Michelle Lensink

Liquor Licensing (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill

A debate between the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK and The Hon. G.E. GAGO regarding the Liquor Licensing (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill.

In committee. (Continued from 26 July 2011.) Clause 37.

The CHAIR: This clause deletes the schedule in the act.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Because we sought to report progress after we had deleted the substantive clause of the bill, can the minister advise whether any amendments have been changed? I just want to make sure that nothing has been snuck into this, because this has been tabled today—

The Hon. G.E. Gago interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Just keeping you on your toes; you never can tell with this government, minister. The concern is that—

The Hon. G.E. Gago: I wouldn't renege on an agreement.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I would not go there! The concern is that the rights of a number of licence classes that have been made under previous acts are retained. In particular, in schedule 1 of the previously published bill it was that part 1 which I was seeking to delete.
Clause passed.

Schedule.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I move:

Clause 1, page 14, after line 18—After the present contents of clause 1 (now to be designated as subclause (1)) insert:
(2) However, the trading rights under a special circumstances licence in respect of which a decision was made under clause 3(10(b) of the Schedule of the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 as in force before its repeal by this Act are not diminished by reason of subclause (1) and to the extent that an extended trading authorisation or other special licence condition would be required to replicate those trading rights, the licence will, on the commencement of this clause, be taken to include such an authorisation or condition.

This amendment clarifies the transitional provisions to ensure that the old trading rights that have continued to date for licensees, previously covered by a general facilities licence that was transitioned into a special circumstances licence, remain preserved. I think that is one of the issues the honourable member was seeking to clarify. The conditions for those general facilities licence transitioned into a special circumstances licence remain preserved; we will not be changing those conditions.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On the basis of that explanation, I am happy to accept that amendment.

Amendment carried.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I move:

Clause 2, page 14, lines 23 to 25—Delete "(in particular the withdrawal of authorisations to sell liquor between 4am and 7am on any day)" and substitute:
Or, in the case of a licence, to include on the licence a statement of the trading hours or the classification of the licence for the purposes of the Commissioner's code of practice.

This amendment is consequential and allows the commissioner to include a statement clearly identifying the authorised trading hours of a premises on its licence. The amendment provides for a replacement copy of the licence to be issued upon completion of the exercise.

This amendment is also one of the last to delete from the bill any reference to the mandatory break in trade between 4am and 7am. Therefore, I would take this opportunity to reiterate the government's disappointment in the opposition and some of the minor parties and Independents—obviously, Family First supported the government—but the others refused to pass this key component in the package of reforms put forward by the government in withholding support for the proposal to enforce a mandatory break in trade for late-trading hotels, entertainment venues, clubs and premises covered by special circumstances licences. The opposition have shown that they, clearly, care more about traders' interests than the safety and wellbeing of South Australians.

The current functioning of the night-time economy of the Adelaide CBD contributes to financial costs incurred by police and other emergency services, and loss of amenity to the public. Obviously, a number of key community stakeholder groups have supported this mandatory break in trade: the Adelaide City Council, SAPOL, the West End traders, ambulance officers and other healthcare workers—there is large community support. However, it is not to be.

The Australian and international research on the relationship between extended trading hours and their adverse impact on alcohol-related social harm shows that as hours of trading of licensed outlets increase, so, too, does the frequency of problems, such as assaults. There is good evidence to suggest that reducing hours of liquor trading does contribute to reducing these harms.

It has been and it remains the view of the government that if no action is taken in South Australia to address the social problems of alcohol-related crime and other antisocial behaviour it is likely to continue to escalate. Statistics provided by DASSA show an increasing trend in alcohol-related emergency department presentations and hospital admissions as a result of risky drinking, SA Ambulance service attendances and also alcohol-related mortality rates.

As one part of the strategy to deal with this issue, the government put forward proposals to remove and tighten the regulation of licensed premises, particularly those trading 24 hours. The government maintains that the fundamental issue contributing towards alcohol-related crime and antisocial behaviour is extended hours of alcohol availability. In line with this, the government proposed that a mandatory break in trade would be an effective way of helping to deal with these issues, and also helping to assist with the transition between night-time and daytime economy.
Patrons would have the opportunity to disperse during this period and the physical environment could have been restored, cleaned and refreshed. Essentially, patrons would still be able to enjoy a drink for 21 hours of the day. Even New York—as we know, a fabulous clubbing destination by any international measure—has licensing laws which do not allow the serving of alcohol between 4am and 8am, so it is a one-hour longer mandatory closure period.

Nevertheless, it is absolutely clear—through the second reading contributions, the committee debate and other discussions between myself and my officers—that the government does not have support for the mandatory break in trade between 4am and 7am. However, the government hopes that by imposing some additional conditions on licensees who do trade between those hours it will at least afford some increased protection to the general public. As I have already said, the government was very pleased to see that the opposition took up the government's idea of a mandatory set of additional conditions, which we support. With those comments, the government will withdraw this amendment to delete reference to the 4am to 7am break in trade and it is indeed with a heavy heart.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Oh, what crocodile tears, Mr Chairman! If the minister is to have an indulgence on behalf of the government, then I would also like to place some points on this record. The coalition of that great party animal, the Hon. John Darley, Kelly Vincent, the Greens, Ann Bressington and the Liberal Party opposes the 4 to 7 mandatory break in trade because it is a simplistic measure. It is one that the Premier came out with, thinking aloud and thought that it would be a great proposal that would capture the public's attention and perhaps get him some brownie points. Unfortunately it was not thought through.

It completely ignored the submissions that were made to the government's own discussion papers—Safer Night Out and so forth. It came up with a proposal that ignored the reality of what happens on our streets, and I resent the minister's implication in her media release and some of her comments that somehow if there is alcohol-related violence it is going to be our fault. Quite frankly, if there is alcohol-related violence on the streets, the right people to deal with that are SAPOL, and SAPOL, from my understanding, have driven a large part of this as well in that they have resourcing issues.

I am quite happy to stand up for the liquor licensing traders because we have been to their premises. We have seen the measures that they put in place in order to make the place safer and we have talked to hospitality workers who finish at five o'clock in the morning and have no means of getting home through public transport and will be competing with all the other patrons to try to get out of the city. We have seen the taxi venues that have long queues starting at one or two o'clock in the morning and, by four o'clock, when these places would be closed, it would be really difficult to get a cab. Both patrons and hospitality workers would resort to walking home and would be subject to much more danger as they do so.

This has been a measure that has not been thought through. There are better measures that can be included and I am pleased that the government has been dragged into putting an expiation into this bill. It was not initially in the minister's bill. I did ask her office where it was after she had been questioned about it by Leon Byner. We then got an amendment and that has also been amended to improve it to include language, which is a precursor to violent behaviour. There has been so much spin on this. I think the people who will see through this the most are the young people of South Australia, those people who are out at venues who are, in the main, well-behaved and who would have been penalised if this had been put in place.

I think this government has done a great disservice by judging young people and playing into those stereotypes that they are all out there being silly, wanting to fight with each other when, in the main, they are very well-behaved. They just want to have a good time as previous generations have before them and what is wrong with that if they have not been breaking any laws? I just think that this government has really misjudged it and the fact that the minister has used such childish language and tried to use emotional blackmail is to me a fair indicator that she just does not like to lose.

Members interjecting:

The CHAIR: That hotels' Christmas lunch. I think you all should put your hands up if you've been to the hoteliers' Christmas lunch. The honourable minister.

The Hon. T.J. Stephens: Who's running the show? Parliament or the police?

The CHAIR: Order!

The Hon. T.J. Stephens: Because I'll tell you the coppers aren't running the show; we are.

The CHAIR: Order!

The Hon. T.J. Stephens: Parliament runs South Australia, not the police.

The CHAIR: Order! I don't know how many policemen have been to the hoteliers' Christmas lunch. The honourable minister.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Thank you for the call, sir. Indeed we do know— Members interjecting:

The CHAIR: Order!

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: It's important that we—

The CHAIR: Perhaps we ought to declare how many of us went to the hoteliers' Christmas lunches.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: It is important that we take the emotional hysterics out of this. It is important that we look at the evidence before us and the evidence is quite clear. The evidence shows that alcohol-related incidents particularly around our entertainment areas are on the increase. The evidence is quite clear. The data shows us that alcohol-related incidents, particularly in our entertainment areas, are on the increase and those incidents tend to peak, I think it is between 4am and 6am.

This problem is progressively getting worse. You only have to listen to mums and dads and young people who club to know how unsafe a number of those entertainment environments have become. I have spoken to young people who have said to me that they refuse to club in certain areas anymore and they relay horrific personal stories. I could cite many of them but, as I said, we are not going to go down the emotional path, we are going to stick to the facts and figures.

It is time to do something. The honourable member talks about simplistic solutions. I think it is over-simplistic to think, and to say, that this very complex issue can be fixed simply by policing alone. We know that policing is an important part of the solution, that is why we have doubled the number of police in the Hindley Street area over the last few years and why the police have committed to further increasing police numbers in entertainment areas.

So, we are aware of that and considerable resources are being put in to that, but the problem cannot be fixed by policing alone. It needs a multi-pronged approach. I am not saying that just amending trading hours is going to fix the problem either. I have always said that it needs to be addressed through a suite of different approaches to try to address a number of the drivers that contribute to this significant social problem.

In terms of crowd dispersal—I know this is on the record so I will not labour the point, and it will be a moot point now because 24-hour trading will continue—we did a lot of work around ensuring that crowd dispersal would be safe during that closure period. The data shows us that currently in our clubbing areas the maximum amount of dispersal occurs, if I recall, at about 3am, so most of the crowd have already left before the mandatory closure would have kicked in.

The data also shows us that currently that first train out—I think it is somewhere between 5.30am and 6am—has very few patrons on it. So, we find that people are not hanging around the city because the only way they can get home is that first train.

We have looked at a number of initiatives, such as increased managed taxi ranks, and there are funds that have been maintained in the budget to increase our managed taxi ranks. We know that that alone is not the only solution but we know that the public love them and we know that more taxis are prepared to come out and work during those hours because it is safer using the taxi ranks.

We have also looked at options of better coordination with the hourly bus service and regional and outer suburban taxi ranks and other facilities, and we are also in negotiations around looking at using the Happy Wanderer. So, as I said, there were a number of things in play to assist in crowd dispersal.

I think it is a sad day when the opposition and some minor parties and Independents have lacked the courage to make the really tough decisions to take on these really tough policy areas. They have lacked the fibre and the courage, they have cowered and blinked, and we have lost and missed an incredibly important and fabulous opportunity to have made an even bigger difference with this set of reforms than what we currently will.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I am not going to go through all those speeches again because we are at risk of repeating all our second reading speeches. I would just like to say that the only person who does not have any fibre is the minister for not standing up to the Premier on a stupid idea.

Amendment carried.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I move:

Page 14—
Lines 30 and 31 [schedule 1, clause 3]—Delete 'the gaming operations cannot be conducted on the premises between 4am and 7am on any day' and substitute:
the hours are not outside the hours during which the licensed premises are authorised to be open for the sale of liquor

This amendment is consequential and just ensures that the gaming operations will continue to be consistent with liquor trading hours.

Amendment carried; schedule as amended passed.

Title passed.

Bill reported with amendment.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Public Sector Management, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for Gambling) (11:31): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and passed.

 

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