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                    [post_content] => 
Newtown's nightlife has intensified since the 2014 lockout laws came in.
Pic: Google Images. 

 

By Lecturer in Criminology, UNSW

This story first appeared in The Conversation.

 

 

It is vital that public policy be driven by rigorous research. In the last decade key policy changes have had profound impacts on nightlife in Sydney’s inner city and suburbs. The most significant and controversial of these has been the 2014 “lockout laws”.

These were a series of legislative and regulatory policies aimed at reducing alcohol-related violence and disorder through new criminal penalties and key trading restrictions, including 1.30am lockouts and a 3am end to service in select urban “hotspots”.

A range of lobbyists, including New South Wales Police and accident and emergency services, welcomed these initiatives.

By contrast, venue operators, industry organisations and patron groups have made repeated but largely anecdotal claims that these changes caused a sharp downturn in profit, employment and cultural vibrancy in targeted areas. They also claim that the “lockouts” have caused drinking-related problems to spill over into urban areas that are less equipped to cope with them.

Crime is down

However, in late 2016, the Callinan Review referenced compelling evidence in support of the current policy. According to the latest research, recorded rates of crime are down by around 49% in the designated Kings Cross precinct and 13% in Sydney’s CBD. In contrast, what little research has been produced by opponents of strict nightlife regulation has been criticised as unreliable, inaccurate and poorly deployed.  
The pattern of assaults has shifted since the lockout laws began. BOCSAR, Author provided
The Callinan Review noted the lack of verifiable claims about the negative impacts of the policy in submissions from the main opponents of the lockout laws. This has led to a great deal of assumption in the final report about where, for example, revellers, jobs, entertainment and revenue might have been displaced to, or how the policy changes affected them. In many respects, the passing over of claims made by anti-lockout groups is rather unfair. These groups are not official state bodies with the capacity to produce the type of data or evidence on which the policy has been justified and defended. As such, their “unscientific” observations and experiences have been largely dismissed. To critically balance and juxtapose opposing claims, more impact data and research are needed.

We must take a city-wide perspective

If the lockout policy is judged on the original goal of decreasing crime in designated “hotspots”, then it appears to have been a success. However, from a city-wide perspective there are other issues to consider. Not the least of these is the effects in other nightlife sites across Sydney. Despite initially finding no displacement of violence to nearby nightlife sites, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has just released findings showing significant displacement in rates of recorded non-domestic-related violence in destinations outside the lockout zone. Reported crime rates in Newtown, one of the displacement sites listed in the BOCSAR study (along with Bondi and Double Bay), increased by 17% in the 32 months following the lockouts. These new findings appear to vindicate some local complaints about increased night violence – including attacks targeting LGBTI victims – that has led to much resident irritation and even political protest in recent years.

Adjusting our nightlife habits

So, how can we better judge the veracity of these claims about the displacement of nuisance and violence? Mapping patronage trends is a key means of understanding how and why rates of assault have now increased despite initially showing little to no change. To this end, Kevin McIsaac and I, with data from Transport for NSW, have set out to ascertain if and how nightlife participation in Sydney has been influenced by the lockouts. Our analysis focused on night-time aggregated train validation data (turnstile counts) from January 2013 to July 2016 for stations servicing the designated nightlife precincts (Kings Cross, Town Hall) and precincts outside the lock-out zone (Newtown, Parramatta). Using Bayesian Change Point (BCP) detection we found the following:
  • no evidence of changes to Kings Cross or Parramatta exit traffic from the introduction of the lockout laws;
  • evidence of strong growth in the Parramatta Friday-night exit traffic by about 200% since January 2013, which is independent of the lockout laws;
  • evidence of an increase of about 300% in the Newtown Friday-night exit traffic as a result of the lock-out laws; and
  • in all stations, the BCP algorithm detected a change when OPAL card usage exceeded magnetic ticket usage. This suggests the jumps seen in the graphs below are due to the higher exit reporting from OPAL. The switch from flat to slow growth in trend is probably an artefact of the relative increase in OPAL usage.
Kings Cross change point Friday night.
Kings Cross change point Saturday night.
Newtown change point Friday night.
Newtown change point Saturday night.
Parramatta change point Friday night.
Parramatta change point Saturday night.
  These findings provide new insights into the way people have adjusted their nightlife habits. The most interesting finding is the dramatic increase in access to Newtown nightlife. Exits in Newtown have increased 300% since the lock-outs were introduced in 2014. As can be seen from the graph, the rate of increase has been steady over the study period. This raises questions about whether there is a threshold at which patron density becomes an issue that potentially results in increased nuisance and violence.

Big data’s capacity to help

While this research is still in its early phases, the transport data tell one small, yet significant, part of the story. However, to draw definite conclusions, there is far more that needs to be considered. Many nightlife patrons travel into the city by different means, or don’t travel at all (those who live in and around the city). We need alternative data to try to identify patterns concerning these groups. Several different organisations have data that could help paint a more complete picture, including telcos, Google, Taxis NSW and Uber. While these organisations should be protective of their data, the value of anonymous aggregate location data is how it can inform and advance public policy through ethical research. This information is key to breaking down access barriers. Without access to these anonymous aggregations of privately controlled data, the capacity of research is limited. As such, there is a need for greater communication, collaboration and co-operation between producers of big data, the government and researchers into social impact. By building stronger evidence for all manner of policies, such partnerships have an amazing potential to contribute to the public good. [post_title] => Public transport data begins to reveal true impact of Sydney's lockout laws [post_excerpt] => Newtown's 300% nightlife jump. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 26882 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-11 11:09:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-11 01:09:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26882 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26574 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-03-20 11:50:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-20 00:50:31 [post_content] =>   The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fitted GPS trackers onto vehicles suspected of illegally dumping building and demolition waste, including asbestos. NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the trackers were fitted after a covert EPA investigation into illegal dumping last year. The trackers are fitted on a 12-month trial basis - with the owners’ knowledge - and it is illegal for drivers or owners to remove or tamper with them. If the trucks are transporting waste lawfully after this time the EPA has said it will consider removing the GPS devices. Ms Upton said the GPS system enabled the EPA to track the vehicles’ movements, alerting the authority if trucks travelled near known illegal dumping hotspots. “The NSW government is serious about cracking down on illegal dumpers – trial results show the trackers fitted to vehicles has deterred illegal activity and won’t just deter those being watched but others who think they can get away with dumping on our communities and environment,” Ms Upton said. She said the EPA would consider using tracking devices to monitor other vehicles accused of transporting or dumping waste unlawfully once the trial was complete. An EPA spokesperson said that preliminary results showed the trial had acted as a deterrent to illegal dumping, resulting in waste being transported and disposed of at lawful facilities. Local councils count the cost The scourge of illegal dumping is a huge problem for NSW and also for local councils, who are often saddled with the clean-up. Illegal dumping can be a health hazard, contaminating public land and waterways and poisoning wildlife. Dumping can also hinder roadworks and bushfire protection and block emergency access during a fire. An EPA spokesperson said that cleaning up illegally dumped material was a significant cost for local communities, councils and public land managers. She said that data showed that one in 10 LGAs spent $500,000 or more on education, enforcement, clean-up and other illegal-dumping activities each year.  A 2004 EPA survey found that construction and demolition waste made up about 12 per cent of waste illegally dumped in NSW and this is just waste the councils deal with.     The NSW government introduced tougher laws in 2014, including the power to install trackers onto vehicles and the ability to seize vehicles used in dumping offences. The fines for flouting the rules are steep. The EPA can issue on the spot fines of up to $15,000 for corporations and $7500 for individuals. If the case goes to court, a judge can impose a maximum penalty of $1 million and/or seven years prion imprisonment if an offence is committed wilfully. Illegal dumping incidents can be reported by calling the Environment Line on 131 555 or through the RID online reporting portal at ridonline.epa.nsw.gov.au   Want the latest public sector news delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up the Government News newsletter. [post_title] => GPS trackers fitted to vehicles that dump illegally [post_excerpt] => Environment Protection Agency gets tough. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => gps-trackers-fitted-trucks-dump-illegally [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-19 10:45:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-19 00:45:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26574 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26559 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-03-17 09:36:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-16 22:36:06 [post_content] => Big fine:  Soul Food in Narromine. Pic: Yelp.     By Danielle Bowling    A restaurant in regional NSW will back-pay more than $22,000 to 24 workers – including teenagers paid as little as $7 per hour –  following an audit by the Fair Work Ombudsman. Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors discovered the underpayments at Soul Food in Narromine, during an auditing campaign in the mid-western and northern regions of NSW last year. Inspectors found casual staff were paid between $7 and $20 an hour on weekdays and between $7 and $23 an hour on Saturdays, depending on their age. However, under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010 at the time, the workers should have received ordinary hourly rates of between $11.06 and $22.76 on weekdays, and between $13.76 and $27.32 on Saturdays.   Read more here.   This story first appeared in Hospitality Magazine.  [post_title] => Fair Work orders NSW restaurant to backpay $22k to workers [post_excerpt] => Teens paid as little as $7 an hour. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => fair-work-orders-nsw-restaurant-backpay-22k-workers [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-17 10:08:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-16 23:08:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26559 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26489 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-03-10 09:52:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-09 22:52:11 [post_content] =>  Scott Leach, National and NSW President of the AHA     OPINION By Scott Leach, National and NSW President of the Australian Hotels Association.   Here’s an interesting fact you won’t have read about recently. After publicans in Newtown voluntarily came up with and adopted a raft of measures in September 2015, incidents of non-domestic assault in Newtown have fallen by 10.6 per cent. During the same trial period – again thanks to these measures – incidents of non-domestic assault occurring in Newtown’s licensed premises fell by an astonishing 51.8 per cent – or more than halved. Surprised? You should be given the latest release of yet another lot of figures on the Kings Cross/Sydney CBD lockouts by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR). In that set of figures BOCSAR argued assaults in a range of areas surrounding the lockout zone – grouped together and called the “distal displacement area” (but more commonly known to you and me as Newtown, Double Bay, Bondi and Coogee) had gone up about 17 per cent since the lockouts came into effect. All of the geographically different entertainment precincts were lumped in together – individual breakdowns for the suburbs were not included. The success of the publicans of Newtown, the police of Newtown and the community of Newtown over more than a year was ignored – it was as if it didn’t even happen as the BOCSAR figures were quoted verbatim in the press, on radio and on TV.   Read more here. This story first appeared in The Shout.   Want the latest public sector news delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up the Government News newsletter. [post_title] => Sydney lock-out statistics ignore Newtown’s success, says pub peak body [post_excerpt] => Newtown Liquor Accord has worked. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => sydney-lock-statistics-ignores-newtowns-success-says-pub-peak-body [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-14 12:23:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-14 01:23:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26489 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26437 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-03-06 15:35:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-06 04:35:16 [post_content] =>     By Andy Young A new study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has found that assaults have increased in areas around the Kings Cross and Sydney CBD lockout precincts. While the areas within the Entertainment Precinct defined by the lockout laws continue to show downward trends in non-domestic assaults in neighbouring areas, where no such laws exist, it is a different story. The BOCSAR figures show the suburbs bordering the lockout zone, which includes The Star Casino plus other venues around Ultimo and Surry Hills, have seen a 12 per cent increase in non-domestic assaults. Other areas close to the lockout zone, including Double Bay, Newtown and Bondi, have seen a 17 per cent rise in non-domestic assaults. The report says: “The statistically significant rise in the surrounding and nearby suburbs, as well as the generally stable state-wide trend in non-domestic assaults, lend further support to the proposition that the drop in the target sites was due to the specific licensing restrictions affecting those sites rather than other unmeasured factors (e.g. economic conditions) or other components of the liquor law reforms (e.g. bottle shop closures).”   Read more here.   This story first appeared in The Shout.  [post_title] => Assaults up around Sydney lockout zones, says BOCSAR report [post_excerpt] => But falling in Kings Cross and Sydney CBD. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => lockout [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-07 10:13:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-06 23:13:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26437 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26387 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-03-01 15:58:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-01 04:58:21 [post_content] =>       The Department of Human Services' (DHS) efforts to prevent Centrelink fraud have been criticised in an Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report, with only two out of seven fraud prevention and compliance measures judged effective and expected savings falling short of their targets in four cases. The ANAO report deals with Human Services compliance programs announced in earlier Budgets and running between 2012 and 2016, just before the current robo-debt crisis, which automatically matched ATO and DHS data and generated thousands of debt letters to benefit recipients, some of them wrong. During its investigations the ANAO examined the design and implementation of seven compliance measures, including Employment Income Matching - a forerunner of the data-matching system used in the robo-debt fiasco. It looked at whether programs were monitored properly and explored whether savings' targets had been achieved. “Most of the compliance measures examined did not fully achieve their expected outcomes, including savings and addressing the risks to payment integrity,” said the ANAO report, which was published yesterday (Tuesday). Shortcomings were identified in DHS monitoring and reporting for every compliance measure. The Department of Social Services also drew criticism for not keeping an eye on progress against targets.  “The monitoring and oversight arrangements for the compliance measures, set out under the Bilateral Management Arrangement between DSS and Human Services, have not been effective as they were not followed,” said the report.  “The Department of Social Services as the relevant policy entity did not take responsibility for monitoring outcomes, including impacts and actual savings, achieved from the measures.” But Human Services is having none of it, instead arguing that it has exceeded its savings target across the seven compliance measures assessed by ANAO by more than $210 million or 26.7 per cent. The Department argued the ANAO’s methodology was suspect and said it did not agree with the ANAO’s tables detailing what savings had been achieved against targets. It hit back, saying: “The department does not accept the key conclusion in the report that most of the compliance measures examined were not effectively implemented and the expected outcomes were not fully achieved, including savings.” The behemoth Department said it had exceeded its outcomes and implemented its compliance program effectively. It also denied that it failed to provide clear and accurate progress updates to the public or had briefed ministers ‘in an ad hoc manner’. Human Services said it already consistently tracked and reported on key outcomes and collated information on targeted and achieved savings, making the ANAO’s third recommendation redundant. It continued: “The Department notes that the ANAO has not made any recommendations which directly address its main conclusions and findings.” Meanwhile politicians lined up to put the boot into DHS’ fraud recovery and compliance efforts. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said the report showed there was ‘a dysfunctional crackdown on the social safety net before the large scale automated debt recovery system even begun’.  “The department haven't been able to manage these measures, the government went full steam ahead on the automated debt recovery process regardless; causing dismay and stress to thousands of vulnerable Australians when quite obviously they couldn't handle it,” Ms Siewert said.  “Anyone taking a flick through the ANAO report can see that an erosion of the social safety net has been going on for some time and that the approach has long been in disarray”, Ms Siewert said. She said it was ‘laughable’ that DHS had disputed the report’s findings.   “Clearly this has been back of the envelope accounting from the government to undermine the findings of the audit.” Shadow Human Services Minister Linda Burney said the ANAO report highlighted that the administration and monitoring of fraud and compliance programs was ‘deeply flawed’ and  that DHS was ‘a complete mess’. “The Minister is desperate to cover up the mess he has created,” Ms Burney said. “These are the compliance measures which haven’t even faced the most public criticism – what will an audit of the robo-debt scheme find?” She said that DHS and DSS were not following joint management agreements on welfare payments ‘meaning the right hand has no idea what the left is doing’.    The Senate Community Affairs References Committee is currently carrying out an inquiry into the Centrelink robo-debt scheme with a reporting date of May 10. Submissions are due by March 22.    Want the latest public sector news delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up to the Government News newsletter.                                                               [post_title] => Human Services fraud and compliance blitz draws fire from Audit Office [post_excerpt] => DHS fights back. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 26387 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-03 11:46:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-03 00:46:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26387 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26364 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-02-28 11:24:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-28 00:24:08 [post_content] =>     By Andy Young Hospitality industry groups have joined together in South Australia to call for a “draconian” proposal to drug and alcohol test staff in bars, hotels and restaurants to be withdrawn. The Australian Hotels Association SA, Clubs SA, SA Wine Industry Association, Clubs SA and Restaurant and Catering SA wrote a joint letter to MPs calling on the proposal, which was put forward by SA Police (SAPOL) to be withdrawn from the state’s review of its Liquor Licensing Act. In its submission to the Liquor Licensing Act review SAPOL called for random drug and alcohol testing of hospitality and wine workers to be introduced, with a zero-tolerance policy on staff test results. In addition it called for police to have the power to require bar staff to carry out a test and that it become an offence to resist testing, the industry groups have criticised the proposals as unjustified. In the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by TheShout, the industry groups said: "The State’s five Industry Associations representing Hotels, Hospitality, Independent Bottle shops, Bars, Late Night Entertainment Venues, Restaurants, Cafes, Caterers, Licensed Community Clubs, sporting facilities and the Wine Industry including cellar doors are unified in their opposition to the SAPOL ambition to have the legal capacity to randomly alcohol and drug test workers involved with the sale and supply of alcoholic beverages.    Read more here. This story first appeared in The Shout.  [post_title] => Industry groups oppose SA cop's push for random drugs and alcohol tests on staff [post_excerpt] => Review of Liquor Licensing Act. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 26364 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-28 15:59:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-28 04:59:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26364 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26334 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-02-24 17:21:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-24 06:21:52 [post_content] =>   The Corkman Irish pub after demolition. Pic: Jenny Zhou, Melbourne Law School student.        Two shonky developers and their company faced 16 charges today (Friday) and up to $2 million in fines for demolishing a landmark, heritage Irish pub in Melbourne. Melbourne City Council and the state’s building authority Victorian Building Authority (VBA), laid 16 charges in Melbourne Magistrates Court against the pair and their company for illegally demolishing the 159-year-old Corkman Irish pub in Carlton during October last year. The council and the VBA spent three months investigating the illegal knock down, which was in a heritage overlay area, before laying charges against cowboy developers Stefce Kutlesovski and Raman Shaqiri and their company that owned the land, 160 Leicester Pty Ltd. The two men, who bought the pub in 2015 for $4.76 million, were charged with demolishing the Leicester Street building without a permit; refusing to obey a stop work order; not giving the council 48 hours written notice of the demolition and doing the work outside permissible hours. Mr Kutlesovski was also charged with being an unregistered demolisher. Meanwhile, 160 Leicester Pty Ltd, was charged with allowing the demolition without a permit; failing to observe a stop building work order, contravening planning legislation, carrying out demolition work outside permitted hours and not giving the council 48 hours’ notice of demolition.   The maximum penalty for each charge ranges from $3,109 to $388,650 so the two men and their company could owe up to $2 million. Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said he hoped the charges against the developers would lead to the pub being rebuilt. He told a media conference this afternoon: “These are very serious charges carrying very serious fines”. “Everything from demolishing a building, to being without a permit, to failing to observe a stop work order, and everything in between. “It’s not that we want to go into court to punish people as a consequence of what they have done, what we’d really like to see is The Corkman reinstated and that is possible.” Waste from the site, including dangerous asbestos, was later found dumped on a site the two man own in Cairnlea. They were understood to be planning a 12-storey apartment block on the flattened site.   [post_title] => They came in with a wrecking ball: Council lays charges over demolition of Melbourne Irish pub [post_excerpt] => Fines could hit $2 million. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => came-wrecking-ball-council-lays-charges-demolition-melbourne-irish-pub [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-27 10:44:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-26 23:44:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26334 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26196 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-02-08 16:44:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-08 05:44:30 [post_content] => Melbourne Crown Casino      The Victorian Auditor General’s Office (VAGO) released a report today (Tuesday) slamming the state’s alcohol and gambling regulator for being too weak, divided and disorganised to address problem drinking and gambling and for being too soft on Melbourne's Crown Casino. Auditor-General Andrew Greaves gave the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) an emphatic thumbs down across a number of key issues in his report and said a big shake up of the organisation and its work was needed. What emerges is a picture of an agency which has dropped the ball on problem alcohol and gambling in Victoria; one which has put quotas, convenience and box ticking ahead of genuinely trying to head off high risk situations. He criticised the agency for failing to clamp down on rogue venues that supplied alcohol to minors and drunk people and venues that allowed both groups to gamble. The report said the Commission’s management approach and culture meant it employed “superficial inspection activities” and focused on meeting quotas rather than pursuing harm minimisation.   There are signs too that criminal elements have been given too much freedom inside Melbourne Casino, the only Victorian venue that provides gambling and alcohol round-the-clock and the holder of 13 liquor licenses. Mr Greaves said the Commission’s compliance division had “not applied a level of focus on the casino that reflects its status and risk as the largest gaming venue in the state” and its approach had been patchy, at best. He said the Commission had “not paid sufficient attention’ to problem areas like barring people who had been excluded by police or keeping an eye on money laundering and problem gambling. Melbourne's Crown Casino was the subject of court judgements on Chinese money laundering at the end of last year, activities which involved regular large buy-ins and cash-outs of chips. Players lost more than $1.8 billion at the casino in 2015–16. Other criticisms of the VCGLR included:
  • Licensing applications not thoroughly assessed before being approved. In some cases licenses were granted where applicants had hidden the truth about their past criminal convictions and associates
  • Allocating resources to compliance activities inflexibly and based on factors other than risk
  • Inadequate guidance and training for inspectors
  • Unreliable data about liquor and gambling inspections
  The A-G said the agency had an unstable management team and lacked leadership after delays filing the CEO role. He pointed to a negative, divided work culture where sloppy systems and procedures let abuses slip through the cracks. Mitigating factors But the Auditor-General acknowledged the multiple challenges the Commission faced, after suffering a 30 per cent reduction in staff and in its budget (in real terms) between 2012 and 2016. It also lost expertise after 46 experienced staff were made redundant in the first two years. VCGLR was formed in 2012 out of a merger between Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation (VCGR) and Responsible Alcohol Victoria (RAV), a business unit of the former Department of Justice. The A-G’s report found that the merger had ignited anger over pay and working conditions because inspectors brought in from two difference agencies were not paid the same. There were also 12 employee or industrial relations disputes which were a hangover from RAV, including serious bullying. Morale was low too, with a survey revealing the Commission had the second lowest staff satisfaction levels in the Victorian public sector. The Auditor General noted that the agency had to cope with venues being given responsibility for pokies at their own venues, which used to be controlled by a duopoly outside the Melbourne Casino and a dodgy IT system until integration in 2015. Mr Greaves also commented that the VCGLR had made progress over the last two years to reorganise the licensing division and had begun to take a more risk-based approach to licensing and provided better training for staff. But he concluded that ‘the scale of required reform is significant meaning that much work remains for VCGLR to become a fully effective regulator”. “Ongoing challenges in merging the people, systems and cultures from VCGLR's two predecessor regulatory bodies, along with the lack of a sufficiently risk-based approach, have precluded VCGLR from fully realising the benefits expected when creating a single regulator,” Mr Greaves said. “These significant shortcomings continue to reduce assurance that VCGLR's efforts are adequate to protect the Victorian community from the harms associated with the misuse and abuse of liquor and gambling.” Recommendations The chair recommended a number of measures to address these issues:
  • Building VCGLR's leadership capacity
  • Having a specialist team to monitor the Melbourne Crown Casino
  • Addressing serious systemic gaps in the compliance division
  • Seeking additional budget to establish a presence in regional Victoria
  • Reviewing and updating people and culture policies and practices
  • Working better with other regulatory and enforcement bodies such as Victoria Police.
[post_title] => Vic booze and gambling watchdog too soft on Melbourne's Crown Casino [post_excerpt] => Attorney-General speaks out. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => vic-booze-gambling-govt-agency-weak-soft-melbourne-casino [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-17 14:36:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-17 03:36:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26196 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26163 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-02-07 05:00:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-06 18:00:45 [post_content] =>     Leaks from Centrelink whistleblowers indicates that the official channels for public servants to make complaints have failed and informants should not be punished for this, says an expert in transparency and governance. Human Services staff have dumped on their employer in a series of recent public leaks to online social activism website Get Up! and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), which have both posted the criticisms online, since the government’s automated debt recovery scheme blew up in its face in January. AJ Brown, Professor of Public Policy and Law at Griffith University’s Public Integrity and Anti-Corruption in the Centre for Governance, said the public revelations, which have included officers alleging they were given debt collection quotas, asked to pursue debts they knew to be wrong and ordered to refrain from correcting errors, are a strong indication that public servants are not getting through to those higher up the chain. “Most of the time, when these things leak out in the public domain it is because there’s a problem that isn’t being dealt with in the internal or official channels,” Prof Brown said. “There may be a maverick public servant looking for destabilisation [for political reasons] but it is very rare.” Human Services is understood to have threatened leakers with disciplinary action or prosecution, insisting that the public interest defence under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2014 is unlikely to hold water. Prof Brown said it was generally assumed whistleblowers should initially lodge a complaint to their department or agency or go to the Commonwealth Ombudsman in cases of a perceived conflict of interest or possibility of reprisals if reported to an agency. Only after an investigation has gone on for more than 90 days, or if a whistleblower has “reasonable grounds” to consider the results of an investigation to be inadequate, could they then go public safely. The Commonwealth Ombudsman, which is currently conducting an inquiry into the Human Service's Online Compliance Intervention debt clawback program, said a public interest defence must relate to instances where there is maladministration, corruption, a waste of public money or property or an abuse of public trust. Although complainants are allowed to contribute anonymous tip offs, the Ombudsman said it will make them “difficult, or even impracticable for the agency to investigate your disclosure”.  Prof Brown said employing the public interest defence would depend on what other channels a whistleblowing public servant had gone through first, unless they could prove that there were ‘life threatening’ reasons why they had gone public straight away. There could be some defence under this provision for Human Services’ whistleblowers. Some Centrelink clients have said they have contemplated suicide after receiving a debt recovery notice. Centrelink staff have also told of their stress when dealing with distressed and vulnerable people, some of which they consider have been treated unfairly, and allegedly told not to help them. But DHS spokesperson Hank Jorgen has stated that public interest disclosure cannot be used when an individual merely disagrees with a policy or process, which he has hinted is behind some of the declarations from Human Services’ staff. Prof Brown said that punishing leakers would be a knee-jerk reaction from Human Services as it tried to preserve confidentiality and discipline. “It’s a normal human reaction to try to find out the place the leak is coming from. They [Human Service] would have a better idea whether the leaks are justified. The head of the agency needs to sit back and say … rather than shooting the messenger, let’s deal with the problems.” He said it would be unwise for the behemoth department, which has 36,000 employees, to try and make an example of individuals, “What they need to be focused on is trying to create an environment where people don’t need to leak in the first place.” Whistleblowers forced to go public  Whistleblowers have said they tried to escalate problems via traditional channels but they were ignored and they felt compelled to speak out. A number of the most explosive claims were contained in a letter by a Centrelink claims officer to social campaign website Get Up! In it, the compliance officer alleged that Centrelink staff were told to ignore incorrect debts and not to correct them. He said they were given only 18 minutes to study each case “because staff should not be checking for errors when they are not permitted to correct them anyway”. “When we report errors it falls on deaf ears or we are told that the issue is already known and we must not make any attempt to fix the error or our work will be returned as wrong,” the letter said. “Every single one of these issues is known to the department”. He said officers were "struggling daily with our consciences and pushing back against our leaders every single day”, and added  “I can no longer live with what we are doing”. “I am horrified at what I’m being directed to do. I am risking my job sending this information in the desperate hope that exposing such a corrupt and unjust system might just make a difference. Please help.” Other Centrelink employers maintain they have been forcibly silenced by the Department. One told the CPSU: “The LNP government and DHS management are guilty of culpable negligence for not only conceiving of such an obviously defective and immoral system but to implement it against the advice of staff. “Then to intimidate and threaten staff in order to gag them from speaking out is nothing less than blatant and wilful malice!” Prof Brown said the public interest disclosure act, which is currently the subject of a Senate inquiry, needed to be clearer and simpler. Official complaint channels need to be made clear to staff and employees needed to have confidence that action would be taken, he said. The senate inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors can be found here. Submissions close on Friday February 10. Meanwhile, Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support workers will commence six days of targeted industrial action on February 13th, 15th, 17th, 20th, 22nd and 24th in protest at the robo-debt crisis and the stalled Australian Public Service enterprise bargaining process. [post_title] => Don’t punish Centrelink whistleblowers: official channels failed, says expert [post_excerpt] => Six-day Human Services strike. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dont-punish-centrelink-whistleblowers-official-channels-failed-says-expert [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-06 17:56:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-06 06:56:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26163 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26122 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-01-31 16:14:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-31 05:14:55 [post_content] => Bob Katter calling for a ban on people from the Middle East and North Africa from entering Australia. Pic: Facebook.     Australian politicians are falling over themselves to claim credit for US President Donald Trump’s immigration and travel ban on people from seven Muslim countries, saying they suggested it first. Federal MP Bob Katter – not known for his reticence in blowing his own trumpet – has become the latest Australian politician to say that he had the idea ages ago. Mr Katter claims Trump must have heard his ‘cooee for a ban on Middle Eastern peoples from entering the country’ all the way from his Innisfail office and obviously decided to act on it. “Mr Katter didn’t expect the American President to take action before the Australian Government,” exclaimed the press release from the MP’s office. “Trump is the most powerful man on the planet and the American people have made their decision. No more!  “These people stay at home. If Saudi Arabia and Dubai won’t take them - why should Australia?”   The outspoken Independent MP, whose grandfather was Lebanese, called for a ban on anyone travelling or immigrating to Australian from the Middle East or North Africa in August last year, after an Algerian-French backpacker murdered two British backpackers at backpacker’s hostel Home Hill, Queensland. “The time has come now to stop people from those countries coming to Australia. And if that is an extremist position, is it an extremist position for Saudi Arabia and Dubai; they won’t let any of those people in,” Mr Katter told Sky News last year. “There comes a point where I’m worried about Australians, not worried about people over there,” he said. Mr Katter issued a press release today (Tuesday) saying he would keep campaigning for a similar ban to be introduced in Australia. “We’ve been screaming for this, particularly since the attempted mass murder that took place in my backyard at Home Hill last year. “As I’ve said on the public record many times, it is imperative the people from countries between Greece to India and in North Africa are barred from entering Australia.  “There is an incident of this nature by people of Middle East origin intercepted far too regularly in Australia.” Mr Katter said he would exempt persecuted Jews, Sikhs and Christians from his edict and also leave out Muslims who lived outside the Middle East, in countries such as Indonesia. Treasurer and former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison entered the debate yesterday when he told radio host Ray Hadley that Trump and the rest of the world was “catching up” with Australia’s tough guy immigration stance which he said was “the envy of the world”. “I remember when we came in in 2013 and I was implementing our border protection policy people threw their hands up – and I said I’m doing what I said I would do in the way I said I’d do it – and guess what, I’m now getting the results I said I’d get,” Morrison told Hadley. “The rest of the world would love to have our borders and the way they are secured and the immigration arrangements we have put in place, particularly most recently, over the last three or four years.” Meanwhile, on Twitter,  One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson praised the Trump travel ban but said it didn’t go far enough. She tweeted that Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia should also be included.   Citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are all on Trump’s banned list. [post_title] => Kater to Trump:  Hey, you nicked our Muslim ban [post_excerpt] => Bob Katter next to claim credit. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => australian-pollies-tell-trump-hey-nicked-muslim-ban [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-03 09:56:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-02 22:56:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26122 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26087 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-01-27 10:49:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-26 23:49:34 [post_content] =>     By James Petty, University of Melbourne Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has announced a plan to ban sleeping rough in the city. He did so last week amid significant pressure from both Victoria Police and the media. When Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton called on the State Government to extend police powers, Doyle at first seemed to reject the idea. But he later said he would propose a new bylaw to the city council. Ashton and Herald Sun columnist Rita Panahi have claimed that the people living on Flinders St, in Melbourne’s CBD, are not really homeless. They say new laws and powers are needed to “clean up the city”. Critics from the homelessness and community sectors argue this would effectively criminalise being homeless.   Read more here. This story first appeared in Melbourne University's Pursuit and was co-published with The Conversation.  [post_title] => Homeless: Why making it a crime won't fix the problem [post_excerpt] => Being punitive is more expensive in the long term. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => melbourne-homeless-ban [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-27 10:49:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-26 23:49:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26087 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26084 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-01-27 10:33:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-26 23:33:33 [post_content] =>   By Andy Young The Queensland Government has voted against the introduction of 1am lockouts, which were part of the second phase of liquor reforms to be introduced on February 1. Cabinet Ministers voted after an interim report into the first six months of the restrictions the Government put in place on July 1 last year. The report found that while there was no noticeable reduction in alcohol-related assaults, the number of common assaults and ambulance call outs between 8pm and 6am had continued its downward trend. The report went on to suggest that evidence points to lockouts being unlikely to change those downward trends. The restrictions introduced last year saw the cessation of drinks at 3am for venues in entertainment areas as well as the banning of rapid consumption drinks after midnight.   Read more here. This story first appeared in The Shout.  [post_title] => Queensland Cabinet vows to reject lockout laws [post_excerpt] => Mandatory ID scanning will still be introduced. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => queensland-cabinet-vows-reject-lockout-laws [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-27 10:37:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-26 23:37:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26084 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26064 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-01-24 12:02:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-24 01:02:50 [post_content] =>   By Ben Hagemann  Only one more week remains for 7-Eleven employees to make their claims with the Wage Repayment Program, which will close on Jan 31 when the Fair Work Ombudsman's new rules kick in.  The program will be replaced by 7-Eleven’s Internal Investigation Unit, which will request consent from claimants to be able to disclose information, including their identities, to third parties including the franchisee. Franchisees found to have underpaid staff will be required to rectify underpayments within 30 days, and where they do not, 7-Eleven will make an ex-gratia payment. However, the company stated it would not make ex-gratia payments for underpayments that arose from “cash-back” conduct unless the incident was reported within 90 days of the claimant becoming aware of or participating in the behaviour. Read more here. This story first appeared in C&I Week.  [post_title] => Fair Work Ombudsman's new rules for 7-Eleven wage claims imminent [post_excerpt] => Internal Investigation Unit takes over. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => fair-work-ombudsmans-new-rules-7-eleven-wage-claims-imminent [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-25 09:07:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-24 22:07:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26064 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26882 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-04-11 11:00:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-11 01:00:53 [post_content] => Newtown's nightlife has intensified since the 2014 lockout laws came in. Pic: Google Images.    By Lecturer in Criminology, UNSW This story first appeared in The Conversation.     It is vital that public policy be driven by rigorous research. In the last decade key policy changes have had profound impacts on nightlife in Sydney’s inner city and suburbs. The most significant and controversial of these has been the 2014 “lockout laws”. These were a series of legislative and regulatory policies aimed at reducing alcohol-related violence and disorder through new criminal penalties and key trading restrictions, including 1.30am lockouts and a 3am end to service in select urban “hotspots”. A range of lobbyists, including New South Wales Police and accident and emergency services, welcomed these initiatives. By contrast, venue operators, industry organisations and patron groups have made repeated but largely anecdotal claims that these changes caused a sharp downturn in profit, employment and cultural vibrancy in targeted areas. They also claim that the “lockouts” have caused drinking-related problems to spill over into urban areas that are less equipped to cope with them.

Crime is down

However, in late 2016, the Callinan Review referenced compelling evidence in support of the current policy. According to the latest research, recorded rates of crime are down by around 49% in the designated Kings Cross precinct and 13% in Sydney’s CBD. In contrast, what little research has been produced by opponents of strict nightlife regulation has been criticised as unreliable, inaccurate and poorly deployed.  
The pattern of assaults has shifted since the lockout laws began. BOCSAR, Author provided
The Callinan Review noted the lack of verifiable claims about the negative impacts of the policy in submissions from the main opponents of the lockout laws. This has led to a great deal of assumption in the final report about where, for example, revellers, jobs, entertainment and revenue might have been displaced to, or how the policy changes affected them. In many respects, the passing over of claims made by anti-lockout groups is rather unfair. These groups are not official state bodies with the capacity to produce the type of data or evidence on which the policy has been justified and defended. As such, their “unscientific” observations and experiences have been largely dismissed. To critically balance and juxtapose opposing claims, more impact data and research are needed.

We must take a city-wide perspective

If the lockout policy is judged on the original goal of decreasing crime in designated “hotspots”, then it appears to have been a success. However, from a city-wide perspective there are other issues to consider. Not the least of these is the effects in other nightlife sites across Sydney. Despite initially finding no displacement of violence to nearby nightlife sites, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has just released findings showing significant displacement in rates of recorded non-domestic-related violence in destinations outside the lockout zone. Reported crime rates in Newtown, one of the displacement sites listed in the BOCSAR study (along with Bondi and Double Bay), increased by 17% in the 32 months following the lockouts. These new findings appear to vindicate some local complaints about increased night violence – including attacks targeting LGBTI victims – that has led to much resident irritation and even political protest in recent years.

Adjusting our nightlife habits

So, how can we better judge the veracity of these claims about the displacement of nuisance and violence? Mapping patronage trends is a key means of understanding how and why rates of assault have now increased despite initially showing little to no change. To this end, Kevin McIsaac and I, with data from Transport for NSW, have set out to ascertain if and how nightlife participation in Sydney has been influenced by the lockouts. Our analysis focused on night-time aggregated train validation data (turnstile counts) from January 2013 to July 2016 for stations servicing the designated nightlife precincts (Kings Cross, Town Hall) and precincts outside the lock-out zone (Newtown, Parramatta). Using Bayesian Change Point (BCP) detection we found the following:
  • no evidence of changes to Kings Cross or Parramatta exit traffic from the introduction of the lockout laws;
  • evidence of strong growth in the Parramatta Friday-night exit traffic by about 200% since January 2013, which is independent of the lockout laws;
  • evidence of an increase of about 300% in the Newtown Friday-night exit traffic as a result of the lock-out laws; and
  • in all stations, the BCP algorithm detected a change when OPAL card usage exceeded magnetic ticket usage. This suggests the jumps seen in the graphs below are due to the higher exit reporting from OPAL. The switch from flat to slow growth in trend is probably an artefact of the relative increase in OPAL usage.
Kings Cross change point Friday night.
Kings Cross change point Saturday night.
Newtown change point Friday night.
Newtown change point Saturday night.
Parramatta change point Friday night.
Parramatta change point Saturday night.
  These findings provide new insights into the way people have adjusted their nightlife habits. The most interesting finding is the dramatic increase in access to Newtown nightlife. Exits in Newtown have increased 300% since the lock-outs were introduced in 2014. As can be seen from the graph, the rate of increase has been steady over the study period. This raises questions about whether there is a threshold at which patron density becomes an issue that potentially results in increased nuisance and violence.

Big data’s capacity to help

While this research is still in its early phases, the transport data tell one small, yet significant, part of the story. However, to draw definite conclusions, there is far more that needs to be considered. Many nightlife patrons travel into the city by different means, or don’t travel at all (those who live in and around the city). We need alternative data to try to identify patterns concerning these groups. Several different organisations have data that could help paint a more complete picture, including telcos, Google, Taxis NSW and Uber. While these organisations should be protective of their data, the value of anonymous aggregate location data is how it can inform and advance public policy through ethical research. This information is key to breaking down access barriers. Without access to these anonymous aggregations of privately controlled data, the capacity of research is limited. As such, there is a need for greater communication, collaboration and co-operation between producers of big data, the government and researchers into social impact. By building stronger evidence for all manner of policies, such partnerships have an amazing potential to contribute to the public good. [post_title] => Public transport data begins to reveal true impact of Sydney's lockout laws [post_excerpt] => Newtown's 300% nightlife jump. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 26882 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-11 11:09:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-11 01:09:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26882 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 96 [max_num_pages] => 7 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => 1 [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 6d1bc50563fc709f9adb18a083b62d6c [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )

Crime