Last updated July 19, 2019 at 1:34 pm
Alcohol laws in Queensland aimed at reducing violence had no effect at all. Instead they increased the amount people preload before heading out.
Laws aimed at reducing alcohol-fuelled violence in Queensland entertainment areas have had no effect on violent crime, shows a three-year study.
They have, however, encouraged people to preload before going out, in a surprise to no one.
This has led the researchers to suggest a rethink is necessary if the laws are going to be effective.
People preloading before heading out
Researchers from three Queensland universities studied blood alcohol readings and interviewed patrons entering designated “night-time entertainment districts” (NEDs) both before and after significant changes were made to the State’s alcohol trading laws in 2016.
Before the new alcohol laws were introduced, revellers predicted they would preload more after their introduction. That prediction is exactly what happened.
“People were substantially more inebriated as they entered the NEDs after the legislative change,” says Grant Devilly from Griffith University, who collaborated with researchers from QUT and University of Queensland.
Essentially, more people were preloading at home, and drinking more, before they went out. During the study the number of people entering NEDs with a zero-alcohol reading halved.
“Exit blood alcohol readings were less consistent but showed some evidence of an increase. Crime statistics and patrons’ self-reported experiences of violence did not change,” Devilly says.
In July 2016, the Queensland Government made four major changes to alcohol laws. Closing hours for venues in NEDs were brought back to 3am from 5am; maximum trading hours for venues outside NEDs were reduced; “rapid intoxication drinks” (shots and strong premixes, basically) were banned after midnight; and there would be new approvals for trading hours beyond 10pm for sale of takeaway alcohol.
In three studies between 2014 and 2017, the researchers assessed blood alcohol levels as patrons entered and exited NEDs in South East Queensland. They also asked people how the new laws would affect their drinking behaviour, and collected crime statistics and data.
No change in violent assaults
The results from the studies showed that there was no change in the level of assaults.
“This is the first study to collect extensive data on blood alcohol levels, illicit substance use and assaults as people enter and exit nightclub entertainment districts, both before and after the introduction of this kind of legislation,” Devilly says.
According to Devilly, alcohol laws need to encourage people to come out to NEDs earlier to reduce alcohol preloading. This would encourage alcohol consumption in a controlled environment, particularly in places that also provide food.
There also needs to be better understanding of the risks of high blood alcohol levels.
“At the moment, many people just focus on its effects in relation to driving—in fact, the potential risk is much broader.”