I fear a return to bloodied brawls on Sydney's streets

By Oliver Behrens

Life is a wonderful thing. There’s no doubt that most of us take it for granted. Sometimes life itself seems so ordinary and mundane and we forget its true value until a loved one suddenly becomes sick or injured, and everything you once took for granted, is snatched from beneath your feet.

With last week’s City of Sydney proposal to extend alcohol trading hours across the city, and this week’s bill in NSW Parliament to scrap our lockout laws altogether – it’s important now more than ever for our politicians to remember not to take young lives for granted.

As a first-response police officer working in Sydney for the last 20 years, I’ve witnessed first hand the important changes between pre and post lockout eras, and the difference between spending entire nights pulling apart drunken assaults, to now moving these resources to proactive work facilitating a better response to crime.

Raising a son here in Sydney, I know his future will be paved by a loving home, an inspiring education, a rewarding career and with, lockout laws, a safe and enjoyable social life. But the modest alcohol restrictions, which have been fostering a safer community in Sydney over the last few years, are now at threat from a bill being voted on this week in State Parliament to scrap our lockout laws. On top of this, the latest City of Sydney proposal is seeking to increase trading hours for bars across the city, which problematically, may spread alcohol-related violence to some residential areas.

It seems as though some of us have been taking for granted all the lives that our current alcohol restrictions have been saving. The statistics are clear. Many of our politicians have never had to wake up a young man’s parents to tell them that their son is dead. They have never had to watch as a lifeless body is carried away from a reckless drunken act. I have. Before the lockout laws were introduced, these were all too regular occurrences.

Over the last several years, Sydney’s alcohol measures have saved many lives from the most serious of life-threatening injuries. That’s people’s sons, daughters, brothers or sisters every single weekend who are coming home to their families, safe and sound, because of these restrictions.

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