Tougher liquor laws opposed

THE Tasmanian Hospitality Association and local publicans say the state does not need tougher liquor laws, but health advocates disagree.

New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell has pledged stiffer liquor laws following an outcry over perceived alcohol-fuelled violence.

The measures include 1.30am lockouts and 3am closures for pubs and nightclubs and 10pm closures for bottle shops statewide.

Lockouts and closures differ from pub to pub in Tasmania.

NSW Police would be able to ban drunks from Sydney's CBD, and bad behaviour fines would go from $200 to $1100. 

So called coward-punch assailants who kill would face eight-year minimum sentences if drunk or on drugs at the time. 

Tasmanian Hospitality Association chief executive Steve Old said the licensing measures were not warranted in Tasmania because NSW was experiencing different problems.

He backed Mr O'Farrell's plan to provide free buses in Sydney's nightspots and the increase in penalties for assaults.

However, he said there was too much focus on licensed venues. 

``The laws are very tough on publicans . . . they don't penalise individuals for what they do,'' he said.

The need to emphasise individual responsibility was a common theme among publicans spoken to by  The Examiner.

 The Irish's licensee James Harding said lockouts had been tried in Launceston before but proved unsuccessful. 

He said they  saw large numbers of revellers miling outside hotels all at the same time with some ugly results.

Since the Launceston Liquor Accord formed in 2007, alcohol incidents in Launceston had declined significantly, he said.

Mr Old and publicans also blamed the use of recreational drugs such as ice for causing the violence.

However, the Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Council of Tasmania strongly rejected this, saying there was no evidence behind it.

``It's really important we don't look for a scapegoat in drugs so we don't have to face up to the problem,'' council chief executive Jann Smith said.

Ms Smith said Tasmania would benefit from liquor restrictions similar  to those being proposed in NSW.

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