Pub and bar owners should pay for social harm

hindley-streetA radical new idea to control drunkenness and crime in Hindley Street will come under the spotlight at a Public Order Forum hosted by Flinders University on Wednesday.

The Forum, Intoxication, Crime and Hindley Street,  to be held at Flinders University Victoria Square, will include a proposal by Willem de Lint, Professor in Criminal Justice at Flinders Law School, that publicans and bar owners should pay some of the cost of the social harm caused by alcohol and partying at late night venues in the city centre.

“This is an important Forum at a time when there is considerable public discussion around 24-hour trading, particularly in Hindley Street,” Professor De Lint said.

The State Government recently backed off a proposal to force pubs and clubs, except for the Adelaide Casino, to close between 4am and 7am to help curb problem drinking and alcohol fuelled violence.  This followed protests from the owners of late night venues who claimed the measures didn’t go far enough and they are being treated unfairly.

Professor De Lint however, will argue that owners should take responsibility for the public harm caused by their trading practises, and instead of off-loading the costs of law and order onto the taxpayer through demands for increased policing, they should contribute to the costs.

“Polluters are increasingly paying for harm to the environment, so we could work out a similar scheme and calculate a tax on pub and club owners based on social harm,” Professor De Lint said.

Professor De Lint will be joined on the panel by:

Tony Tropeano – Lawyer, Fletcher & Lawson Lawyers and President, Hindley Street Traders Association

Michael O’Connell – Commissioner for Victims’ Rights SA

Paul White – Deputy Chief Executive, Attorney General’s Department Commissioner, Office of Liquor and Gambling

Christopher J Charles – General Counsel, Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement

George Mancini – Spokesperson, SA Council for Civil Liberties

Moderated by Professor David Bamford – Dean, Flinders Law School.

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0 thoughts on “Pub and bar owners should pay for social harm

  1. Isn’t this just passing the buck here? Shouldn’t the responsibility rest on the people engaging in violent behaviour rather than those business owners that provide an environment for individuals to socialize in? Drinking does not cause people to become violent but is merely one factor among others including psychological and physiological factors which cause an individual to act violently (Collins 1988). As this is the case it seems unfair to punish business owners for the actions of some few that merely visited their establishment. Wouldn’t it be more productive to instead have some stronger consequences for engaging in violent behaviour to discourage people from acting in this way to begin with as well as recouping the costs incurred by the behaviour? The alternative is shifting the cost onto the business owners, who will in turn shift the cost onto their customers, the majority of which are not acting violently.

    Collins, James J. (1988), “Suggested Explanatory Frameworks to Clarify the Alcohol Use/Violence Relationship”, 15 Contemp. Drug Probs. 107

  2. “Polluters are increasingly paying for harm to the environment, so we could work out a similar scheme and calculate a tax on pub and club owners based on social harm,” Professor De Lint said.

    ^^ On this matter as well it seems more a matter of convenience than a matter of justice. It is much easier to tax the club owners than it is to fine the individuals responsible which would require both policing and a settlement through the courts. It would be much harder to calculate the “social harm” on an individual basis as well. The comparison between pollutors and club owners falls down as they are not the ones producing the “social harm” but it instead a few individuals that visit their business who are engaging in the anti-social behavior. This seems to be a clear misattribution of responsibility.

  3. This may be radical by Aus standards but such measures existed in Sweden as far back as 1970/71 according to my colleagues there of the time. No doubt there is evaluative info on them available. In my view it is high time that the very profitable alcohol supply businesses took more repsonsibility for, and carried more of the cost of, our seriously grog-strife riven culture.

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