Qld Govt's Lockout Plans Look Set To Sink After Failing To Sway Independent MP

15 February 2016 | 4:57 pm | Staff Writer

"I have seen nothing substantial from the government that has changed my mind."

We're hoping against all hope that this isn't a case of counting our chickens before they've hatched, or jinxing fate, but it looks like the Queensland Labor government's planned revisions to existing lockout laws may be on their last legs.

The government's long-debated Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Bill is set to be presented in state parliament this week but will face a significant uphill battle to pass muster given the Opposition have blanket-refused to support it, leaving Labor in need of a majority-making vote from either far-north MPs in the Katter Party or former Labor (now independent) MP Billy Gordon to get it across the line.

However, as Fairfax notes, it's not looking likely that Gordon will lend his support to the legislation, saying today that — despite sitting in last-minute talks with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today — the government had failed to persuade him of the merits of the bill.

"My position on these laws remain substantially unchanged," Gordon told media. "I have seen nothing substantial from the government that has changed my mind."

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Prior to the talks, Gordon said that he was "committed to listening to all sides of an issue and that's what I'll do," but that he was unconvinced that modifying the state's existing lockout legislation to include 2am last drinks (with exceptions for Safe Night Precincts, where alcohol can be served until 3am with a 1am lockout) would have the result the government was intending.

"I'm not quite sure if this legislation was in place six or 12 months ago it would have saved anyone from harm," the ABC reports Gordon as saying. "I just don't think this legislation is the panacea that the government spruiks it to be."

Importantly, Gordon hinted that the laws focus on the wrong part of the state's alcohol-fuelled violence problem — namely, that they're punishing businesses and punters for what is unarguably a cultural issue with the bottle.

"I'm of the majority of Queenslanders that don't want this type of violence on our streets, but I don't want to pass legislation into law that I don't think deals with the issue," he said.

Presuming Gordon stays the course, Labor will have to rely on Katter Party MPs Bob Katter and Shane Knuth — who have not ruled out lending their support to the bill — for the necessary votes to get the legislation a majority approval. However, Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath would not be goaded into discussing its chances, Fairfax says.

"This isn't a joke," D'Ath said. "I am not going to respond as far as my chances and my percentages. At the end of the day, this is an important piece of legislation that can save lives. I want it to pass, I want it to pass by more than one member if I possibly can, because, honestly, all members of parliament should be coming together."

The LNP's opposition to the bill is expected — Brisbane City Council, for example, told Fairfax in January that they believed enforcement and tougher penalties would be more effective than restricting venues' trading hours — but it's also worth noting that it doesn't appear as though Palaszczuk and D'Ath's views are shared even among their own party — back in November, Labor's lord-mayoral candidate, Rob Harding, spoke out against the legislation, telling News Corp: "I fear locking the doors on our pubs and clubs will be a handbrake on Brisbane realising its potential to become one of the world's most modern, vibrant and sophisticated cities."

Add to that the fact that, as Fairfax reports, the Coalition have swiftly regained ground to be in a position to regain a majority of seats if an election was held now (although both Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg have taken hits to their approval ratings, with dissatisfaction rates presently 32 per cent and 40 per cent respectively), and it seems more and more likely that the Katter Party holds the keys to the ailing legislation — and, indeed, the state's venues — in its hands.