Licensing Scheme Delayed Then Shelved: Baird Govt Fails to Make Repeat Liquor Offenders Pay

NSW Deputy Premier Troy Grant has quietly suspended plans to charge additional licensing fees for venues that have a poor compliance rate with the states liquor laws, with big Sydney venues including The Ivy, Home Nightclub Tunnel nightclub and World Bar all set to benefit.

The fees, which were part of the package of reforms included 1:30am lockouts and last drinks, were due to be implemented in March 2016. This is despite being announced in January 2014, and promised to be implemented in the first part of that year.

Deputy Premier Troy Grant has told an AHA NSW Council dinner that the fees wouldn’t be ‘fair’ in light of the Independent Liquor Review. Other reforms imposed on the community, including the lock out laws, have remained in place while the review takes place. Venues will instead only be charged a base rate and additional fees for extended trading hours and unrestricted trading rights.

Read coverage in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

The Independent Liquor Review is due to report on the effectiveness of the suite of measures introduced under the Liquor Amendment Act 2014, including lock out laws, 10pm closing times for bottle shops and periodic licensing this August. This is despite the additional compliance loadings for liquor licenses never actually being implemented.

The additional compliance fees, which could total $24,000 for each licensee, could have been a powerful incentive for repeat offenders to change their practices. It was one of the measures that sought to directly target those venues found to be non-compliant, unlike other measures that were imposed on all venues.

Greens member for Newtown and acting liquor spokesperson Jenny Leong said:

“Lock outs and last drinks were enforced on the community days after the ink had dried on the 2014 legislation, yet measures that would make the big pubs and clubs pay for breaching liquor laws have been delayed and now shelved.

“Hitting the big pubs and clubs in the hip pocket for repeated breaches to the liquor laws could have been a powerful incentive for reform, but it clearly isn’t a priority for the NSW Liberal-National government.

“Instead the government repeated delayed the implementation of these fees and have now suspended them all together.

“It’s outrageous that the community has been hit with a blanket punishment while the alcohol industry has been let off the hook. But many people won’t be surprised to hear that ‘Casino Mike’ has chosen to crack down on community members rather than his mates in the liquor lobby.

“The Independent Liquor Review now has no evidence on which to judge whether higher licensing could be effective in reducing alcohol related violence. The report will have little choice but to focus on lock outs and last drinks.

“This latest move by the Baird government exposes their lack of genuine commitment to reducing alcohol misuse and related violence,” said Ms Leong.

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