Last July  a new Liquor Act came into force in NSW. Prior to that event the local Licensing Police had begun to play a heavy hand with various restaurants and nightclubs.
In August Flo’s Palace was forced to close because of breaches of the Liquor Act. Last month the Detour was forced to close.
The Star was aware of the sudden police raids and inspections at the time, and the continuing problems that many venues were having trying to conform to the act. In numerous discussions with many of the owners and licensees of the premises, The Star was asked not tho publish any of this information. The argument used was that the matter should be played down -“ -˜kept low key’ -“ in an attempt to contain and deal with the problem.
It now seems that such advice was ill-informed and indeed detrimental to the businesses concerned and to the general public. Many of the businesses now realise the seriousness of the situation and, in a general meeting of licensed premises called by Michael Glynn, Publisher of The Star, those businesses attending requested public disclosure of the situation.
At the same time the meeting formed a committee to begin to work for the reform of the Liquor Act and the Theatres and Public Halls Act. The meeting also recognised that this was not just a gay issue, but that non-gay venues throughout the state were also affected. Approaches to other venues have been made, and a further meeting is to be held on Thursday November 3 .
Michael Glynn, Publisher/Editor, has compiled the following report.
Only a couple of years ago the Gay businesses in the Oxford Street area began to become an alive, possibly healthy and positive focus for our developing community. The value of these places in our community has proven itself time and time again. They are a valuable focus for our socialising, communication, fund-raising, political activity and enjoyment. There has always been a coming and going of venues, places for us to rage, meet people, feel safe.
That our major venues (bars, discos, pubs) are seriously threatened is becoming increasingly clear to a greater number of people.
The situation is not new and it did not spring up overnight. Nor is it a single issue problem. What we have is a major failure by the Wran government in the administration and application of law and justice in NSW.
The immediate threat to our business community comes from changes to the Liquour Act, the enforcing of the Crimes Act for homosexual offences, and the application of the law by police.
In both areas current legislation is unrealistic, illogical, unjust, discriminating and corrupting.
The Liquour Act does not define a disco. Patchs and the Midnight Shift are not discos as defined by the Liquor Act, they are restaurant/cabarets. Under the definition of their licenses they must serve drinks to customers who are seated AND who are eating. These provisions smack of the ballroom mentality of 50 years ago. They do not recognise today’s reality. In fact, changes to the Liquour Act in July of this year has cost our businesses tens of thousands of dollars in fines, court costs and legal fees.
Why? Because they are discos and operate as discos, not restaurant/cabarets. People go to discos to dance, not eat and watch shows-¦
The enforcement of the Crimes Act in the recent raids on Club 80 has caused considerable comment in the media and various representations to the government. It seems that little can be done to stop the trials of 27 gay men arrested in those raids.
Only last year members of the government, and members of our own community, were saying that these laws were not being enforced. The government that included provisions in the anti-discrimination act for homosexuals, refused to remove criminal penalties of up to 14 years jail for homosexual behaviour in private.
Gays cannot be discriminated against in most areas of housing and employment but can be arrested, tried and convicted for having sex.
That the police have assumed new tactics is evident from their past and recent behaviour. In the past licensing police and the vice squad have turned blind eyes, with hands out, as unlicensed clubs/bars and sex palaces (non-gay and gay) have flourished throughout the city. In the gay community it is alleged that upwards of $50,000 per week was once paid to police, politicians and bureaucrats to keep places open. The extent of that pay-off system may have decreased but it has not disappeared.
In 1976 the Wran government gained office with a campaign that stressed a promise of reform. Instead, law and justice in NSW has now acquired a sordid quality and its application is in total disarray.
The recent allegations concerning corruption of the prisoner’s early release scheme, Rex Jackson’s misleading of parliament over the issue (with his subsequent resignation) and the serious doubts about the thoroughness of the police investigation have given substance to calls for a judicial inquiry into allegations of corruption in the prison system and, at the least, police inefficiency.
Further allegations by the government’s former crime advisor, Mr. Bob Bottom, concerning a NSW magistrate taken to lunch by a crime figure (so far unnamed), and that charges against a defendant were dropped under an arrangement between criminals and the magistrate, are adding to the pressure on the government for a full public inquiry.
Adding more fuel to the fire are allegations of corruption and crime surfacing in the Juanita Nielson inquest. During the investigation into the King’s Cross publisher’s disappearance (and presumed death) Mr. James Anderson, former manager of Les Girls, alleged that he had seen Abe Saffron hand over parcels of money to senior detectives, including one who is now an assistant commissioner.
Newspaper reports (within the limits of the restrictive libel laws that exist in NSW), have referred to Abraham Gilbert Saffron as -˜a prominent businessman’. Other commentators have not been so complimentary: It is established that Mr Saffron has a reputation said to be unsavoury and of being involved in illicit activities’ -“ (Mr Justice Perignon, NSW Police Tribunal, April 1982). He is one of the principal characters in organised crime in Australia -“ (Peter Duncan, former South Australian Attorney General, SA Parliament, March 1978). It is a matter of notoriety in the community, that Mr Saffron is not a person of good repute (NSW Premier Neville Wran, NSW Parliament, November 1978)-¦
In 1982, during the Police Tribunal’s investigation of the Deputy Police Commissioner, Mr Bill Allen, Mr Saffron said that he was associated with more than sixty companies in NSW. Question by counsel assisting the Tribunal, Mr Roger Court, QC, Mr Saffron was asked if he had an interest in premises known as Ruby Reds, at 273 Crown St, East Sydney. Mr Saffron replied: Not the business, no. He disagreed with Mr Court that Ruby Reds was frequented mainly by lesbians and said that it was frequented by both males and females. It was fair, however to call it a gay bar-¦
Mr Saffron said that he, his wife Doreen, and his sister Beryl Buckingham, were all directors of a company called Arcadia Securities Pty Ltd and that Arcadia in turn had shares in a company by the name of Educe Pty Ltd. He did not know if a woman, Dawn O’Donell, was a director of Educe.
Educe operates Patches at 33 Oxford St? -“ That’s correct.
Mr Saffron said that as far as he knew, Dawn O’Donell looked after Patchs.
Mr Saffron’s alleged associations with the gay community are common knowledge. What is not common knowledge is the extent of that association-¦
In 1980, in the NSW Parliament, the Independent State MP, John Hatton, named as corrupt the former liberal Premier, Sir Robert Askin, Police Commissioner Mackay, Allen, Hanson and Wood, and the former CSM Mr Murray Farquhar, who was later appointed head of the NSW Drug and Alcohol Authority.
Mr Hatton told parliament that the turnover of organised crime was more than $2000 million a year -“ that Police Commissioner Wood had resigned -“ on full superannuation benefits -“ following distribution of a document which made shattering observations on the NSW Police Force-¦
Payoffs, bribery, corruption, even murder -“ if any of it is true then some light may be shed on the current situation within our own community.
In March 1982, Sergeant Warren Molloy, who was responsible for licensing in the Kings Cross/ Darlinghurst area, launched a crackdown on restaurants, nightclubs and blue movie houses.
This action signalled an end to the give and take situation that had existed between police and certain businesses in the area. Among the many premises raided were some with which Mr Saffron was associated-¦
Sergeant Molloy has since assumed duties at Chatswood, and in his place Detective Sergeant Burton is responsible for licensing in the area. Sergeant Burton, according to a number of sources, plays it strictly by the book. When the full letter of the law is being applied, you can’t run a disco as a disco, not when you’re really supposed to be a restaurant under the provisions of the Liquour Act. The argument has been well put -“ Sergeant Burton is just doing his job -“ enforcing the law.
A similar situation applies to the vice squad, with Detective Sergeant Ernie Shepard in charge. The only surprise here is that there haven’t been more raids, particularly on private homes, where sex between same sex partners is rampant. It seems that Sergeant Shepard is more discriminating in the application of the law than his licensing counterparts. The recent delivery of 27 statutory declarations by gay men admitting to criminal acts has not provoked action by the police, even though they are required to act upon knowledge of a crime.
And here is the kernel of the problem. No-one knows what to expect from the law and tis application by the police.
Nothing less than a Royal Commission (with full public disclosure) into the allegations of crime, corruption and the enforcement of the law, will satisfy the citizens of this state.
More importantly, the government must correct the archaic laws that give rise to that corruption, when those laws do not apply to the real situation.
Finally Mr Wran and the government must be aware that the major swing against the government in the recent by-elections showed that the NSW public may not be so apathetic over allegations of corruption.
The government must act now or face its most serious test at the polls next year.