Safe Night Out laws to be used for crackdown on uni students
THE Newman Government has announced the Sunshine Coast is a "Safe Night Out" district, granting police expanded powers to issue move-on directions, with vastly increased fines applying to trivial public order offences.
The fines for obstructing police or failing to obey a move-on direction have increased from $660 to $6600.
It has been announced there will be a crackdown by police on students from the University of the Sunshine Coast, apparently motivated by an incident where an exchange student assaulted a police officer.
It is, of course, inappropriate to target all of the members of a large and diverse group, such as university students, based on the bad behaviour of one individual.
Premier Newman himself, when defending his decision not to impose earlier closing hours on licensed premises said, "It is authoritarian, in my view, to make laws that penalise the many for the sins of a few."
The supposed objective of the government, to create safer entertainment precincts, is unlikely to be achieved unless serious steps are taken to limit trading hours.
The Newman Government has ignored research showing that earlier closing times imposed in Newcastle have produced a sustained 33% reduction in assaults since 2008.
The Premier has instead expanded police powers and impose harsher punishment on people who at the moment of their offending are unlikely to have those penalties at the forefront of their minds.
It should be noted that the Australian Hotels Association, the peak lobby group for licensed premises, has donated $372,500 to the LNP coffers in recent times.
There is evidence to suggest the imposition of harsher penalties may actually create further unintended, and harmful, consequences.
In 2010 the then Crime and Misconduct Commission conducted a review of the police "move-on" powers.
Using police data from 2004-08, the CMC found juveniles aged 10-16 were over-represented in the move-on stats and 17 to 24-year-olds comprised a third of the total population who had been "moved on". Of most concern was the fact a six-year-old had been issued with a move-on direction and 144 directions had been issued to juveniles under the age of 13.
The review also found 42.6% of people moved on were indigenous.
The Newman Government should reconsider the imposition of an ineffective regime of overly harsh penalties that are likely to impact disproportionately the most vulnerable, and impose effective measures, such as earlier closing times in the entertainment precincts.
* Alex McKean is a barrister and long-time Coast local