Punters, publicans and protest groups have all enthusiastically greeted news NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro wants the laws – which despite being relaxed slightly in 2016 still deny access to licensed premises after 1.30am and mean 3am last drinks – scrapped everywhere but Kings Cross.
The report comes from 9News state political reporter Chris O’Keefe, who says the plan was touted by Barilaro in cabinet last month, and has the off-the-record support of at least eight ministers.
“Obviously there are a lot of people buzzing about this latest revelation,” Tyson Koh, campaign director of protest group turned political party Keep Sydney Open, told Broadsheet.
“[But] it's important to note it's not a done deal and it's up to Premier Gladys Berejiklian to approve this proposal from the deputy premier, so it's really important to remain vigilant at this stage.”
Currently the laws – introduced by then-premier Barry O’Farrell in early 2014 to combat late-night violence in the CBD – restrict trading in precincts from Kings Cross to Pyrmont and have put a serious dent in Sydney’s night-time economy, and its standing as a 24-hour global city. According to the City of Sydney, Sydney currently has the largest night-time economy of any Australian city, generating more than $3.64 billion in revenue each year and employing more than 32,000 people across 4600 businesses.
As Koh points out, the decision ultimately lies with the premier and could become a state election issue in the lead up to next year’s March poll.
“If the government were to dangle the carrot of removing the lockouts and setting the city free and then reneged on that, it would be an absolute disaster coming into the state election,” he says.
NSW Police certainly won’t support any softening of the laws, though, as Police Association president Tony King told 9News: “[Any] politician that changes these simple laws will have blood on their hands.”
Koh dismisses the comments as “emotional blackmail”.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge the role of the police isn't to create laws,” he says. “It’s the role of the people to demand results from the government, to have the government facilitate the lifestyle they choose and it’s up to the police to follow the desires of the community.”
He says the next few months will be critical and urges Sydneysiders who want the laws lifted to keep up the pressure by writing to the premier and supporting Keep Sydney Open.
"It's all about people power – our campaign always has been – so don't give up," he says.
No official comment has been made by the premier’s office to the media.