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Mike Baird: 'It's going to take a lot for me to change my mind' on the lockout laws

NSW premier Mike Baird. Photo: Getty Images

New South Wales premier Mike Baird has finally responded to growing concerns about the impact Sydney’s lockout laws are having on the city’s evening economy and reputation.

Baird took to his preferred method of communication, Facebook, in a post about the “growing hysteria this week about nightlife in Sydney”.

Last week, Freelancer CEO Matt Barrie wrote a scathing assessment of the laws in an 8000 word LinkedIn post that gathered substantial support.

And after police accused a popular Sydney wine bar of being antisocial and in breach of its license on the weekend, concern was mounting that the city’s crackdown on drinking had gone too far.

Baird points to the drop in the city’s alcohol-related assault rates since the lockout laws were introduced in 2014 while the number of wine bars has doubled as proof that the laws are working and the city is thriving.

“It is going to take a lot for me to change my mind on a policy that is so clearly improving this city,” he says in his Facebook post.

Here’s what Baird says in defence of the government’s policies:

But his comments have not gone unchallenged, with nearly 400 people commenting within an hour of the post going up, the vast majority are negative, disputing Baird’s figures, and pointing out additional aspects he appears to have overlooked. Many argued that the problems simply moved to outside the lockout zones, with the surrounding suburbs of Pyrmont and Newtown bearing the brunt of any problems now.

“Extend the lockout to the casino then. I bet you won’t,” is typical of the reaction from sceptical readers.

A number argue that assaults are down in Kings Cross because the area has become a “ghost town”. As Barrie pointed out in his article, a number of previously long-running and successful businesses, including Hugo’s Bar Pizza, founded by My Kitchen Rules celebrity chef Pete Evans and his brother, Dave, closed last year blaming the lockout laws, along with Good Food Guide listed restaurant Jimmy Liks.

Matt Barrie wrote:

From 2012 to 2015, it was recently reported that King’s Cross foot traffic was down 84% as 42 bars, clubs and small businesses closed as takings fell by 40% or more. Foot traffic in Oxford Street is likewise down 82%. This is already on top of a drop of up to 60% which occurred from 2010 from 2012 as the increasing regulation kicked in.

He’s also taken to Facebook to ask the premier where he got his figures from, but Baird has not responded.

Others have also taken the premier to task over the figures, including this post by Matthew Baden:

Mike, you couldn’t be further from wrong. The statistics actually point to the violence moving away from Kings Cross… To other areas. Violent crimes at The Star are up 88%, and the decrease of violet crime in the city is a false statistic that relates to the timing- crimes after 12 midnight are down 42%. However crimes prior to midnight are up by relatively the same amount. You have passed the buck here. There is no easy fix, and legislating for the odd few is a joke. Hold your policy makers to account for this joke of a policy. I am staunch liberal but you couldn’t be more wrong. You are enhancing a nanny state. You won’t respond to this though because you don’t want to have a debate about it. You want to close your eyes and hope it goes away.

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