Planning Review

18 Jul 2012 archivespeech

This speech is regarding the planning review on South Australia's Liquor Licensing, Planning, Heritage and Environmental Regimes. More specifically it is focussed on what barriers exist to small bars and live music, and changes that can be made to promote more vibrant precints.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:33): I move:

That this council requests the Environment, Resources and Development Committee to inquire into and report on a review into South Australia's liquor licensing, planning, heritage and environmental regimes, to determine what barriers exist to small bars and live music and entertainment venues and what changes will promote more vibrant precincts.

This particular issue has had quite a bit of attention within the parliament, particularly in the Legislative Council, thanks to the efforts of the Hon. Tammy Franks, and has had considerable attention in the media and at community meetings as well. My intention in moving this reference to the Environment, Resources and Development Committee is to assist the work that has been done with the laneways and activating parts of the city. There is growing enthusiasm and there has been a lot of activity on the web as well, through both the Renew Adelaide blog and the Raise the Bar Facebook site.

Those two organisations called a meeting on Monday 7 May, and I thank the Hon. Tammy Franks for alerting me to that meeting. She was in attendance, as was the Hon. John Gazzola, and the forum was to discuss the cultural impact of licensing for small venues and bars. One of the people on the panel was Lois Boswell, who works in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet and who spoke to this issue. It was organised, I understand, by Renew Adelaide—

The Hon. T.A. Franks: I think so, yes.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: —thank you—and was emceed by Ianto Ware, with whom a number of us have met over recent months. One of the panellists was a gentleman by the name of John Wardle, who has been involved in this issue in Sydney and has some fairly strong views about our liquor licensing laws here in South Australia.

There were other panellists who had run small bars, who had sought licences or who had had various issues. I think we are all quite surprised at the difficulty they had with the regulators in terms of some of the hoops they had to jump through and that, when they answered forms in all honesty, they were subsequently penalised. There are a whole range of issues. They are not just related to liquor licensing, but to venues as well. What happens to a venue such as the Jade Monkey when it is being leased and the owners decide that they are going to redevelop the site? There is concern that the number of venues available is decreasing in South Australia. I think various people have looked at that, and I have heard—

The Hon. T.A. Franks: The Crown & Sceptre has shut down.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The Crown & Sceptre shut today, indeed; and that is another issue as well: that pubs in the city are struggling. We have quite a number going into administration. Regarding licensing, there are also issues to do with the volume of music and whether neighbours get cranky about that. There are also heritage issues, and planning issues are a very important part of this debate as well. I think that fits quite well into the gambit of the ERD Committee, and I think it is the appropriate place for these issues to be examined.

Just days after the forum in May, this government brought in a risk-based licence, and we all know that that is just an attempt to raise fees. Indeed, last year we debated the issue of the closure of pubs and clubs from 4am to 7am, and I am very pleased that the sensible Legislative Council rejected that proposal. I do see some irony in the government being so verbally enthusiastic about enlivening the city when it wanted to tell us all when we could and could not go and enjoy a drink last year, and, indeed, the Adelaide City Council, which decided that clubs should be shut from 3am until 7am, not 4am until 7am. So, I find that there are some inconsistencies at both levels of government in what they tried to do last year and what they are saying now.

Driller Jet Armstrong, to whom the Hon. Tammy Franks referred in her disallowance motion of those risk-based licences, managed to obtain some 4,000 signatures, and he is to be commended for that. He also set up a Facebook page. My office actually drafted that petition for him, so we are very pleased that we were able to play a role in that as well. The government has since revoked those fees and brought in a different regime.

Some examples were given at the forum of the difficulties that small licensees had. One licence holder was filling in the Consumer and Business Services form for their licence and the form said something along the lines of: 'How many people do you expect to have in your venue?' The licence holder said 200—even though the capacity is more like 500—and that is what they were then granted. They were only granted capacity for 200 people, so they are obviously restricted. The question is: if they have an event and 210 people are there, will they be penalised? So I think a lot of those issues actually do not have anything to do with the acts of parliament or the regulations but, rather, the policy of the regulators.

The number of toilets can be one of those difficult issues as well. I have been involved in fundraising before where you apply for a temporary liquor licence and you have to state how many metres of male loos you are going to have and how many other loos—they actually ask for quite a lot. Particularly when you are trying to raise money you do not want to be spending all your profits on hiring toilets, so I think that is just one of the many issues that we need to be looking at.

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 the core business, such as an arts 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.

The Hotels Association was also represented at that forum by Ian Horne and Wally Woehlert. Mr Horne has been in the media as well. He has stated on the record that he thinks that the industry could be more vibrant but he is not convinced that we necessarily need a special licence, and I do note that the AHA is the only stakeholder industry group that we can refer to.

A lot of the issues that were raised at that forum by the small venues, he said, were issues for all the large hotels as well. There are a number of issues that, I think, need to be looked at—planning, liquor licensing, heritage and even EPA noise requirements. I think that it would be useful, particularly because the government has said that early next year is when it is looking at introducing some reforms to the liquor licensing laws.

The government should learn from the experience last year that it does need the support of the upper house if it wants to get these things through. It would therefore be sensible to enable a multipartisan committee, such as the ERD Committee (which is represented by three of the parties who are represented in this place), to be able to look at those laws. It would also give the ERD Committee something to do, quite frankly, because in the last two years we have produced two reports—both fairly thin reports, I would have to say. We are certainly not doing as much work as we did when the member for Giles was the chair of our committee. Quite frankly, were it not for references coming from opposition members of parliament then we would not have had any reports at all. I think that we should work a lot harder for the funding we receive, and that would be a good thing to do.

As I said, the amendments which have been mooted by the Premier himself we are not expecting to see until early next year. I think that there is time for us to have a look at these issues. Also, policy decisions are being made within the liquor licensing division which are having an impact on the viability of these small licences, so I think that it would be a worthwhile exercise.

I do hope that the government does not resist having this reference. I am not actually trying to be mischievous: I think that it is a useful thing to do because, as I said, I could do better to learn more about how the liquor licensing system works at a coalface level. I think that we should hear directly from the people who are applying for the licences so that we can understand what the situation is.

That will help to advise us when we have this raft of amendments which are expected to be tabled in parliament next year, because otherwise that process will be delayed. Once the legislation is put out the Liberal Party at least will need to do its own consultation, and that might take us several weeks or a couple of months, so we can actually get on with this process earlier by starting it through a committee which is able to take a lot of evidence and hear from all the different stakeholders. Indeed, it would be interesting to hear from the Department of the Premier and Cabinet about what it is they might have in mind. It would be an inquiry which many members would find of interest, so I commend the motion to the Legislative Council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.M. Gazzola.