This speech is to indicate Liberal Party support for the Liquor Licensing (Power To Bar) Amendment Bill.
Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 13 November 2008. Page 742.)
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:24): I rise to indicate Liberal Party support for this bill. By way of explanation, my speech follows a number of those made by Independent speakers. The reason for that is that we have a particular process whereby we obtain a briefing, as would all honourable members, but we are required to conform with our own guidelines in terms of submitting joint party papers for approval on the Thursday prior to our joint party meeting on the Tuesday morning of a sitting week. While I had a fair indication of what our position would be, it was not formally determined until this morning. That explanation is for members in case they were wondering what was the reason for the delay. There has been a bit of a timing issue because we have had reshuffles as well, and I was not able to obtain a briefing that would enable me to put a position to my party in the previous sitting week.
This particular measure arises, we are told, following the recent incidents in Gouger Street, involving shootings about which all South Australians deserve to be concerned. It is surprising, in some ways, that this proposal has not come before the parliament in the past. We have already provided licensees with the opportunity to seek to bar particular patrons based on threats to family welfare or relating to particular incidents of unruly behaviour and so forth, or on any other reasonable grounds. This bill will extend to certain prescribed officers within the police force the ability to bar patrons, as a result of which licensees will not have to suffer the harassment or intimidation they might otherwise experience if they were to take up the already legal grounds themselves. A person who is to be barred will not be aware of whether it is, in fact, the licensee who has sought the barring or whether it has been on police advice.
I have read contributions from the crossbenches, and I think all members support that principle. As I have said, it is surprising that parliament has not sought to introduce this measure previously, because I am sure that many incidents have occurred, not just those relating to Gouger Street. This bill will enable police to bar patrons on welfare grounds indefinitely, and in relation to incidents also for a period of three months, then six months, and then indefinitely; and on other reasonable grounds for those three different time periods. An officer of sergeant's rank or higher can ban for a period of less than 72 hours, and an inspector or above can ban for a period of greater than 72 hours. The 72-hour period, I am advised, has been determined because it coincides with the period of a long weekend—that is, three times 24 hours, equalling the three days of a long weekend—and it also covers limited licensed parties such as twenty-first birthday celebrations, and so forth.
It is understandable that the police have been frustrated if they have had good grounds to believe that patrons may have been present on licensed premises for questionable motivation, such as drug dealing. These barring measures are being extended so that, while no offence may have been detected, police officers may nevertheless hold concerns as to the safety and welfare of persons who are on those premises.
The amendments in the bill provide for reliance by the Commissioner of Police on criminal intelligence, where necessary, in order to bar particular persons. The Commissioner's order need only state—and I put this as a question to the minister whether, among the various amendments that have been circulating, this is still the case—that, unless the person was so barred, it would be contrary to the public interest.
I do note the concerns expressed by some members that using criminal intelligence to bar patrons by its very nature violates certain rights, that being the right to know what one is being charged with and the right to test that evidence alleged against the person concerned.
I understand that this evidence can be tested by appeal before a court, and I note that there is a case before the courts at the moment in which a potential licensee has challenged his right to hold a licence, which is under different parts of the legislation but is the same principle, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out in the courts.
The Liberal Party supports these principles, given the practical difficulties that exist and the attraction that people who might have very ill motives would have in attending licensed premises for their own ends, which may be quite illegal. A number of amendments to the bill have been proposed by the government and I will have questions on them in due course. There also will be some amendments from the Hon. Mark Parnell and some in particular from the Hon. Sandra Kanck which the Liberal Party will be quite attracted to. A number of these issues have been debated previously in relation to barring, so I do not wish to make a long-winded speech but will have some questions in committee.