Speech to Parliament 18 February 2016 – Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Bill

19 February 2016 –

This week State Parliament debated the Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Bill.

After a very long road campaigning against alcohol-fuelled violence I am pleased and relieved to see this Bill pass. I feel privileged to have been able to help bring about these changes to our laws. My belief when I entered politics was that I could help make a difference – this belief was confirmed in the early hours of Thursday morning when this bill passed, a bill that will help protect people from senseless injury and assaults.

I want to thank the Premier and my colleagues who have worked so hard to make a stand against violence, as well as the many community organisations that strive to prevent violence and help mend the damage afterwards.

I feel absolutely privileged to be representing the people of Stafford in the Queensland Parliament. They have given me this opportunity to stand up for what is right and I am humbled by the trust that they have placed in me.

Hon. AJ Lynham (Stafford-ALP) 1.21AM Thursday 18 February 2016 –

This will be a great day for the mums and dads of Queensland. With the passage of these laws, we will reliably see a one-third reduction in young people turning up at our emergency departments on a Friday and Saturday night after assaults, one-third fewer operations performed on victims of assault, one-third fewer victims of alcohol induced violence in our intensive care beds and one-third fewer parents looking into an empty bedroom.

If members opposite walked a day in my shoes they would all cross the floor and vote with us here tonight. The community hears of only the tragic cases. They read only the newspaper articles of a tragic death, a recent death, a death every Christmas. But they never see the day-to-day struggle of these kids walking through the emergency departments, walking up to my operating theatre and every single day me operating on these kids. The community never sees it. The memories of the members opposite may fade, but my memory could never fade.

Let us look at my medical speciality—and proud of it I am. There is a lesson here. In the late 1990s, we had one of my specialty on the Gold Coast, two on the south side of Brisbane and four at the royal Brisbane hospital. We had only one in Townsville and we had one in Toowoomba. Now, the number of my specialty has at least tripled all over Queensland and it is growing. Why? Because of the kids being assaulted in our nightclub districts and our precincts due to alcohol. That is why my specialty is growing. I am parochial, but I would like to see the growth of my specialty stopped. Let us do other things.

The opposition’s solution is to simply throw ineffective measures at this issue or to simply ignore it. The members opposite would probably choose to throw more surgeons at the problem, more operating theatres, more intensive care beds and more tragedy. This cannot go on. For years I have tried to fix this problem but, despite there being simple solutions in the evidence that the members opposite decry, no-one bothered. It took a Premier and a party with vision to allow me to enter parliament and help fix this issue finally from the inside.

This bill is more important, more powerful than any operation that I could ever do. It is powerful because it prevents harm. By my being here, if I have stopped 25 of our kids getting to the operating table it is far better than me operating on 100 of our kids. This bill stops injury and death.

It is ironic that the party of the members opposite has a proud international record in violence prevention because of John Howard’s strong action on gun laws. Yes, as members opposite have said tonight, there were only a few perpetrators, only a few idiots, but they affected the whole of Australia.

17 Feb 2016 Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Bill; Liquor and Fair Trading Legislation (Red Tape Reduction) Amendment Bill 245

A few idiots with their guns affected the whole of Australia. It is probably the most effective legislation in the world to prevent violence and harm. John Howard stood for change to prevent social harm. He is the opposition’s example. He stood up to prevent violence and harm.

Let me address some of the economic issues. In Newcastle, there has been a doubling in the number of bars and restaurants and increased employment. In Queensland, we have over 7,000 licensed venues. These laws will affect 99 of them—less than two per cent—and by only one to two hours; a couple of rounds of drinks. This is all these laws will do, but they will have the maximum effect of one-third fewer kids being harmed. The initial economic impact is small, but the gains are immense both in long-term economic growth and a reduction in social harm. We know that there will be reliably a 30 per cent reduction in emergency department admissions due to assaults. We also know that if the opening hours are extended, assaults rise—just the opposite.

These measures are not a magic bullet. We have never said that. But it is one big 30 per cent step. If we had a drug that could cure 30 per cent of cancers, we would use it every day. It works because of its simplicity. A reduction in trading hours gives people less opportunity to preload as they have to get to the club before it closes.

These measures create a vibrant night-time economy that is safe and simply peaks earlier and an environment that is more attractive for residents and tourists alike. Cairns has been mentioned. I am yet to see one tourist brochure that says, ‘Come to Cairns and drink until five o’clock.’ I see brochures about Cairns promoting the rainforest and the reef but not, ‘Come and drink until five in the morning.’ I understand that the nightclub industry has called for a rally, but our rally is not in the streets; our rally is in the hospital beds, in the emergency departments, in the ambulances, in the rehabilitation centres, and in the homes where the mums and dads are mourning the senseless loss of their child. That is where our rally is and that is where our motivation comes from.

Before I finish, I must thank the Premier and my colleagues who stand up against violence. I thank all the charity organisations of which I am a proud member that are there to prevent violence and harm. I thank my academic colleagues, my colleagues in the health professions and the voters of Stafford who stood by me despite concerted campaigns at two elections by the nightclub industry. I would like to thank Shane Knuth and Robbie Katter, who stand up for their communities against violence. But most of all, I would like to thank the Attorney-General and her staff for the tireless work they did to prepare and get this important legislation to the House. I thank them.

In finishing, I would just like to talk about Christmas. My colleagues and myself, just like everyone, wanted to spend Christmas with our families but some of us had to staff the hospital for obvious reasons. Being rostered on Christmas is a terrible time because around Christmas that is when mayhem and tragedy naturally call. Every Christmas our unit would lock in one to two operating theatres at the Royal Brisbane Hospital and work them around the clock simply trying to keep up with the young kids who came into our hospital with injuries from alcohol and violence. We would also have to find time to talk to the mums and dads of these kids. There were days I feared the most and those days were the ones that you could hardly imagine. Our normal protocol was that every day there was a unit meeting, a ward round and then our ward round would finish in the intensive care unit. On some days the intensive care specialist, Professor Jeff Lipman, would say to me, ‘Anthony, don’t worry about that one over there.’ That meant it was useless to operate, that kid was not going to survive. I would look across the room and there would be a bed and a young kid surrounded by his family and friends. That is why I am here today.