Alcohol trading hours

28 January 2016 –

It’s a doctor’s dream: discovering a simple tool that will reduce disease or injury by 30 per cent.

We have that tool, and it is at hand: reducing the length of time that alcohol can be consumed in our pubs and clubs.

I have no more effective tool in my medical bag to reduce harm to our children than reducing alcohol trading hours.

In my previous role as a maxillo-facial surgeon I witnessed the trauma of alcohol-fuelled violence first-hand. I spent hours reconstructing battered faces in the aftermath of an alcohol-fuelled one-off punch, one that often also scarred the life of the individual who threw it.

I still see some of my ex-patients who are now my constituents in Stafford, or as I travel the state. And every time I see them it reinforces with me why reducing liquor training hours is so important: because it changes lives.

And that’s why I am frustrated by the hollow arguments of our political opponents.

As Justice Ian Callinan noted in his report on the New South Wales liquor licensing laws in December, licensees are financially interested, compared to the medical profession and emergency workers, who have little if any self-interest.

Referring to medicos and emergency services, he wrote: “Their opinion, formed on the frontline as it were, must carry a great deal of weight.”

Every other measure that you have heard about – scanner, advertisements, extra security, lockouts, and banning shots after midnight – are all complementary. They are all important in their own right, but as a complement to reduced alcohol trading hours. It’s like wearing a hat, but no shirt or sunscreen to the beach: you’re going to get burned.

This has been misunderstood in the past. Government’s have increased trading hours but then introduced extra security, chaplains and special zones. These complementary measures, although important, cannot work without the key measure: reducing the number of hours alcohol can be served.

The LNP want to extend the nightclub opening hours. Nowhere to my knowledge has it been shown that increasing alcohol consumption decreases violence and harm: no matter what initiatives you patch around it. It makes absolutely no sense at all.

I have been in politics for only a very short time. As a doctor and a scientist who makes evidence-based decisions, I find it difficult to understand how some who sit opposite me in the Parliament continue to propose policies that will increase the harm our children will suffer. I still cannot fathom their motivation.

I count myself among those Justice Callinan wrote of: with little or no self-interest. But I must declare one deep and driving interest: I want to reduce harm. I want my sons, and their friends, and every Queenslander to have a great night out. But I want them to come home safely, rather than end up under the care of a trauma team somewhere in this state.

Dr Anthony Lynham MP.