Open letter to Barry O’Farrell

Dec 20

Open letter to Barry O’Farrell

Barry, mate

We have known each other for a long time.  I love you like a brother but all this alcohol fuelled violence simply has to stop.

Too many people and families are suffering.  Rarely a week goes by now without at least one story of a critically ill person fighting for their life in hospital emergency rooms.  In fact, a survey of 92 emergency departments has revealed that up to 1 in 3 patients attending hospital at 2am last Saturday was as a result of alcohol abuse.  I personally know the devastating effect tanked up kids killing someone can have on families.  It happened to mine.  Forty years ago my brother was killed by drunken youths and it took thirty years before my father could put my brother’s photograph up on the wall again.  My heart bleeds for those families of victims regularly appealing to the public for help to find those who king hit their children.

Barry, too many people are being injured.  There is too much drunken violence on the streets.  I read that up to 70% of police time is taken up by drunken violence and hospital emergency wards are described as war zones on Friday and Saturday nights. 

I, and many others, believe increasing the number of CCTV cameras and installing ID scanners at venues will do nothing to prevent drunken violence. These are the options the liquor industry favour, for obvious reasons.

What we do know is that the Newcastle experience works.  We know from that 1am lockouts and early closing work.  And yet, against the vast bulk of police and expert advice, you refuse to do something similar in Kings Cross and the city. 

I honestly believe you do care about the people and families of this State.  I honestly believe you are a good man.  In fact, I know you are.  I know how hard it must be for you to deal with this issue because of the pressures that must come to you from so many quarters.  But the plain truth is once people get tanked up with alcohol they are not going to worry about tougher laws, CCTV cameras or even “community attitudes”.  Drunks have no recourse to reason; they only have their fists.   

One more young person killed is one too many, but it’s a tragedy that is likely to happen unless you act.  I appeal to you as the good man I know you are to help stop this violence.  Please introduce the Newcastle solution now.  I don’t want any more fathers to have to lock away their son’s photographs for thirty years before they can bear to look at them again. 

Your good friend and supporter



  1. avatar

    Thankyou Bill.

    Clr Ian Scandrett
    Wingecarribee Shiore Council
    Moss Vale

    • avatar
      Bill Crews /

      Just keep plugging away, Ian.
      God Bless,

    • avatar
      Robert K /

      Yes. Earlier (11pm) closing times is an obvious solution to the over consumption of alcohol. Raising the tax excise on alcohol is another to reduce the consumption. Let’s face it, Australians drink too much! Let’s think outside the carton and find a range of solutions to make our society safer and reduce the massive waste of medical and other services due to our increasing consumption of alcohol. Moderate consumption of alcohol, is often touted as aiding longevity. Excessive consumption has no benefits what so ever. The facts out way the alcohol scented tears of those that cry “nanny state” and other pathetic excuses. Have a drink, have another, but at some point enough is enough!

  2. avatar
    Trevor Hibbs /

    I totally agree with you Bill, I worked at Edward Egar Lodge many years ago, as one two pastoral assistants to Rev Noreen Towers, and seeing want alcohol does to people, is shocking. All I can say to Barry (and yes I was a member of the Liberal Party for a long time, know Peter and Deborah Debnam well, is turn the clock back to the 60s, when pubs were closed at 10:pm, that is late enough for anybody. The town I grew up in is Hornsby, and it still only has two pubs, and as far as I know, there is not much violence.

    • avatar
      Bill Crews /

      god Bless you, Trevor. Thanks for your comments. Hopefully good will come out of this.

  3. avatar

    I am on my alcohol break for 70 days now. I finally made the decision of not drinking based my own and it is a purely my own decision. I still go out and hang out with my other friends, I drink soft drinks and my friend drink alcohol and get drunk as usual. My friend didn’t single me out because me not drinking, and I consider me not drinking is a personal choice, and I do not advocate about not drinking.
    Having said that, I do advocate responsible drinking, you know your limit and you are ultimately responsible to what happens to you and the people around you. However, that’s no way I can agree what this person is suggesting in the open letter. Starting from the violence caused by alcohol and suggesting 1am lockout. I see A, I see B, but I don’t see the link and logic between A and B. Why don’t this person go further, suggesting we as a nation just ban the alcohol? I am sure that will make him very happy.
    You see what the author is saying here, alcohol violent is not the key issue, it is an excuse for him to push his agenda to control what people do. I can’t force other people to live the life that way you want. What NSW is doing to eliminate the violence due to the over consuming alcohol is working maybe somehow can be improved, but ban people from going out for a big night? Are you joking?
    I will defend other people’s right to consume alcohol and to go out to have a big night as much as I defend my my decision not drinking.
    Last but not least, conservatives always want to control other people which often piss me off.

    • avatar
      Bill Crews /

      Well done, Ryan. I know how hard it is to take a stand like that. I really admire you.
      God Bless and good lock.

  4. avatar
    Suzy Lubaman /

    Great article Rev Bill,
    Totally agree it’s time to stop the alcohol industry running the show.
    Lives are being ruined while we allow this to continue.
    Time to act – and act now.

  5. avatar
    michael /

    I couldn’t agree more with your message Bill. If only we humans could master better self discipline, develop self esteem and not look for sources of ‘satisfaction’ in alcohol.

    • avatar
      Bill Crews /

      Thanks, Michael. It’s a bit hard for people when Psychologists have been employed to work out how to get around the ‘self discipline’ bit. God Bless, BILL

      • avatar
        Shaun J Silk /

        You are right Bill psychologists are employed for this reason. Jiddu Krishnamurti and Anthony De Mello said stop providing stop gaps and become AWARE, awareness, once you aware the problem just goes away on its own. Great letter Bill

        • avatar
          Bill Crews /

          Shaun, I have always admired Krishnamurti. I’ve been a follower of his for years. I’ve always liked what he said. He’s been one of those guiding lights in my life. It’s funny you mention him as I often think of him. Bill

  6. avatar

    Other ‘international’ cities can be open up to 24 hours a day and not have the violence problems we have. Violent thugs are able to go to court and use their drunkenness as an excuse for their actions. It’s a ‘mitigating circumstance.’ How about people be made to take some responsibility for their actions instead of using, ‘It wasn’t my fault, I was drunk’ as an excuse. Most people can go out and enjoy themselves and behave responsibly. Why should they have their liberty restricted because of the violent idiots?

  7. avatar
    Louise Kelly /

    I agree wholeheartedly but I want the liquor industry to be forced back to the hours they had when I was a kid. Pubs traded from 10AM to 10PM and then closed. Period. No extended drinking hours, and very little street violence. It is only the liquor industry’s thirst for profit that drove the push for extended hours in the first place, and weak governments that allowed it, that resulted in the violence we see today.

  8. avatar

    Dear Rev Crews….thank you for your timely letter.
    I fully support your stance on adopting the Newcastle model. ‘Every journey starts with a single step…’and I believe the majority of silent majority are totally with you in this battle…onward Christian soldiers! Who would have thought plain paper packing on cigarettes a few years ago! Please keep lobbing the decision makers…

  9. avatar

    Hello Rev Bill

    Firstly I am a Labour supporter through and through. Secondly I am not religious in the slightest. I am also a drinker that loves the freedom to go out to all hours. But mostly I am a human, and I couldnt agree with your wise words more. The Newcastle solution has worked and much to my disgust agree that it should extend to Sydney. When like last week a young man was king hit just because he was wearing a pink shirt it has gone to far and just like you say no matter what measures are already in place it isnt working. The words about your brothers photo are powerful and should trigger a move.I hope your friend Barry pushes past the pressure that any politician would face from any side of politics and makes a change for the better.

    • avatar

      I’m making this cause my Christmas wish.
      There are only winners if the Newcastle solution becomes state wide. The alcohol industry is resilient they’ll adjust their business model.
      What else can I do to help?

      • avatar
        Robert K /

        has anyone started an online petition. As well as getting the people signing up to it, they can get great publicity in the media.

  10. avatar

    Of course adding more police and more CCTV cameras will reduce violence. But there is a limit. Why should we have to pay with increased taxes to line the pockets of the hotel owners and liquor suppliers? It is a financial and emotional drain on our public services (police, doctors, hospitals, judiciary) to allow a comparatively small group of people to have their drinking freedom.

    Also it is irrelevant that some countries have more liberal laws than ours. Quite clearly a proportion of our population does not have the maturity to drink in a responsible way.

    So, at the very least, let’s stop pandering to the hotel and liquor industry and introduce the Newcastle laws.

  11. avatar
    Andrew Moore /

    A great idea.
    I do not live in Sydney, but my 3 boys (19-24) do & both my wife & I are concerned that for no reasons they will be the target of unprovoked violence (our eldest was a victim of such a cowardly act in Jan 2010).
    I have started a community campaign using your idea as the solution - – I hope you do not mind.

  12. avatar
    Peter Davies /

    I’ve been a 24 hour shifworker nearly all my working life. When I was younger I thought it was unfair that I couldn’t have a beer after work, the same as other folks, but it is plainly obvious that longer trading hours results in more violence. We don’t want to go back to the six o’clock swill but what’s wrong with midnight?

  13. avatar
    John Maguire /

    Thank you for lucid open letter Reverenc. I wonder if anyone’s quantified the waste of medical resources in dollars?

    I live in an inner-city suburb of Melbourne where the local council permits any cafe or pub or club to serve until 3:00am and permits alcohol to be served outside on the street if a venue decides to put benches on the footpath (I believe some indoor venues are can serve even later) I’m regularly witness to drunken public behaviour and what follows from this. I’d hazard to guess local police and hospitals are only too aware of the local council’s decisions.

    I rang the local council and spoke with a licensing by-laws officer about this matter. His response was even if the council changed regulations for earlier closing, a business owner could apply to Victorian Civil Arbitration Tribunal, an arm of the Victorian state government) and easily overturn the council’s decision, he indicated this had happened before many times.

    Cafe/pub/club owners are maximising profits by serving alcohol practically any hour they wish and where they wish, and this is done with the support or collusion of local and certain state government departments, and their maximised profits are subsided by federal funding which is wasted in medical resources that are designed for genuine emergencies and not the consequences of alcohol abuse.

    This is a scandal of waste. I want my taxes to go to medical resources for real emergencies, I do not wish to subsidise the profits of club/pub/cafe owners.

    I hope you and others in the can follow this up and it becomes and Australia-wide move to sanity. I would love for someone to ask our federal treasurer what he thinks of federal medical dollars subsidising the income of drinking venue owners via wasted medical resources. I’d be genuinely interested in action from the federal level too to address this scandalous waste given state governments (and by default local councils) are permitting and indeed encouraging alcohol abuse to continue through over-long licensing hours.

  14. avatar

    Yes! Yes! It’s a total cop out to say society has to regulate themselves, I have a right to go out without being attacked by drunks. One can’t help but think there are other stronger, richer,more powerful conflicts at work. So disgusted by the ‘nothing can be done’ garbage that BOF has recently stated. Newcastlle has had a remarkable change in behaviour. How can he expect immature , stupid people to self control? If that was possible we wouldn’t need Police, HWP etc etc.

  15. avatar

    A proven method of control. I have never understood the need to be out at drinking holes at 3am. If you need to drink after that, do it at home! It is not just the violent attacks but the vandalism that ensues with drunks having no morals or conscience and the random acts of destruction that occur on the way home….. I fully support your letter and the campaign. Hope is succeeds.

  16. avatar

    Evening Bill

    I support your letter. I too think Barry O’Farrell is a good man, and often good people in public places need good support on tough issues. This is a tough issue. It is true we can;t legislate for morality, but behaviour patterns can be altered with appropriate legislation and regulation. I was a Uniting Church minister in Newcastle for ten years. I was also a minister at Rooty Hill and St Marys for nine years, and now in Parramatta I see the problems. The Newcastle solution works. It should be implemented elsewhere. We could say that people should take personal responsibility, and people should, but when someone, actually an alarming number of people, has gone out with the intention of getting drunk and engaging in antisocial behaviour, calls for personal responsibility miss the mark. The innocent are king hit, and loved ones far from the scene of the crime suffer for ever. It needs a societal solution;regulation and legislation that protects the innocent and the person so desolate of meaning to life that the highest aspiration is to get drunk. The Newcastle solution offers the best way forward.

  17. avatar

    Dear Reverend – I welcome and praise your heartfelt and open letter to the Premier. Your letter is nothing short of a clarion call to action and in that regard, I note, that you are not a soloist in the choir on this one. There is a chorus of support among the populace for there to be greater responsibility for the sale and distribution of alcohol. If I may, though, I certainly also support greater life skills and emotions management training of children at least 3 times a week at school from kindergarten to year 12. I feel that most violence originates from patterns observed or from an inability of people to truly deal with their personal issues or manage their emotions. So, yes, definitely increase the responsible sale of alcohol and the punitive sanctions from its misuse or violence, but in tandem with creating a positive cultural shift by imbuing children with key life and social skills in understanding their thoughts and emotions. Thank you…

  18. avatar
    Dan Sales /

    What is the hold the alcohol industry has over our government?
    Time for the Premier to show he is not a puppet and is prepared to make tough decisions.
    Thomas Kelly and week after week of violence.
    Time for zero tolerance.

  19. avatar
    Cristina cestaro /

    I agree, something needs to be done. The community changed the smoking laws with the ‘getup’ campaign, we can do it again with alcohol. I know the clubs are strong as with the alcohol companies, but we need to think about the community and what is best for us- as a society. The message of moderation is not getting through, therefore a change is required from the vendors.
    Keep up the good work!

  20. avatar
    Walter Carpenter /

    Hello Bill,
    we met many years ago when I was the Chairman of the Property Industry Foundation.

    I applaud your open letter to the Premier. The community needs its leaders to speak out on matters such as alcohol fueled violence.

    I am informed that a petition to the Premier signed by 10,000 people must be debated in the NSW parliament. I am sure your sources could check on this claim but it came from a well placed parliamentary source.

    A petition on this matter and led by yourself would quickly surpass 10,000 signatures.
    No doubt a digital on-line petition would amass even more support.

    Well done and thank you for the courage and leadership to speak out.


  21. avatar

    Great work Bill. My younger brother was killed in a drink driving car accident too, when he was 23. There’s no such thing as responsible drinking – any money spent on alcohol goes to support the alcohol industry and helps them promote their drug more. Anyone concerned about the problems caused by alcohol should completely boycott it, and as far as possible boycott places that sell it, and encourage others to do the same.

  22. avatar

    Long overdue. Great Britain is currently warning tourists to avoid Sydney as it is a violent dangerous city. So much for being a global city that needs 24 hour trading to encourage tourism. 1 am lockouts are a generous concession. AT least give it a try instead of sticking your head in the sand, Barry O’.

  23. avatar

    Thank you Reverend and sorry for the loss of your brother, this time of year when families gather must be particularly difficult for you.
    Alcohol is a toxic drug.
    I refer everyone to the website of the Cancer Council of NSW where it’s clearly stated alcohol is a cause of several cancers. They also clearly state that the level of risk increases in line with increasing levels of alcohol consumption.

    Tobacco use has been long identified as a public health risk and the ongoing effective steps of regulation have been taken (plain packaging, no advertising, no smoking in the workplace or indoor public spaces etc).

    Now is the time to tackle the other and I think even more catastrophic public health issue of alcohol misuse. I’ve never heard of domestic violence due to cigarette smoking, nor vandalism or disgusting violence due to cigarette smoking, which is not to minimize that issue and we’re moving in the right direction regarding that, however alcohol is by far and away a more devastating drug to our community. A smoker risks his own health, a drunk risks the lives of all around him where ever he is including public spaces and roads. Limits regarding this extremely destructive drug have to be set.

    We not only subsidise the liquor industry through emergency and medical services, but also through current and future medical costs due to alcohol-induced cancers.

    I hope NSW takes the lead for all Australia.
    Thank you again Reverend and all the best.

    • avatar

      I support your letter Bill, and it’s heartbreaking to read about your brother. Can’t imagine what you and your family went through but I believe it’s a part of what’s made you the amazing person you are today!
      I absolutely agree with Teresa on this, whilst a smoker risks his/her personal health, alcohol destroys more lives, families, relationships, work etc…and how about depression, suicide, psychosis and other mental illness’….the list goes on. We really need to treat alcohol as we did smoking, a public health issue! Thankyou Bill for your concern and compassion!

      • avatar
        Bill Crews /

        Hi Jessica. Thanks for that. If anything has surprised me it’s that after writing that letter, I thought I’d be OK. However it’s rekindled a real deep sadness in me especially as I’ve had no response from the alcohol lobby or from anyone “on the other side”. Nobody wants to take responsibility for the damage alcohol can do except blame those who do exactly what the alcohol publicity machine teaches them to do. Do you know 50% of alcohol is consumed by 10% of the drinkers? So the industry needs alcohol abusers to keep making profits. If people control their drinking the whole business would go broke. It needs abusers to make profits.

  24. avatar
    Mark Jones /

    Your out-spoken position has the support of many in the community. Having picked up a nephew who was visiting from overseas, after being king hit in a Bondi pub, I’ve had first hand experience of the consequences of binge drinking.

    Turning off the tap worked for generations of Australians. It’s a simple solution to an obvious problem. Let’s turn your suggestion into a movement through social media and other avenues.

  25. avatar
    Ian Faulks /

    Good morning Bill,
    Well done. I support you.
    I like Walter Carpenter’s suggestion (above) regarding petitions to parliament, and would go further to suggest changing the wording of the petition each time 10,000 signatures have been achieved. That would mean not just a solitary debate, but an ongoing series.
    The work of Kip Kypri and his colleagues has unquestionably showed the Newcastle approach works, and medical, legal and emergency services workers at all levels – e.g., from Police Commissioner Scipione to a beat constable – support the move.
    Pardon the pun, but it’s time to have some bottle and do it!

  26. avatar

    The federal government sponsored National Alcohol Strategy 2006-2011 and the National Binge Drinking Strategy 2013 are both bandaid-style responses to the rising mental, behavioral and social problems caused by excess alcohol consumption. Although well-intentioned, neither strategies for future action considered the obvious: limited liquor trading hours and venues. The fact is Newcastle proved it works. There’s increasing harm in doing nothing and there’s absolutely no harm in trying this across other cities, I think many will wholeheartedly support your proposal Reverend.

  27. avatar
    Kristine Perry /

    Dear Bill, I listen to your programme ob 2GB, and have done so for many years. I disagree with your comments from time to time but that is neither here nor there. The fact that you are broadcasting the absolute need for the people who are least able to help themselves to feel safe and maintain, attain and/or regain their dignity, independence. I know you are too humble to hear it, but you are an exceptional person. We need exceptional people like you to show us and lead and teach us to embrace every single person, regardless of their circumstance. Kindest Regards, Kristine

    • avatar
      Bill Crews /

      Thanks Kristine. That’s why I love broadcasting on 2GB. Not everyone agrees with me so I have to think hard about what I say and how to say it. I also learn a lot as I come across other points of view. You know, in the whole time I have been broadcasting from there I have never been censored at all! That’s in spite of how annoyed at me some listeners get. God Bless, BILL

  28. avatar
    anne kleeborn /

    I totally agree with your open letter, Bill. Let us at least try the Newcastle option.

    What is there to lose?


    • avatar
      Bill Crews /

      Thanks Anne. You know Barry hasn’t replied to my letter even though he’s been talking about “This problem” on the radio. BILL

  29. avatar
    James Harrald /

    We would ne crazy not to use whatever preventative measures available to save lives or prevent serious long term health problems. Maybe the whole idea of binge drinking could be addressed by using ads that shock people or limit the amount of alcohol purchased at any given time in problem towns and communities.

    • avatar
      Bill Crews /

      James, WE have to be careful with shock advertising tactics here because sometimes they have the opposite effect. They turn some people on to what they are really trying to stop. God Bless Bill

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