Desperate newspapers and a rejection of basic facts has proved a toxic combination in NSW over the issue of alcohol-related violence.
This is the story of how a desperate media company has corrupted public debate, leading to significant curbs on basic rights and bad policy in NSW.
An 18-year-old man, Daniel Christie, was critically injured in an assault in Sydney on New Year’s Eve. He died on January 11 after his family decided to take him off life support. The man alleged to have hit Christie, one Shaun McNeil, was subsequently charged with murder.
The death of Daniel Christie, like the deaths of other young men in similar circumstances, is an appalling tragedy. His family are plainly suffering the most dreadful grief. And I say that as the father of teenage boys.
The Sydney Morning Herald
was campaigning on alcohol-related violence before the attack on Christie. It had run a number of comment and reporting pieces in December about what its journalists portrayed as rising levels of violence in Sydney. Public health lobbyists pushing for higher alcohol taxes and bans on bottle shops, such as Dr Gordian Fulde of St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, were happy to join in the Herald’s
campaign. Fulde has been campaigning against alcohol for over a decade, although he has also spoken about the effects of ice, cocaine and cannabis; he has also claimed that kebab shops are a threat
Fulde is insistent that violence is getting worse in Sydney and that alcohol is to blame. It is a claim that the Herald
was happy to repeat. It is also a claim that is blatantly false. Not false in a "we can agree to disagree" sense, or in a "lies, damned lies and statistics" way; it is plainly false and self-evidently so to anyone who bothers to check. Last year’s Review of the Liquor Act 2007 and Gaming and Liquor Administration Act 2007
showed that violent incidents on licensed premises had fallen 28% from 2007, and alcohol-related assaults had fallen 35% between 2008 and 2012. Assaults across NSW had also fallen significantly, as had hospital presentations for acute alcohol-related problems.
And for those who believe that review was a Big Grog conspiracy, you can go to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research
site and look at the data yourself. In fact, just how wrong the public health lobby and the Herald
are in their claims about violence and alcohol can be demonstrated in three graphs. Assaults in Sydney have fallen significantly, including in actual numbers regardless of population growth, in recent years:
And Australians are drinking significantly less than they drank in the 1970s and 1980s, and less than five years ago.