LIQUOR CONTROL REFORM FURTHER AMENDMENT BILL 2011 – Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011

Posted on 28. Nov, 2011 in Speeches

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I am very pleased to rise to speak on the Liquor Control Reform Further Amendment Bill 2011, which amends the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998. At the outset let me say I am going to be pretty negative in my contribution. I understand that members of the opposition do not oppose this bill, but a critical eye needs to be cast over the bill, particularly in regard to the administration of the suspension of liquor licences and in regard to the so-called election commitment made by the Liberal Party. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Consumer Affairs made a big deal of this bill implementing his party’s election promises on liquor licensing; however, when the bill is tested against the election policy, the minister’s claim comes up short, and I will point out where to the house.
The bill amends the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 by introducing a demerit point system for licensees and permittees, introducing a new licence type for wine and beer producers, recognising the importance of live music in the purpose of the act and making other minor and technical amendments accordingly.
A night out with friends and family, good food, pleasant company and a couple of drinks in moderation are what make for many people a relaxing and enjoyable experience. However, so often what should be a healthy social situation can turn into something much uglier with the abuse of alcohol, and we have heard plenty about that. Serving liquor to those severely intoxicated and sometimes also high on drugs can lead to violence, including, literally, homicide. The residential amenity of local neighbourhoods can be adversely affected, and of course children are particularly vulnerable to under-age serving of alcohol.
That is why legislation needs to promote the responsible serving of alcohol and be tough on those licensees who breach their responsibilities. Presumably this is what the Liberal Party had in mind at the last state election. The Liberal Party’s election policy at the 2010 state elections was titled ‘The Victorian Liberal Nationals coalition plan for liquor licensing’. It promised a new approach. The heading on page 8 of the plan reads:
A new approach to liquor licence infringements — demerit points.
The Liberals went on to say on page 8 of their plan:
A Liberal-Nationals coalition government will: establish a driver demerit points-style system applicable to liquor licences.
The system will feature gradations of points depending on the seriousness of the offence. So, for example, serving a minor would carry more points than serving an intoxicated adult.
Each licence will have point numbers allocated depending on the class of licence, size of venue and any other relevant risk factors.
One is then entitled to assume, given that one motorist might get an on-the-spot fine for exceeding the speed limit by, say, 5 kilometres per hour and another might have their licence suspended and lose their vehicle for doing 40 kilometres per hour over the limit, that a harder line would be taken with a licensee who served alcohol to a child. However, this is not the case, and it is clearly a broken promise. There is no distinction between the type of offence and the type of licence.
The next broken promise takes us into dangerous territory. The Liberal Party also promised on page 9 of its plan that:
Demerit point thresholds will be set for different licence types. Reaching each threshold will automatically trigger liquor licence suspensions of 24 hours, 7 days or 28 days. No appeal will be possible.
However, this is not the case, as the bill provides the minister with the power to cancel or delay the suspension. Imagine giving the Minister for Police and Emergency Services the power to cancel drivers licence suspensions as of now. As I said, this is dangerous territory and reflects the ‘born to rule’ attitude of those on the other side of the chamber. The administering and review of penalties should be kept well away from politicians. Think about 1980s Queensland; think about separation of powers. Any appeal against a penalty, if there is to be one, should only take place on a judicial or tribunal basis and certainly not be administered by politicians. We certainly would not want the Minister for Planning administering appeals against liquor licence suspensions. What if the licensee were a Queensland Liberal Party president?
The final comment I would make is that much of what relates to fees, such as the 5-star system, discounts for good records and the loss of ratings for bad records, will be dealt with by regulation. Therefore it needs to be said that this house cannot easily examine the impact of fee changes on licensees. While the government is always responsible for the impact of its legislation, that is particularly the case with this bill. I rest my case.

 

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