Saturday, April 5, 2008

Proposed Liquor Regulation 2008 in NSW

There is increasing awareness in the community that the consumption of alcohol like the consumption of tobacco is bad. Section 6.1 of the Regulation puts the cost to the community of alcohol abuse at $7 million per day (that is $2.5 Billion annually, in NSW alone!) The figure of $50 million in costs to the NSW Police Force must surely be understated in light of the statistic that 80% of all crime is alcohol related.

In the past few months, there has been broad recognition in government and media of the evils of binge drinking, the relationship between crime and alcohol, and the need to change our culture with respect to alcohol consumption. However, the regulations contained in the 2007 Act and the 2008 Regulation do not sufficiently support the behaviour change required to control the damage and minimise the harm of excess alcohol consumption.

Section 3.1(b) Objectives of the Liquor Act of 2007 calls for “facilitating the balanced development, in the public interest of the liquor industry...” This is too wishy washy. It is much like having a smoking regulation which promotes the balanced development of the tobacco industry. The objective of the Act and the Regulation should be to “to control the development” rather than to “facilitate the development” of the liquor industry.

Section 6.1 of the Regulatory Impact Statement says that the guiding principle of the Act and the Regulation is to, “allow people to sell, supply and consume liquor in a responsible manner and in a way that is appropriate having regard to the interests of the local and wider community.” However, this is intent is not sufficiently provided for. I believe that communities should have a much greater say in the determination of license conditions including licensing hours. In Manly, our local council have been trying for many years to limit the licensed hours of pubs and clubs. In 2005 our Local Council adopted a Policy to limit trading hours to 2:00am for pubs and clubs with a lock-out at 12:30am. I believe we should have the right to apply this.

Similarly, Clause 58 authorises the general manager of a local council to make a disciplinary complaint to the Casino Liquor and Gaming Control Authority (CLAGCA) but there are no provisions which require the CLAGCA to act on this complaint. This should be strengthened to give local councils more power with more immediate effect when raising a complaint about licensed premises.

Harm minimization
One area not covered sufficiently by the Regulation or the Act is the litter problem resulting from alcohol related packaging. Alcohol packaging, including bottles, glasses, cardboard, plastic and paper packaging is the biggest blight on the visual and physical environment. Glass bottles particularly are quickly if not instantly reduced to pieces of broken glass which simply do not get picked up but instead lie in wait to disgust the tourists and harm the unwary.

The alarm bell has rung but the regulatory call has not been sufficiently answered. Much more can and should be done to control and minimise the harm of alcohol consumption. Culture and attitudes follow behaviour. In order to change the culture, we must change behaviour. The way to change behaviour is tougher Legislation.

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