NSW Parliament passes alcohol-fuelled violence bill hours after drafting

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Thursday morning, members of the Parliament of New South Wales, Australia, discussed drafts of two bills relating to liquor intoxication assault crimes starting at 10 o'clock in the morning (AEDT; 2100 UTC), and approved them later during the day: the Lower House approved at midday and the Upper House at 7pm. The new legislation imposes harsher penalties on behaviour under alcohol influence, and a set of other restrictions in the Sydney central business district (CBD).

The full formal names of the bills are Liquor Amendment Bill 2014 and Crimes and Other Legislation Amendment (Assault and Intoxication) Bill 2014. The latter was assented, while the former was still pending assent from the Governor-General. The bills were cognate. The latter formally commenced on Thursday except for Schedule 5, maximum fines changes, subject to commence on a day appointed by proclamation.

Parliament House, Sydney, New South Wales.
Image: J Bar.

The opposition said they would support the legislation before they saw it, citing support of any progress on such laws. The opposition leader, John Robertson, said "We will support the Government's one-punch laws. The Government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do something about alcohol-fuelled violence."

The parties, while actively discussing the draft, did not support amendments raised during the discussion and the bill passed more quickly than usual, on the same day. However, Greens Member of Parliament (MP) John Kaye didn't support the bills, naming some issues he didn't expect the bill to address but found more important, such as "the dangerous promotions of deep discounting of alcohol, the failure to enforce responsible service of alcohol in venues and excessive liquor outlet density".

One provision defined a new offense, assault causing death while intoxicated — by alcohol or other drugs — with an eight-year non-parole period. The penalty notice fines for misconduct and swearing in public were raised from AU$200 and $150 to $500, while the maximum fine for "continuation of intoxicated and disorderly behaviour following move on direction" — direction "to leave a public place and not return for a specified period" — was increased from 6 penalty units ($660) to 15 penalty units ($1,650).

The legislation also restricted sales of alcohol from bottle shops in the CBD until 10pm instead of midnight.

The bill was drafted in response to death of 18-year-old teenager named Daniel Christie on January 11, following eleven days in hospital after allegedly being punched by drunk Shaun McNeil, 25, at Kings Cross. He allegedly also attacked Daniel's brother, Peter; McNeil's court case has been adjourned until March.


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