Noel Towell, Christopher Knaus August 29, 2012
Police on patrol in Civic. Photo: Andrew Sheargold
Drunken troublemakers in Canberra could find themselves banned from bars across the city - even ones they have never visited - under a scheme being considered by the ACT government.
The government has agreed in principle to a recommendation from a multi-party Assembly committee for a scheme which will allow venues to share intelligence on violent drunks and to impose pre-emptive bans on individuals entering premises.
The scheme is based on the successful Pubwatch program which operates in towns and cities in Britain and Attorney-General Simon Corbell has asked the government's Liquor Advisory Board to consult with the wider liquor industry about the changes.
In its review of the territory's liquor licensing regime, which was substantively reformed in 2010, the Assembly's Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety has called for a scheme similar to Pubwatch to be established in Canberra. The British scheme is an industry-based initiative that brings groups of pubs, clubs and bars together to form co-operative groups to share information, with the help of police, and ''jointly ban problem individuals who are violent, damage property, use or deal drugs or act in an anti-social manner.''
According to the scheme's publicity material, legal challenges mounted by people subjected to Pubwatch bans have failed.
In his response to the committee's recommendations, Mr Corbell noted the ''success'' of a local industry pilot scheme.
The Woden and District Liquor Industry Working Group had been formed by a number of licensees around the district.
''ACT Policing's Alcohol Crime Targeting Scheme was a member of the WDLIWG, which facilitated the sharing of strategies and resources for reducing intoxication and assaults at participating licensed venues and feedback on local police concerns and issues,'' Mr Corbell wrote in the government's response.
Kendal Achurch, who works as a supervisor at Kingston-based pub the Durham Castle Arms, said the scheme could prove effective.
Ms Achurch said the Durham generally managed to avoid alcohol-fuelled violence, with only one incident on average a weekend.
She said security staff at many Canberra nightspots already shared information on drunken trouble-makers.
''We kind of already informally do that anyway in Kingston, so I think formalising it would be really good,'' she said.
The Australian Hotels Association was contacted for comment yesterday but could not respond before The Canberra Times' deadline. The government, in its response to the review, ruled out support for another sweeping reform recommended by the committee, a requirement that all licensees serve liquor in glasses marked with ''plimsoll lines'' denoting standard drink servings.
''This proposal was strongly opposed by the liquor industry in submissions from the Australian Hotels Association and Clubs Australia for a number of reasons,'' Mr Corbell noted in his response.
''It would impose a significant cost burden on every licensee, as new glassware would need to be purchased containing the plimsoll lines,'' the minister said.
''It was further noted that the cost of the process would vary according to glassware quality (ie, fine dining versus more durable everyday glassware) and venue size, but could run into several thousands of dollars for larger hotel/club/conference venues.''
Mr Corbell was lukewarm in his reception to the idea of placing ''greater financial burden'' on off-licence holders to reflect trouble caused by drinkers who had ''pre-loaded'' with alcohol bought from bottle shops before going out on the town. The government noted the suggestion and ''assured the committee that off-licensees are currently shouldering their fair share of the regulatory burden through the current risk-based fee framework.''