GEORGE STREET ENTERTAINMENT PRECINCT
Mr BRYAN DOYLE:
My question is directed to the Premier. What action is the Government taking to reduce violent and antisocial behaviour on George Street in the city?
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
I thank the member for Campbelltown for his question. In the presence of the year 11 students from Airds High School, which is in the electorate of Campbelltown, who are here for a business mentoring program, I acknowledge the honourable member's win at the recent election and his previous service to the State as a police officer. I acknowledge that, like me, the member wants to ensure that children of the age of those in the gallery—and of the age of my child as well—can come to the George Street entertainment precinct to see a movie, or to eat at McDonalds or some other fast-food restaurant, safely and without fear. George Street, as the Lord Mayor would say, is one of the great precincts of this city.
We do not have many boulevards, but George Street is the closest we have to one and it should be one of the great entertainment and tourism precincts of our city. Whether we talk of Chinatown at its southern end, the entertainment district from Park Street to Goulburn Street, or the historic Rocks area at its northern end, the George Street entertainment precinct should be a prime attraction for all Sydney residents—from the south-west, the east and other parts of the city—and for interstate and overseas tourists. It should be an attraction at any time of the day or night. No-one should feel intimidated or concerned as they walk along George Street. Concerns have been expressed that parts of George Street have been taken over by people who are engaged in antisocial behaviour, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.
Regrettably, the problem too often relates to young people drinking excessively, then becoming noisy, insulting and intimidating to others who are simply trying to have a nice night out on the town, going to see a movie, having a meal, or going dancing or clubbing—all those things that the member for Ryde knows more about than I do. That is why I asked the Commissioner of Police to look at running a special patrol to target the George Street strip during June and July. That patrol had one aim: to return the street to the people of this State. The result of the trial shows that the George Street patrol was more than justified. Since it began, there has been a 12 per cent drop in the number of robbery and assault offences in and around the George Street precinct, 21 people have been arrested, and a further 111 were directed to move on.
There has been a big increase in body searches, move-ons and drug detection as part of that trial. Those results were achieved over just two blocks of George Street, running between Park Street and Goulburn Street. I am pleased that it has now been decided by the Commissioner of Police that the George Street patrol will not only be retained but will also be extended all the way down to The Rocks. The patrols will not happen every weekend, because the police do not want to tip off the louts about when and where the patrols will be conducted. But they will be regular enough to ensure that hooligans, young or old, realise that if they want to cause trouble, if they want to intimidate people, there is a better than even chance that they will be caught, prosecuted and fined.
People deserve to be able to walk Sydney's main street at night and feel safe. The Government has already given police additional move-on powers in relation to individuals who are engaging in antisocial behaviour. Under those opposite, there had to be three people creating a disturbance for those powers to be used. Under our laws, one person creating a disturbance, one person who has gone out on a Friday or Saturday night, drunk themselves stupid and is out there ruining it for others can be told by police to move on. We all know that 99.9 per cent of us, when directed by police to do something, will do it. This law gives police additional powers and additional opportunities to deal with the 0.1 per cent who will not do what police direct. Those laws are already helping police to defuse potentially difficult situations.
We are also introducing a three strikes policy to ensure that licensed venues that tolerate drunkenness, violence and other problems on their premises face real and serious sanctions. In other words, we are returning the streets to the people of Sydney. We are not going to allow George Street or any other streets in our city to become no-go zones. We want to encourage people to go out and have a good time. We want to encourage more tourists to come to this city, because that creates economic opportunities, it creates jobs for people of all ages, it creates economic activity, and it drives the revenue that that economic activity provides. I am delighted that the package we put in place is starting to have an impact. I am delighted that police are making use of those powers. I am delighted that police are using innovative ways to tackle these issues, and they have my continuing and full support.