Liquor Licensing (Small Venue Licence) Amendment Bill

19 Feb 2013 archivespeech

This speech is regarding the Liquor Licensing (Small Venue Licence) Amendment Bill and indicates support for the bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:06): I rise to make some comments in relation to this bill and I am pleased to follow the Hon. Tammy Franks in her contribution, and also the Hon. Stephen Wade, who is the lead speaker for the Liberal Party in the Legislative Council on this bill. I note that this is a timely debate as it comes prior to mad March, but the Fringe has opened, and we have the Festival and a number of events coming so, no doubt, this legislation will be passed hopefully in time for some venues to establish and to be able to serve the people who will be in and around the city for those events.

I would like to thank the Hon. Tammy Franks for her contribution and her part in the mutual appreciation society on this piece of legislation. The Liberal Party does support small bars and we always believe in reducing unnecessary red tape. The Hon. Tammy Franks was the organiser of what she titled 'The big night out' in April 2011 when we visited a whole lot of venues for 6½ or seven hours—

The Hon. T.A. Franks: It was daylight saving so there was an extra hour.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Daylight saving indeed, so we got the extra hour in there as well. That was a very useful experience to understand liquor licensing issues and issues facing venues, and some of those young entrepreneurs who wish to open venues which perhaps do not fit within the normal constraints of our liquor licensing laws. The Hon. Tammy Franks also referred to the Jade Monkey forum in May last year which was attended by three members of this chamber, and yourself, Mr President, and we look forward to some live music performances by yourself at some stage—


The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: —when that may occur! There were a range of difficulties that licensees had experienced. Some of them were quite difficult to comprehend and they were having ongoing problems with regulators. I would like to commend the Hon. Tammy Franks for her work. She has a fine-grained appreciation for this particular issue and she ought to be listened to. If the government had any sense, it would consult her on these issues. A number of us have probably also had meetings with Ianto Ware both in his capacity as the CE of Renew Adelaide and his other capacity since he has moved on.

I first raised this issue in parliament in July last year to refer it to a parliamentary committee, which had gone there as of late last year, but the government said no to that particular inquiry so it will be interesting to see whether we can come up with any other provisions that are not in this bill. It is not what I would describe as a large bill; it has 13 clauses so, in the scheme of things, it is not huge. In moving that motion in July last year on small bars, I made the following comments:

A number of these people who are involved in starting up small venues do not use merely the selling of alcohol as their primary source of income, but they do require it as a revenue stream to subsidise their core business such as an art studio or a video game lounge and it is something that their patrons expect. They might go there for a show and they want to have a glass of wine, beer or whatever it is they want to have. I think that is perfectly reasonable, and I do not think that those sorts of businesses in any way present a major threat to safety in the city.

Mr President, I stand by those comments. The committee has now advertised, including on Twitter, and has received a number of submissions, so we look forward to its deliberations.

In July last year, when I happened to be in Melbourne on a private trip with my husband, we took the opportunity to look at some of the laneway venues. Melbourne is often cited as a city that does things differently, and I do note that the city of Melbourne includes pop-ups and laneways, as well as what the Hon. Tammy Franks refers to as 'holes in the wall'. By day, the spaces for some of those laneway venues are used as loading zones or for rear access for businesses. By night, adjacent cafes often take over those spaces with alfresco tables.

One venue that Scott and I were particularly taken with was Chuckle Park, located in the CBD, where service was provided from a caravan and the space was decorated with plants and a fair amount of kitsch. I took a picture of its liquor licence, as members of parliament are wont to do, and I do note that it is in fact a restaurant and cafe licence. I think some of the licences that are provided for all those innovative places that operate in Melbourne probably come under various licence classes; maybe they do not have the issue of the culture police that we seem to have in South Australia.

We did not specifically seek out premises which might be covered by different licensing; it was more of an incidental look, so we cannot describe it as anything of great—

The Hon. G.E. Gago: A bar crawl!

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Not a bar crawl, minister; not at my age. We also attended a live music venue where one of Scott's old band mates was playing; he was once in a band called Kelvinator in his early 20s, and people can see clips on YouTube if they care to do so. So, we visited the Corner Hotel in East Richmond, which is well-known and which is obviously a pub. We did not come across any of the small bar licence venues in our small non-pub crawl.

To return to the issue in South Australia, unfortunately, Labor was not interested in working collaboratively, as far as I am aware, with any of the other parties—certainly not with the opposition, neither through a committee or by sharing the submissions they received. I would like to say more on that towards the end of my speech.

In my understanding and reading of the Liquor Licensing Act, I believe that it must seek to strike a balance. In recent years, this parliament has debated a number of areas which have aimed to update the regulation of liquor licensing: one being preventing harm; secondly, regulation of liquor outlets; and, thirdly, measures which relate to protection for local residents.

In relation to preventing harm from the overconsumption of alcohol, we have had changed definitions of intoxication, but those have not been utilised to any great degree. We also try to prevent harm by preventing the intrusion at licensed premises by undesirables, and so this parliament has supported things such as barring measures and expiations or on-the-spot fines for people who behave badly in licensed premises. My leader in this place, the Hon. David Ridgway, was a very outspoken advocate for that particular measure, and we amended that particular clause to include bad language, which is often a precursor to violent behaviour.

Secondly, in relation to the regulation of liquor outlets, I would also like to refer back to the debate that we had in 2011, which was a ridiculous attempt by this government to shut down the night-time economy. The Legislative Council proudly stopped that piece of nonsense, which Labor's own supporters (particularly United Voice) did not support, and the government's performance left it rather red-faced as it sided with the knee-rug and Horlicks brigade who cannot understand, 'Why do young people need to be out so late?'

One of the documents that was provided to me by the government in favour of that bill was researched by the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research entitled, 'The association between alcohol outlet density and assaults on and around licensed premises'. Its conclusion was that 'limiting the density of alcohol outlets may help limit the incidence of assault', and while I have just stated that I do not believe increasing the incidence of small bars will lead to increased violence, I do believe that the use of that document shows the level of hypocrisy of this government. Indeed the minister said at the third reading of that bill on 28 July 2011:

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 precincts, are on the increase.

Later in that speech, 'This problem is getting progressively worse.' I put on the record two questions for the government: does the government stand by those specific comments; and, secondly, what evidence can they provide regarding the number of incidents over time?

We then saw the introduction of a new tax on licensed premises which would have sent a lot of small licensees into financial difficulty through the so-called risk-based licensing, which was restructured only after well-known Adelaide DJ, Driller Jet Armstrong, organised a Facebook petition of over 4,000 people. That was two years ago. It has taken the government two years to come up with something as it has tried to rebuild some bridges with the sector, and as has been noted by certain journalists, the small bar licence amendments do not cost anything, so it is something that they can bang on about as an achievement.

I turn now to the third issue that I think the legislation seeks to deal with, which is protection for local residents, and this is something that should be of concern. I think we should try and minimise conflict between residents and licensed premises wherever possible. On radio the Attorney-General and planning minister has been dismissive of potential conflict with local residents, and this is in spite of the fact that he is bringing into the city a regime known as Catalyst Science, which is a really anything goes, mixed-use developments and the very places where residential apartments will exist along with all sorts of other uses including bars.

The Liberal Party believes that the best opportunity to resolve conflict is at the front end and my understanding is that, in practice, the right of objection by residents usually leads to conciliation conferences, and the court process is probably something that is used more often by competing bars and that should be addressed by some other means.

The Hon. Stephen Wade and I did some media on 7 February, and this solicited a letter which was dated the following day by the Attorney-General, and I would just like to read that into the record for the benefit of debate. It says:

Dear Michelle,

I write regarding your comments on Adelaide radio on 7 February 2013 about the Liquor Licensing (Small Venue Licence) Amendment Bill 2012.

In particular I note your remarks about consultation you have undertaken with small venue 'stakeholders' regarding the proposed capacity of a small venue licence.

He then goes on to quote me, and I said:

'Our view, and...representations that we've received from stakeholders, supported 80.' (891 ABC Adelaide. 7 February 2013.)

Over the last six months I have met with a number of key groups in this debate including existing small venue operators and industry bodies on numerous occasions.

The overwhelming feedback of this consultation was that a maximum capacity of less than 120 persons would make such a venture entirely unviable and would remove the very flexibility that this Bill intends to provide. Groups such as Renew Adelaide and the Adelaide Fringe argued strongly for a capacity of up to 150 persons.

In contrast, the only group I am aware that has argued for a capacity of 80 persons is the Australian Hotels Association. A position which is indeed identical to the Liberal Party's current position—

which is not correct—

For my benefit, it would be appreciated if you were able to provide further advice as to what interest bodies have determined 80 persons to be an appropriate number and the arguments that have been put forward by these groups in favour of this capacity, along with any submissions they provided to you.

Yours sincerely, John Rau.

I replied to the Attorney-General and would like to read that into the record. I wrote:

Dear John,

Thank you for your letter dated 8 February 2013 in relation to my comments about the Liquor Licensing (Small Venue Licence) Amendment Bill 2012 made on ABC Radio on 7 February 2013.

The Liberal Party sought feedback from a number of stakeholders as part of our due diligence process. The Law Society of South Australia—

and the Hon. Stephen Wade has made comments on this—

believes that the current legislation does not require amendment. The proposed capacity of 80 was contained in a submission from the Rundle Mall Management Authority.

We did not receive written submissions from Renew Adelaide or the Adelaide Fringe. Indeed, considering the vast resources of the State Government, especially when compared with those afforded to the Opposition, it would be most appreciated if you would supply copies of all the submissions you have received on this issue. In turn, and upon request, I will be happy to retrieve all relevant submissions made to the Liberal Party.

Furthermore and most importantly, it was not an AHA proposal that both you and the Premier continue to erroneously refer to as the source of the Liberal proposed amendment.

Perhaps, also you were not aware that I stated you were misrepresenting the Liberal Party's position in that same interview in which you stated:

...hopefully we'll get it through. But it'll be over the opposition of the Liberal Party, it seems...

As South Australia's chief law officer I trust that you did not intend to utter such a gross misrepresentation of the facts, but rather were uninformed that the Liberal Party does support the bill.

You would be aware that the Liberal Party and the Legislative Council opposed your government's attempts to shut down licensed premises across the State from 4-7am in 2011, so we welcome your belated embrace of the late night economy and the vibrant city agenda.

In closing, I look forward to further cooperative relations with you on this and other issues. Indeed, I would greatly appreciate if you would apply the same haste you have exercised in this matter to your significant tree laws which, despite lobbying from several Members for more than a year, have failed to spur your office into action or resolution.

Yours sincerely, Michelle Lensink.

I am pleased to support the bill. I look forward to further reform and, indeed, I welcome the fact that the Attorney-General acknowledged that this whole debate has highlighted the need for additional reform in the liquor licensing area.