Liquor Licensing Reform

FuturePerth 2013 State Election Guide
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“The high costs and confusing nature of the liquor license application process have spiralled out of control. Something has got to give!”

What did we ask?


1. The State Government has commenced a review of the Liquor Act. What changes would you like to see as a result of this review?

2. Will you retain the cumbersome Public Interest Assessment?

Why did we ask it?


Everybody loves a drink or five.

However in WA it’s not always so easy. We’ve all heard the horror stories of proponents spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a bar only to have their liquor license application rejected for seemingly no logical reason. We’ve heard the stories of bars not being able to open late on New Year’s Eve, and pity the poor bouncer who has to carry your drink across the footpath to an alfresco area. We even heard that a hotel in East Perth wasn’t permitted to have liquor in its minibars. Urban myth perhaps, but scary that it wouldn’t surprise anyone if it is indeed true.

The situation has become untenable. The high costs and confusing nature of the liquor license application process have spiralled out of control. Something has got to give!


Image source:
Marcel Germain

Responses


Liberal Response

No response on behalf of the Government.

FuturePerth received a brief response from the Nationals on this issue, as the Minister responsible for liquor licensing is a member of the National Party. You can view the response here: Election Guide – Full Responses.

FuturePerth comment:

Despite the lack of response, the Libs initiated the Liquor License Act review. This is unfortunately only at the end of a term of government that has seen this issue deteriorate markedly. We’re disappointed that further details haven’t emerged and feel sorry for the numerous small publicans affected by the current legislation. We also do not approve of the recent re-appointment of the Director of Liquor Licensing who has overseen the dramatic worsening of this situation.

The Premier has committed to fixing some annoying anomalies, such as allowing all restaurants to serve alcohol without food, and trusting you to carry your own drink across a footpath (you’re a big boy/girl now!). Check out their policy here.

The Liberals have promised to continue the review, and aim to conclude it by mid-2013. We hope the changes reach significantly beyond what the Premier has already proposed.

Labor Response

“1. WA Labor began the liquor reform process in 2006 with the small bar reforms when I [Mark McGowan] was Minister for Racing and Gaming and have continued this process with our plan for further reform, which I released in March 2012. Planned reforms include, but are not limited to, creating a new category of small bars with a maximum of 60 patrons and allow for parallel processing by the Department of Racing Gaming and Liquor, local governments and other agencies to speed up licence approvals.

We would also direct the WA Planning Commission to develop a State Planning Policy for small bars and al fresco areas to give greater certainty to local governments and licence holders. Details can be found at www.markmcgowan.com.au/jobs.

2. WA Labor would streamline the small bar application process, including the public interest assessment, and review the automatic objection to all licence applications by Government agencies.”

FuturePerth comment:

We think WA Labor is just about on the money here. Many FuturePerth supporters will be happy to hear of a new streamlined approach to the small bar application process. Kudos to Labor for introducing small bar legislation in the first place. Amazing to think that all of the cool venues in the city didn’t exist until so recently.

Judging from WA Labor’s response they clearly understand that the system is broken. We would, however, appreciate more information, particularly as small bars aren’t the only license types experiencing significant frustration with the current system.

Greens Response

“1 and 2. The Greens WA support a reform of the Liquor Act, and in particular liquor licensing laws and practices, to promote greater levels of innovation within the liquor and hospitality industries and provide greater opportunities to the small business and tourism sectors.

We would support reforms based on stringent harm minimisation principles to create a safer drinking environment, but also those which foster flexibility, in particular for the burgeoning small bar industry.

The Greens WA would like to see stringent standards for anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related harm, but a reduction of bureaucratic red tape for licensees. We would support reforms to the Public Interest Assessment process, however assert that it remains imperative that those on whom the issuing of licences impacts, should be considered as part of any licensing process.”

FuturePerth comment:

Great response from the Greens on this one – they are aware that the system is not working, and that the situation is stifling innovation in the industry.

Let’s hope the Greens continue this proactive approach in the legislation review process in Parliament.

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