Measures announced by the State Government last week to combat violence in Kings Cross have received harsh criticism from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL), who fear the ramifications of handing people’s personal details over to the “dubiously colourful identities” that own Kings Cross nightclubs.
Under the proposed laws, patrons would be required to submit their ID to scanners, which would be shared with other clubs to stop people who have been ejected from entering another club down the road.
“This is probably the most ludicrous proposal I’ve ever heard,” CCL President Cameron Murphy said. “Most people know that a driver’s licence on its own has enough information for somebody to commit identity theft and fraud.
“The Government is enshrining in legislation a program where people are going to have to compulsorily hand over their identification to the dubiously colourful identities that own Kings Cross nightclubs.”
Mr Murphy said anyone with access to the data would know when you’re going to be drinking, if you’re a regular, what your regular time for turning up is and where you live.
He said: “What’s to stop someone robbing your house while you’re having a drink? If I were a woman, I’d be very concerned about some great big bouncer knowing my home address.
“Is it just me or are these night club owners the sort of people police are always complaining about.”
A spokesperson for the NSW premier, Barry O’Farrell said:
“There will be consultation with venues, the police, Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, and the Privacy Commissioner on the implementation of ID scanners, especially around the protection of data. ID scanners have proven successful in Newcastle, Geelong, and parts of Queensland.”
Former Deputy Mayor and Kings Cross resident Dixie Coulton said the State Government’s measures are going to be very effective in the interim, but a long-term whole of government plan was required to actually fix the problem.
“The problem is the concentration of alcohol venues in the ‘Cross. There needs to be a long term approach to giving incentives [for] the big and small pub owners … to encourage people to move into other things and establish a more diversified area with less alcohol outlets in it,” she said.
“These are stop gap measures, and they should have had more policing, and they should have had more CCTV and more supervised cab ranks. But all this stuff costs a fortune and it’s going to keep costing a fortune.
“It’s got to move away from that. You can be cool, you can be edgy, you can still have late night trading, it can still be an international city where people can go and drink and have fun … but if you have an extraordinary concentration of alcohol outlets, then that’s all it’s going to ever be.”
She said the dramatic reduction in the number of people each small bar could hold is unfair and unnecessary.
“Just to take away, to overnight reduce it by half, is just really bad for small business,” Ms Coulton said.
The Premier has also used problems with alcohol in Kings Cross as an excuse to remove crucial checks and balances on the use of sniffer dogs and will deploy them on the Kings Cross streets and on all of Sydney’s trains.
Mr Murphy said: “It’s just an outrage that they would be removing the requirement for warrants over the use of sniffer dogs. We know from the [NSW] ombudsman’s recent report that sniffer dogs do little more than harass people. They get it wrong in 4 out of 5 sniffs, and very few people are even charged or prosecuted.
“The importance of the warrants is that it allows us to know how much of a failure these drug-sniffing dogs are, because when the police attain a warrant and report back on their use, we gather statistics that demonstrate the poor performance of these dogs.
“And not having warrants will mean it will be very difficult to link arrests to the use of dogs. And the police are likely going to be able to cloud those figures to try and make the dogs look more acceptable than the disgrace they really are.”
Some members of the public see the deployment of dogs as a critical misdirection of police force.
Chris Lego, a local artist and festival organiser said: “The State Government will never acknowledge that its mostly not drug users committing violence on anyone; who has a pill or two and goes looking for a fight? Drug users, not dealers are the ones who get sniffed out by dogs, and lives and careers are damaged. So clueless.”
Alice Cowley, a 23-year-old preschool teacher said: “I’m annoyed that they are using this measure to merely keep violence issues down in the cross. They seem to be aiming their preventatives at a culture, rather than at the actual morons who do get aggressive. They forget that drugs don’t beat up people, stupid people beat up people”.
By Jason Marshall