21st April 2014.

The Premier has stated that the results of this survey will be used to roll out an effective Safe Night Out Strategy to address the issue of alcohol and drug-related violence in Queensland.

Norton Rose Fulbright is experienced in all aspects of the Tourism Industry. Our expertise covers all ancillary aspects that relate to the industry but particularly on liquor licensing, gaming regulations and property matters. Our unrivalled insight into the often complex legal requirements of the Industry has enabled us to build up an invaluable understanding of the commercial and practical aspects of our clients’ ventures.