Journalism

Apr 30, 2014

Forget the media hysteria: O’Farrell delivered a safer Sydney

Despite the media hysteria about alcohol and violence, the O'Farrell government presided over a big drop in assaults in Sydney to make the city its safest in years.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The media hysteria that drove the New South Wales government to crack down on a supposed epidemic of alcohol-driven violence in inner Sydney over summer occurred as assaults fell to their lowest level in the city since the 1990s. New figures for the last quarter of 2013 for NSW, released at the start of April by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, were mostly ignored by the media, and particularly Fairfax, whose journalists and editors campaigned hard in January to portray Sydney as swamped by a rising tide of violence and drinking. The O'Farrell government eventually succumbed to the campaign and brought in arbitrary new drinking restrictions, minimum sentences for some offences (the proposed minimum sentences remain stalled in the NSW Legislative Council), and elevated sentences associated with steroid sales to levels equivalent to hard narcotics. But according to data up to December 2013 released by BOCSAR, ex-premier Barry O'Farrell in fact had presided over a significant drop in violence in the city to levels unseen for over a decade. Last year was the least violent year in Sydney in BOCSAR's online records, which go back to 1998, with the "inner Sydney" subsection recording 4215 non-domestic violence assaults, compared to 4405 in 2012. Violence peaked in Sydney in 2002, when 5382 assaults were recorded; since then, assaults had fallen on average by over 2% every year. The month in which the media campaign began gearing up was the quietest December on record, with 386 assaults recorded, the first time fewer than 400 assaults were recorded in December; 10 years ago, the December number was over 500. And these numbers refer to actual incidents, rather than the "incident rate", which accounts for population. Over the last decade while assaults have fallen by 20%, the population of the Sydney local government area has swollen 32% ...

Annual number of assaults (inner-Sydney)

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5 comments

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5 thoughts on “Forget the media hysteria: O’Farrell delivered a safer Sydney

  1. David Hand

    So Barry O’Farrell introduced draconian pub / club opening times that have transformed Sydney from a global city to a provincial town and now threatens to destroy dozens if not hundreds of small businesses that cater for the midnight to dawn crowd. You know, the business owners who the Liberals consider to be their natural constituency.

    It’s ironic that having caved in to people in suburbia who spend their leisure time watching The Biggest Loser on TV and never venture out after 9pm, the data shows that it’s at home where the danger of assault and death is growing, not Darlinghurst Road.

  2. MJPC

    I’ll raise a glass to salute Barry, just can’t afford $3,000 bottles of wine to do it.

  3. klewso

    Did he make the trains run on time too?

  4. Northy

    It should be pointed out that before the new lockouts and last drinks laws were put in place police and emergency services workers were under massive pressure with the amount of alcohol-related incidents and were crying out for something to be done. In the first 2 months of the new laws, they have reported significantly reduced alcohol-related assaults on the street and hospital admissions. Sorry Bernard, but the laws are working – just as all the evidence and research suggested they would.

    I’m a young-ish person and still like to go out from time to time. Before the new laws Kings Cross, George Street and Oxford Street were absolutely vile after dark. A global embarrassment. When the restrictions came in, the change was instant and overwhelmingly positive.

  5. David Hand

    So you go there now, Northy?

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