Lessons from Kings Cross

ALCOHOL trading restrictions, credited with cutting the number of violent assaults in Newcastle, are being discussed in Sydney.

The death of teenager Thomas Kelly, after a random ‘‘king hit’’ by a cowardly stranger in Kings Cross, has transformed the alcohol debate overnight.

A short time ago it seemed that the hotel and nightclub lobby may have regained the initiative from those who support trading restrictions.

Momentum had appeared to be moving towards enhanced self-regulation by the hotel industry and the ‘‘Newcastle solution’’ was being portrayed as a heavy-handed over-reaction by authorities.

But the Kings Cross killing has brought to a head community unease and frustration about violence in that nightclub precinct, prompting police and health workers to hold up Newcastle’s experience as an example worth imitating.

Critics of trading restrictions assert that police statistics overstate the impact of curfews and lock-downs on assault rates, but a survey of Newcastle Herald articles suggests the contrary.

If reports in this newspaper are any guide, the number and ferocity of random attacks in the city have been reduced. A few years ago, savage king hits were an almost weekly feature of Herald reporting. That is no longer the case.

It is interesting to watch the Sydney debate unfold, since many of the comments mirror the debate in Newcastle over the question of trading restrictions.

Familiar arguments about transport, personal responsibility and the need for better policing and closed circuit cameras have all emerged in the Kings Cross context. The other side of that coin, for Novocastrians, is the role that surveillance camera footage played in the police investigation of Thomas Kelly’s killing.

Such cameras, if installed, could help police catch assailants in this city too.

Both Newcastle and Sydney, it seems, have something to learn from each other, and much still to discover about the deep-rooted malaise in parts of Australian society that gives rise to the shocking violence that has plagued both cities.

Rules and chickens

A DISPUTE between two Belmont men over issues including boundary encroachments and a chicken pen highlights the difficulties councils can face when neighbourly relationships turn sour.

One neighbour has allegedly lodged more than 25 complaints against another, and is demanding to know why the council hasn’t insisted on removal of the contentious chicken pen.

The council admits the pen doesn’t comply with the law. It has requested the owner to remove the pen, but hasn’t yet moved to enforce its request.

The council says it is working through the complainant’s list of issues in what it deems to be order of priority, with the chicken pen lower on the list than other matters.

In such circumstances the council’s role can only be to insist that laws are obeyed and to act exactly as it would in similar circumstances where no hint of neighbourhood feud existed.

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