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Liquor Control Amendment Bill 2010

Extract from Hansard: Tuesday, 12 October 2010

MS A.S. CARLES (Fremantle) [10.17 pm]: This legislation has been rushed through without very much industry consultation. It will have fairly severe impacts on the industry, which I will go into shortly. Parts of the legislation look like it is based on populism as opposed to being based on evidence. Nobody in the chamber would deny that binge drinking environments are a problem in Western Australia. However, whether many of the proposed changes will address this is questionable. I will turn to what measures we could be taking to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence later. First, I will take a quick look at some of the problems that I see with this legislation. As I said, it has been rolled out fairly rapidly without consultation. It certainly takes a heavy stick approach to the hospitality industry. It is worth looking at the economics of that industry and what it provides for our economy. I will quote some industry figures from the Business Improvement Group of Northbridge.

Northbridge is critical to hospitality and tourism in Western Australia. It contributes $691 million to gross state product; provides 1 035 direct and indirect full-time equivalent jobs; provides $55 million in direct tourism expenditure, and growing; and will provide over $4 billion in forecast expenditure over the next five to 10 years. So it is very important to remember that this is an industry that creates employment opportunities for hospitality and entertainment staff in this state, and for band staff and their teams of support crews. I will be very interested to know what evidence the minister has about the consequences for this industry and the consequences for staffing levels and gross state product when these measures come into play.

The issue of lockout by regulation is problematic. Lockouts are currently applied on a case-by-case basis. I note that the Brass Monkey is currently appealing its midnight lockout and is trying to get back its 2.00 am closing time. Lockouts may have unintended consequences. A lot of academic research is being done throughout Australia on this issue. Basically, all we can say is that the jury is definitely out on whether lockouts are effective in meeting their objectives. As I have said, the proposed lockout mechanism in this legislation is via regulation. That means that the minister may announce that a lockout will apply to the whole of the Northbridge district. This may discriminate against good business operators, because it will remove their right to due process and their right to be heard. Business operators should not be hit with a lockout when they have been following all the rules and have not been creating any problems.

I also want to touch quickly on the fee structure. I understand that the fee structure is to be increased in accordance with the Victorian model. In Victoria, the pubs and clubs have pokies that support their fee structure. I have heard that the Queensland fee model would be a lot fairer for Western Australia. The industry representatives whom I have consulted would support a Queensland-style fee structure, because they simply want certainty and fairness for their businesses.

I now want to touch on some of the unintended consequences of lockouts. It may lead to confrontations at the front door of clubs, because there will be confusion among patrons about what venues are open and what venues are closed. Shift workers may find it problematic if they want to have a drink after work. They probably would want to go to the Brass Monkey and have a drink, but now that the Brass Monkey has to close at midnight, if they get there at five past 12 they will be pushed into some of the nightclubs earlier. So there will be the issue of early migration into nightclubs because of the proposed midnight lockout in pubs. Of course at nightclubs there is less choice—there is standing room only, there is a lot more drinking, and there are no food options. As a result, lockouts may cause instability and uncertainty in the industry, and lead to fights. It may also lead to large groups of young people roaming
the streets trying to find a nightclub that is open.

I also want to raise the issue of barring notices. I understand that the minister has proposed some amendments so that the publication on the web will be done through a restricted site as opposed to being open to the world. However, many staff members will be able to access that site. I am very concerned about what they may do with that information and about how it may be used against people and be published in various other forms et cetera. The legislation will also place a legal obligation on bar staff to know which people have been barred. That may make it even more difficult for licensees to attract hospitality staff.

I am obviously very concerned about the issue of alcohol-fuelled violence in our society. The member for Nollamara raised many of these issues in her speech. One important issue is pricing. There is a large number of liquor barns in my electorate of Fremantle. Near my home in South Fremantle, there is an absolute proliferation of cheap liquor outlets. In the past six months, I have been contacted by constituents about two more applications that have been made, one on the corner of Douro Road, and one on the corner of Hampton Road. Both those applicants have had to go to the State Administrative Tribunal to get their applications through, because the local council was responding to community opposition and did not want those outlets to get through. However, it looks as though they have succeeded through the SAT process, so we will be getting more cheap liquor outlets in Fremantle.

The real issue with binge drinking is the need to educate our kids. I would like the state government to spend a lot more money on educating our children about the health effects and the dangers of binge drinking. Let us take a close look at how drinks are packaged and marketed to our children. There is so much there that we could change. Let us look at messages, just as we did with smoking. As the member for Nollamara has said, her kids would not go near a cigarette; and neither would mine. I have taken my kids overseas, and they point at people who are smoking, because in Australia it is quite rare now to come across people who are smoking.

Liquor advertising is a big one. We should be clamping down on the advertising of alcohol. It just glamorises drinking for our youth. When I was watching the grand final recently, I could not believe the number of beer advertisements that were being shown on prime-time television.

Mr P.B. Watson: Was that the one where Collingwood won?

Ms A.S. CARLES: That was the one. They lead out with alcohol advertisements, and every time there was an ad, there was another alcohol advertisement. I do not even like beer, but I started thinking, gee; it would be nice to have a glass of beer. So we really need to look seriously at the advertising of alcohol.

The other issue that we do not talk about in this place is drugs. This is a huge, huge issue that is contributing to what is going on in our streets. I am not talking just about cannabis, which we talked about recently in this place, because the research shows that the use of that drug is declining anyway. I am talking about amphetamines, butane abuse, cocaine, ice and ecstasy—the serious, serious drugs that are on our streets, that are cheap and that our kids are getting hold of. These are the issues that we really need to get serious about in this Parliament, too. That is certainly contributing to the violence on our streets, and also to the chaos in our hospitals.

We need to look also at providing more public transport and taxis to get people out of the entertainment precincts; at putting more funding into police; and at booze buses and random breath tests and all those sorts of measures. What I am saying is that this legislation will certainly make things more onerous for the hospitality industry. It will add layers of uncertainty for the industry. I question whether that will solve the real issue of alcohol abuse in our community.

Debate adjourned, on motion by Mr R.F. Johnson (Leader of the House).

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