Sean Nicholls | SMH | May 14, 2012
Domestic violence is the "iceberg" of excessive drinking ... NSW Police Comissioner Andrew Scipione. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
THE Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, has questioned the lack of regulation of purchases from bottle shops and linked the easy availability of take-away alcohol to stubbornly high rates of domestic violence.
The issue will be examined, at Mr Scipione's request, by a new alcohol policy working group comprising senior police and bureaucrats who will present options to the state government.
The Herald can reveal that the group, formed this year, is conducting a comprehensive review of the alcohol licensing system in response to an offer by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, last year to give police whatever support they needed to tackle alcohol-related violence.
The group will also examine the concentration of outlets, which it believes is a critical issue for alcohol policy.
In an interview about measures the police are taking to combat alcohol-related 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.''
NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data shows that between 2007 and 2011, the average annual rate of alcohol-related domestic violence fell 2.6 per cent, compared with a 5.3 per cent drop in other alcohol-related assaults.
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,'' Mr Scipione 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.''
The commissioner quoted a national poll conducted for the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation, published last month, which showed 69 per cent of adults supported a ban on alcohol advertising on television before 8.30pm.
Acknowledging the issue of advertising was largely a federal one, Mr Scipione still said there were concerns with the marketing done by bottle shops.
''I know there's a problem, at least in my mind, when I've got a brochure that gets shoved into my letterbox at home and it shows me I can buy a can of beer effectively cheaper than I can go downstairs here at lunchtime and buy a can of Coke,'' he said.
The working group, which meets fortnightly, comprises representatives from the Attorney-General's Department and the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing as well as the commander of drug and alcohol co-ordination with the NSW Police, Superintendent Patrick Paroz, and the commander of major events and incidents, Assistant Commissioner Alan Clarke.
Mr Paroz said the group was examining licensing as ''the biggest-ticket issue'' and doing research into venue and outlet density as ''another critical issue''.
Mr Scipione said research showed venue density, trading hours and the strength of alcohol served, were key factors in alcohol-related violence.
''I think that there are some locations where there are good questions and there is good reason to ask these questions.
''All the research tells us that if you lower the density in these really highly dense locations then you will see a reduction in associated violence.''