AN application to build a Dan Murphy’s outlet in East Nowra might have contributed to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione’s call for tougher regulations on sales of takeaway alcohol, according to Shoalhaven Mayor Paul Green.
Shoalhaven City Council has rejected the application to build the discount liquor store at the Archer Hotel, leading to an appeal to the Land and Environment Court.
When the court’s commissioners visited the site in recent weeks, local police raised their concerns about the application and the impact of making more low-cost alcohol available in a troubled area.
Cr Green said he had spoken to Mr Scipione about the application, and the link between bottle shops, domestic violence and antisocial behaviour.
“The situation down here would have been very much at the back of Mr Scipione’s mind when he was talking about these sorts of things this week,” Cr Green said.
In raising his concerns Mr Scipione has reiterated many of the issues raised by council in rejecting the Dan Murphy’s application.
He linked the lack of regulation on bottle shop purchases and the easy availability of takeaway alcohol with continued high rates of domestic violence.
Mr Scipione said the numbers of alcohol-related assaults of a non-domestic nature had been falling significantly for the past few years.
“The bit that is not falling as much is the domestic violence, where alcohol is a factor. That’s the frightening bit,” he said.
“Of course, that’s predominantly being fed through takeaway bottle shops. I think it’s worth looking at the impact and, necessarily, the sort of policy we might need to develop to inform government in this area.”
Mr Scipione said the visible effects of excessive drinking on weekends and at big events were the tip of the issue, but domestic violence was emerging as the “iceberg” of alcohol policy.
“That’s what worries me – when there are incentives given to people to come in and fill up the car [with alcohol but] if you wanted to buy it over the bar you would have severe restrictions,” he said.
“In this situation you can go and fill the car up and as quickly as you can throw it down your throat you can come back the next day and fill it up again.
“There is no responsibility in this and by its nature there’s not, because it’s something that’s done in private. But what we do know is that it’s causing enormous damage, particularly to women and children.”
Mr Scipione has set up a new alcohol policy working group comprising senior police and bureaucrats to look into the issue and present options to the state government.
The group will also examine the concentration of outlets, which it believes is a critical issue for alcohol policy.
Cr Green said he was particularly concerned about efforts to concentrate alcohol outlets in places with existing social problems.
Social demographers had shown that low-cost alcohol in low socio-economic areas led to problems, he said.
A decision on the appeal has yet to be handed down.