I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, representing the Attorney-General, a question about the provision of water in hotels.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The code of practice under section 42 of the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 requires licensed premises ‘to promote responsible attitudes in relation to the promotion, sale, supply and consumption of liquor’. An example contained in the code of practice for the purpose of this section is ‘providing water free of charge to customers’; however, I point out that this is voluntary and not mandatory. Several reports have highlighted the recent increasing use of party drugs in bars and nightclubs. According to the United Nations, Australia has the highest level of ecstasy abuse in the world.
A report by the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association as recommended that licensed premises should be required by law to provide free drinking water to patrons. Currently, some localities provide free water whereas others provide bottled water only, for which they can charge. In such premises, it is not uncommon for patrons to access tap water from the rest rooms. Given the health risks associated with over-consumption of alcohol, especially relating to illicit drugs, will the government consider ensuring that all licensed premises are required to provide free tap water in the interests of enhanced health and safely for patrons?
The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Agricultrue, Food and Fisheries): I will pass that question on to the Attorney-General and bring back a response.
Monday 16 February 2004
In reply to Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK, (10 November, 2003).
The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: The Attorney General has received this advice:
Clause 5 of the code of practice under section 42 of the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 requires that ‘a licensee must, if the licence authorises the sale of liquor for consumption on the licensed premises, establish and maintain appropriate practices to encourage customers to have a responsible attitude to the consumption of liquor’. The code goes on to say that ‘in particular, the business of a licensee must not be promoted, advertised or operated in a way that tends to encourage the rapid or excessive consumption of alcohol by customers’. Examples of practices that might be established and maintained by a licensee are given including ‘(a) providing water free of charge to customers’.
The code is a condition on every licence and a breach of the code would constitute grounds for disciplinary action against a licensee.
A licensee could be reprimanded, fined or disqualified from being licensed and a licence could have conditions imposed or be suspended or revoked if the breach was proved.
Therefore compliance with the code is mandatory not voluntary.
However, the honourable member is correct in that the failure to provide free water in itself would most probably not constitute sufficient grounds for disciplinary action. However, if the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner considered that the licensee was not complying with clause 5 and was not supplying free water it would constitute part of the grounds for disciplinary action.
The Liquor and Gambling Commissioner is currently reviewing the Code in conjunction with industry associations and legal practitioners. The Commissioner believes that the review team will recommend that many of the examples in the current code become mandatory, in particular the provision of free water.
I will await the review's recommendations because it would be preferable to treat the Code as a whole and to get industry acceptance of the proposed changes. However, should the review team not recommend as the Commissioner hopes it will I will consider mandating such matters.