UOW academic praises govt's alcohol policies

A University of Wollongong academic has praised the NSW government's proposed alcohol policies, saying they had the potential to alter a culture where excessive drinking is a norm.

Premier Barry O'Farrell yesterday rolled out the much anticipated package of reforms to address alcohol-related violence in Sydney CBD trouble spots.

Mandatory minimum jail terms, forced testing for alcohol and other drugs, and late-night lockouts for inner city bars are all in store for Sydney.

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The policy that will have the biggest effect statewide is a 10pm closure for all bottle shops - good news, according to UOW's Professor Sandra Jones.

"It says we are serious about addressing alcohol-related harm," she said.

"We know consumption is directly linked to availability. The more alcohol available, the more outlets and longer opening hours, the more people drink. If we put limits on accessibility, it will have an immediate and important impact."

However, the 10pm bottle shop closure will have little impact on Illawarra bottle shops.

Local Liquorland, BWS and Dan Murphy's stores already close by 10pm. The Illawarra Mercury contacted more than a dozen independent liquor stores around the Illawarra and all bar one - the Bottlemart attached to Towradgi Beach Hotel - said their stores already closed by 10pm and would not be affected by the changes. The TBH Bottlemart stays open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

"It won't make much of a difference," said store manager Jenny Woods.

"People will just stock up earlier. They won't be too worried about the shop closing earlier."

Member for Kiama, Gareth Ward, welcomed the proposed reforms, saying it "sends a strong message" that the alcohol culture needed to change.

He also flagged the possibility of the Sydney venue policies being rolled out across the state.

"In the future if it is decided that these laws need to be extended, they can and will be implemented wherever necessary."

Prof Jones said the bottle shop restrictions were a step in the right direction, but more needed to be done to address alcohol abuse.

"People have to change their drinking culture, but they won't when alcohol is so freely available," she said.

"It says that you don't need alcohol 24 hours a day.

"It's not like popping out for a carton of milk. We can't just treat alcohol like any other harmless commodity."

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