Liquor Licensing (Liquor Review) Amendment Bill | SPEECH


Second Reading

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 12:47 :21 ): This bill is incredibly important, and I take liquor licensing very seriously. I listened to the deputy leader’s contribution as our lead speaker and, as always, she covered the issues extremely well. I will not go back over all of those things, other than to say that I support her and our team’s position.

I would like to put on the record my appreciation of the member for Morialta, who, for as long as he and I have been in parliament (since 2010), has been a very strong advocate within our party room to ensure that the Liberal opposition is very well aware of the issues with regard to the impact of alcohol upon young people. It is something he takes very seriously. I know he will always have that on his mind throughout his parliamentary career and will be working hard to try to protect young people. As is so often the case, young people need protection from things about which they are not yet fully educated. I do not want to be patronising in that way, but it is just a fact. He is a leader among us on that issue.

Liquor licensing laws are incredibly important for a whole range of reasons. We are talking about a massively important part of our economy. A massive contribution to gross state product comes through businesses directly and indirectly connected to the production or the sale of alcohol, from high-quality malting barley all the way through to hospitality outlets, small pubs in the country, small bars in the city, the Casino, or wherever it happens to be, and it is very important for that reason and very important for many other reasons as well, including, of course, the fact that they are an important part of our social fabric.

I know there are people out there who think, ‘Look, leave us alone. Let us do whatever we want to do. I’m responsible. Go and chase some real criminals,’ all the way through to people who say, ‘Nobody should ever consume alcohol. It is unnecessary and we should ban it.’ They are the extremes. I am sure all of us in this parliament are in between those two extremes. The government, whether it is Liberal or Labor, has a tough job to try to lead debate and lawmaking in that way. The opposition takes our responsibility to contribute to that task extremely seriously.

Unlike the member for Newland’s experience, who quite understandably contributed to this debate from a consumer’s perspective, while I am quite happily a moderate consumer of alcohol, my experience is far more from the other side of the business. I started my working life connected to alcohol as a bouncer in a pub in inner city Toronto when I was 18. It was a place called the Brunswick Beer Hall. It was a massive place, maybe a bit smaller than a basketball court. It had rows and rows of tables and chairs—small, round tables and four chairs at each table—and there might have been 100 of them. The norm was to order a round tray of beer that was two feet or more wide and held 30 glasses of beer.

The laws in Ontario at the time were such that you were not allowed to serve lots of beer all at once unless it came in lots of small glasses, so people would buy a tray of 30 glasses and sit there. I was one of about 10 bouncers who worked there. Many of them were much bigger than me, and I can tell you that we were needed. I was very glad to be a member of 10 rather than be there on my own.

We go from that, which today we would all consider to be completely outrageous and irresponsible service of alcohol, all the way through to fine dining—not that I have been involved in that necessarily. People are apparently extremely knowledgeable about what they are eating and drinking and they take it very seriously. Hopefully, they do not consume too much. There are these areas and myriad others in between.

I have been a licensee at four different establishments. Two of them had pokies as well. Think of a place like Marla, where one of the conditions of the liquor licence was that you were not allowed to sell takeaway alcohol to anybody who was coming from or going to the APY lands. Every single person who went through that establishment who wanted to buy takeaway alcohol had to sign a form and state their name and address and state that they were not going to or coming from the APY lands. While that was at the request of the local Aboriginal community, it was not only Aboriginal people who were wrapped up in that; everybody was wrapped up in that. There were many non‑Aboriginal people who caused grief in that establishment with regard to the irresponsible consumption of alcohol.

It is a complicated business and we need different rules that work in different places in different ways, and of course they need to improve over time. My greatest concern with regard to liquor licensing, which has not been covered already by the deputy leader, is the impact upon small rural and outback community events. They are very often genuine one-offs or they are one-offs in the sense that they are annual. They occur regularly but a new licence is required each time.

One example would be rodeos. There are five in the electorate of Stuart. They are extraordinarily important community events. Anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 people attend them. I would say quite openly that if there were 1,000 to 3,000 people coming from all over the countryside to attend any event for fun, even if zero alcohol were involved, unfortunately, there would very likely still be some antisocial behaviour. That is just how it is. So, to blame the presence of alcohol is naive. To say that alcohol would not contribute to it at all would also be naive.

My point is that these volunteer organisations raise anywhere between $5,000 and $30,000 per event, which all goes back into the local community. It is all farmed back into the local community for very positive service delivery, which would not otherwise happen if it was left to the government to provide. It goes back into the bowls club, the senior citizens club, the football club, the netball club, the cricket club, the primary school, the kindergarten, the CFS—whoever it happens to be. In one case, those funds support a small community general store that cannot survive on its own. One of the rodeos significantly contributes financially to that store every year so that that store can still be there, in what would otherwise be an unprofitable way, supporting and serving the local community.

I am not suggesting that those people need an easy ride or that the liquor service should be slack in these situations, but I am well aware of situations where volunteer organisations which apply for liquor licences, and which are personally responsible for overseeing the service of the alcohol, are treated poorly. They are definitely treated poorly by the liquor gambling commission office in Adelaide which considers them, I suspect, as just another bit of administration that they have to deal with, and often they do not get the support they deserve. That is just one example.

Another example is of a well-known local farming family—not poor, not rich—many members of the family in the community who contribute enormously. When they were trying to organise a 21st birthday party they did the right thing. They wanted to get a liquor licence because they were going to be serving alcohol to the guests—obviously, only the guests over 18—and they understood that they needed to get the application in at least three weeks out from the event. They got their application in about two or 2½ months out from the event, but they were still refused any response to their application until days before the event.

By definition, if the minimum time before the event in which to apply is three weeks then clearly the office can process the application within three weeks. People go to the trouble of putting in an application well in advance so they will know if it is successful or unsuccessful or if there are any special conditions, or anything like that that they need to comply with, yet they are kept waiting until the very last minute. You might have 50 or 100 people invited to come to the local footy club for a 21st birthday party and it is all on track, but the office has refused to give them confirmation of whether or not the event is going ahead. That is unreasonable, it is unhelpful and it is stressful to the people who go out of their way to responsibly organise an event.

They are just two examples of matters that are important; and these are incredibly important events within small rural communities. That is not to say that you cannot have fun without a drink or anything like that, but anybody who thinks you can have a 21st birthday party without a drink, in 99.9 per cent of cases, is kidding themselves; and anybody who thinks they can run a rodeo without a few beers is kidding themselves.

Whether people like it or not—and I am not suggesting the government feels this way—it is part of what we do in Australia, so let’s have some rules that allow us to do it responsibly. Let’s have some rules that allow us to do it in a fun, enjoyable and mature way, but let’s not make it more difficult than it needs to be, especially for volunteers who try to contribute responsibly. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Sitting suspended from 12:59 to 14:00.

I rise to resume my speech. The issues I am choosing to raise are not the only relevant issues with regard to liquor licensing or this bill; they have been ably covered by our deputy leader and other speakers.

I am choosing to talk particularly about issues that affect country and regional areas, and the next one I want to address is in regard to bottle shops, and there is an example in my electorate of Port Augusta, but no doubt this occurs in many other places. We have many people come to Port Augusta from the north of the state during summertime. They come and stay, and they enjoy a more comfortable climate then they would have in their own homes. With those visitors come some difficulties—certainly not with all of them but with some—in regard to antisocial behaviour, a lot of which is linked to alcohol. We have an issue whereby bottle shops opening from 9 o’clock in the morning are well patronised by people who, in my opinion, should not be drinking at 9 o’clock in the morning.

Simultaneously, we have tourists travelling through, mostly in caravans, who are looking to leave Port Augusta and travel to their next destination. Maybe they are going to another town, or maybe they are not going to another town for a few days, but they want to stock up and get some groceries and other provisions, and that may well include a bottle of wine, a carton of beer or something like that. We have a mix of patrons wanting, for a range of reasons, to access bottle shops relatively early in the morning long before the pub is open, and that is a challenge that needs to be addressed. I do not plan to go into that in any more detail here, but it is a very difficult issue because there are good reasons for those bottle shops to be open at those times of day; of course, with that come some problems.

Another issue I want to deal with, which affects not only regional areas, certainly has come up in my personal experience as a licensee and also with businesses that operate in my electorate now—that is, the difficulty of staff in licensed premises dealing with barring orders. Quite regularly, information (names, photographs and things like that) is provided to licensed establishments that the staff are meant to look at so that they recognise somebody who is barred if they walk through the door. It could be for a wide range of reasons—it could be to do with the consumption of alcohol and it could be to do with gaming as well.

It is pretty impractical for a staff member, who may be full-time or part-time, to keep a list of names and photographs behind the bar, in the kitchen, in the office or somewhere like that, and know when one of those people walks through the door, when one of those people may well be one of 100 or several hundred who walk through the door that day. It is a big task for the staff member or the managers to deal with. I understand that it is not as if they lose their job instantly if they do not recognise that person, but I would say that it is a very difficult request of management and staff under those circumstances.

Another issue I would like to discuss, and this is on a very positive note, relates to BYO licences for small regional food producers who also occasionally offer meals prepared on their premises, and this is reasonably common in the southern Flinders Ranges. I would not say for a second that everybody is doing it—far from it.

You find that in many parts of the state people are creating a business, usually on a small farm, where they are producing local, homegrown, typically very environmentally responsible clean organic produce. Their main business is selling produce as ingredients, selling wholesale, but occasionally they like to use those ingredients and provide a meal for people to taste on their property.

This issue was brought to me originally by Mrs Jackie O’Reilly. Dave and Jackie O’Reilly run O’Reilly’s orchards, right next to the Wirrabara Forest in the Southern Flinders Ranges. I could list 20 other people running food-based businesses closely linked to tourism in this region, but Jackie was the first person to bring this to me. She said, ‘We don’t want to serve alcohol, but what we do want, on those few occasions where we are producing a meal for people which includes our ingredients so they can get to know how good our ingredients are and how they can be used, is we would like them to be able to bring along a beer or a wine or something like that so they can enjoy it.’

They are not looking to sell the beer or the wine: they just want them to be able to bring it along. As it currently stands, they would be required to get a BYO licence every single time and, of course, the application fee for the BYO licence would make that small event cost prohibitive. These people only do this once a week or once a month and then maybe not for a few months. There is no real system to it; it is just when the opportunity presents itself. It is not the core of their business and it is not the money-making part of their business, but it is an important ancillary that supports the money-making part of the business.

I took this up on behalf of Mrs O’Reilly. I even had a private member’s bill produced, and I thank parliamentary counsel for their support with that. It was never actually used because the bill we are talking about and the public consultation surpassed my putting a private member’s bill in place, but I did also write to the Attorney-General on 22 September explaining the situation, saying that surely it must be possible for these people not to have to get a separate BYO licence every time. The Attorney wrote back to me on 11 October. I will read a short excerpt from his letter in response to mine, which says:

It is anticipated that a BYO permit will be introduced as part of the revised legislation following notification to the Licensing Authority , this permit is likely to be granted for a period of three years, subject to an initial application fee and renewal fees.

I am very grateful to the government and the minister for including that in this bill. I do not shy away from the fact that, as the deputy leader has explained, there are many other issues to be dealt with but, let me say that, as the member for Stuart on behalf of my constituents particularly in the Southern Flinders Ranges, I am grateful that this change has been made.

It was common sense. It was not something I was actually unaware of until the issue was brought to me. It is great common sense that that change be made and I think it is a very positive outcome. It really is right on the edge of the service of alcohol. It is not core. It is not what these people are trying to do. It is just a way of supporting and essentially marketing their food-producing business.

Let me just finish by saying that liquor licensing, in my opinion, must be as light a touch as possible on the businesses that serve liquor one way or another—allowing service through BYO or with a restaurant licence or hotel licence or a takeaway licence. It needs to provide safety to patrons. It even needs to provide safety to people who are not patrons, other people on the road, for example, who may come into contact with someone who has been a patron.

We must provide that safety, but it has to be done in a way that is as light a touch as possible both with regard to regulations and with regard to cost to the businesses that are actually operating because, as I stated at the very beginning of my remarks, before question time, these businesses contribute enormously to our economy and they are massively important employers, very importantly providing very flexible employment, which is often not available in other industries. They need to be supported, and one way to support them is to impose as light a restriction on them as possible.