Submission: Your Say on Outdoor Alcohol Restrictions

The NSWCCL opposes outdoor alcohol restrictions in public places, including alcohol-free zones and alcohol prohibited areas in parks and public spaces. We argue that these restrictions impede on freedom of movement and disproportionately affect marginalised individuals. Instead, we advocate for evidence-based harm minimisation programs and support services.

Our full submission is below. 


The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the City of Sydney about outdoor alcohol restrictions.

1. Do you support having outdoor alcohol restrictions in public places?

2. Do you support having alcohol-free zones on footpaths in your area?

3. In the city centre and late-night entertainment precincts, do you support alcohol-free zones on footpaths?

4. In your area, do you support having alcohol prohibited areas in parks and public spaces? Select all
that apply

5. In the late-night entertainment precincts, do you support having alcohol prohibited areas in parks and public spaces? Select all that apply.

6. Would people drinking alcohol in public places make you feel less safe?
Strongly disagree

7. Are you a business owner

8. Are there any areas with existing outdoor alcohol restrictions you feel are required? Tell us where and why.

9. Are there any areas with existing outdoor alcohol restrictions you feel are no longer required? Tell us where and why.

Yes, the NSWCCL would like to the see the abolition of Alcohol Free Zones (AFZ) in the City of Sydney.
Every year, the list of AFZ’s in Sydney grows, it’s a creeping imposition on the freedom for the community to use public space without any evidence of the effectiveness of the policy. The NSWCCL believes AFZ’s are an attack on freedom of movement and association.

Evaluations of public drinking laws have shown that they often result in negative impacts to marginalised groups and lead to displacement with little or no evidence that public drinking bans reduce congregations of drinkers or reduce alcohol-related crime or harm. For example, evaluations have shown no effect on alcohol-related ambulance attendances in AFZ’s.1

Public alcohol restrictions are overwhelmingly in areas where higher SES people work, and where low SES people live and play. Public spaces where young people congregate are typically AFZ’s, contributing in our view, to the general over policing of low SES people and young people within the city.

Most parks around the CBD, Kings Cross and Redfern have been designated alcohol prohibited zones, as well as Martin Place, sections of The Rocks and Circular Quay. AFZ cover much of Darlinghurst and Surry Hills as well as the main city roads, the roads around the Casino, much of Redfern and Waterloo and parts of Glebe and Newtown.

The City of Sydney has an extensive and effective Street Safety Camera program. Most public places are monitored. Banning people from drinking in public doesn't alleviate problem drinking and the harm flowing from it. Rather it moves the issue around the corner or into domestic settings where partners and children are.

Instead of prohibiting alcohol in these public places, the city should consider evidence-based harm minimisation programs and approaches which operate in problem spaces and provide services and support to people who need help.

In terms of law enforcement, whilst we support other remedies available which are more oriented towards harm reduction and less open to discriminatory enforcement, police have other options. Under section 9 of the Summary Offences Act, anyone found to be intoxicated and disorderly in the same place or anywhere else public within 6 hours of having been given a moving on order can be fined up to $1650.

Under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act, sub-sections 198 and 206, if a person's behaviour constitutes an offence in this section of the Summary Offences Act they may be detained to be taken and released into the care of a responsible person, or if this cannot be arranged and it is impractical to take the person home.

10. Are there any areas that don't have restrictions that you think need them?

11. Do you have any other comments or suggestions about outdoor alcohol restrictions in our local area?

The NSWCCL believes it is oppressive for the police to have the power in relation to any person observed to be drinking in an AFZ to seize the alcohol in their possession and dispose of it. The confiscation of alcohol creates animosity and conflict between police and those who already have it tough on the streets, and who might otherwise have a better relationship with law enforcement. We urge the City of Sydney to address this issue with NSW Police.

Finally, we draw your attention to City of Sydney policy. “The City of Sydney does not move people on. We aim to ensure the public spaces in our city can be accessed and enjoyed by everyone, including people who are homeless.

NSW Government protocols uphold the right of people who are experiencing homelessness to access public spaces without the risk of discrimination.

We support these protocols and encourage responsible behaviour by all people in our public spaces. This means working to ensure people experiencing disadvantage are not discriminated against and are treated with compassion and respect.”