When I picked up the most recent issue of Monocle, I was pleased to see Brisbane in the list of the world’s top 25 cities, but I suspect Tyler Brule and his Monocle staff would be aghast at Queensland’s new ID scanning law, and they would reassess Brisbane’s status. The ID scanning law, which requires venues in the City and Valley trading after midnight to scan patrons’ IDs, has received some heavy criticism this week, in the Brisbane Times (see Winemakers turned away from top bar due to ID laws) and in the Courier-Mail by Paul Syvret, who considers it a nanny-state measure (For an allegedly modern capital city approach to party precincts is just plain dumb). The ID scanning law has become a risk to the night time economy and Brisbane’s growing reputation among international travelers.
The Queensland Government needs to urgently re-think the ID scanning policy. It was adopted as a compromise after the failure of the Government’s 1am lockout law which was repealed earlier this year. But it appears to have been hastily implemented without the benefit of a sound public policy process to ensure it delivers net benefits (i.e. it passes a cost-benefit analysis test) and that it is a proportionate response to the problem.
As reported in the Brisbane Times earlier this year, night time economy spokesman Nick Braban had hoped that the ID scanning law would only apply to the larger beer barn-type venues and not to “smaller, boutique venues”. But, given the law now applies at the sophisticated city bar the Gresham, it would appear it is not well calibrated and is a disproportionate response to the risk.
As an economist, I am disappointed that there does not appear to have been an economic study, including both a cost-benefit analysis and an economic impact analysis, performed on the ID scanning policy before it was adopted. A publicly available Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) would have been highly desirable given the significant costs the policy is is imposing on the industry, through ID scanners costing thousands of dollars and which each require a staff member to operate, and the risk the policy poses to the night time economy and our international reputation. Such a RIS, which could be subject to rigorous review by the Queensland Productivity Commission, would compare the ID scanning law with more nuanced and likely more cost-effective options, such as increasing the fines for venues which serve intoxicated patrons or which fail to provide sufficient security to manage their large crowds.
I do not deny Queensland has a problem with alcohol fueled violence, but we should find a proportionate and cost-effective response to it, and sound economic analysis is essential in developing that response.