Salvos urge action on alcohol violence

As the NSW cabinet meets to discuss measures to curb alcohol-fuelled violence, the Salvation Army is urging tough action, saying the situation is ‘‘out of control’’.

And emergency workers are calling on the cabinet to reduce bar trading hours and introduce lock-outs when it meets on Monday, following public pressure on Premier Barry O’Farrell to act.

The Salvation Army’s director of recovery services, Gerard Byrne, says single-punch deaths in Sydney’s Kings Cross showed that both state and federal governments needed to act to curb binge drinking to prevent further fatalities.

‘‘We know that alcohol abuse is propped up through access to cheap alcohol, overly liberal opening hours of bars and clubs, marketing blitzes of alcohol products via all forms of media and through the sponsorship of sporting and social events by the liquor industry.’’

Urgently needed measures included a review of sentences for alcohol-related violence to address community concerns, fewer liquor outlets, reduced trading hours and risk-based licensing systems, Mr Byrne said on Monday.

Better regulation of sponsorship of sporting and social events by the liquor industry was also needed along with community and schools based education programs to highlight the danger alcohol poses, he said.

Mr O’Farrell has come under increasing pressure to act following public outrage over the Kings Cross single-punch deaths of Thomas Kelly in July 2012 and Daniel Christie earlier this month.

Mr Byrne said the deaths and ongoing violence in Sydney showed ‘‘the abuse of alcohol is out of control in our community’’.

The Last Drinks Coalition, a grouping of NSW police, doctors, nurses and paramedics, said reduced trading hours and lock-outs must be among the measures approved by NSW cabinet on Monday.

Coalition spokesman and Health Services Union NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes said the premier had ‘‘a golden opportunity to make a real difference to assault rates in Kings Cross’’.

‘‘If the premier is serious about significantly curbing the violence he’ll be introducing the big ticket items that are proven to work - reduced trading hours and lock-outs.’’

Mr Hayes said reduced trading hours, lock-outs and restrictions on high alcohol-content drinks in Newcastle led to a 37 per cent drop in late night assaults and a 26 per cent drop in emergency department admissions.