Alan Carpenter

Alan Carpenter

Premier; Minister for Federal-State Relations; Trade; Innovation; Science; Public Sector Management

Mark McGowan

Mark McGowan

Minister for Education and Training; South West

    New liquor laws to improve choice, flexibility for public and business

    28/03/2006 2:15 PM
     
    28/03/06

    The State Government is to push ahead with a major overhaul of the State's archaic liquor laws to provide more choice for consumers and boost small businesses.

    Unveiling the Government's reform package today, Premier Alan Carpenter said the Government would put in place tough safeguards against anti-social behaviour and alcohol related harm, while reducing bureaucratic red tape for licensees.

    Key changes include:
    • giving restaurants the option of serving drinks without a meal;
    • creating a new 'small bar' licence category to encourage a more vibrant cafe-style liquor culture;
    • setting up a new Liquor Commission to replace the Liquor Licensing Court, providing a less legalistic and less costly licensing process;
    • replacing the anti-competitive 'needs' based test for new licences with a fairer 'public interest' test;
    • allowing metropolitan liquor stores to open on Sundays, in line with hotel bottle shops; and
    • new policing and harm minimisation measures to promote responsible drinking.
    In a win for Country Labor, the Government has ruled out Sunday trading for liquor stores in country areas.

    Mr Carpenter said the package was developed after extensive consultation with community and industry groups.

    “These changes will give people more choice and encourage tourism,” the Premier said.

    “They will also balance people’s expectations of being able to enjoy a drink responsibly with the community’s right to enjoy themselves in safety.”

    Racing and Gaming Minister Mark McGowan said the package of amendments would be brought into Parliament during the Spring Session and would take effect in 2007.

    “One of the key recommendations is to allow restaurants to apply to sell alcohol without food,” he said.

    “This will mean that people wanting to enjoy a quiet glass of wine or a beer in a relaxed, uncrowded venue, will be able to do so without having to eat a meal.

    “Restaurants can currently obtain a permit to sell drinks without a meal but only in a designated area of the restaurant which does not exceed 20 per cent of the seating capacity. This means that if people want to join family and friends for a drink but do not want to eat, they cannot sit at the same table.

    “We will be changing this nonsensical rule, which is out of step with modern community expectations.”

    Mr McGowan said the new laws would also allow metropolitan bottleshops to open on Sundays, putting them on a level playing field with hotel bottleshops which already trade seven days per week.

    “It does not make sense that one section of the industry enjoys a privilege that is denied others,” he said.

    “We also want consumers to have the choice about where they can buy their liquor.”

    The Minister said the move to a fairer public interest test and the introduction of the new ‘small bar’ licence would encourage diversity and innovation within the liquor industry.

    “These initiatives will encourage the development of a vibrant, yet low-risk, drinking environment tailored to changing expectations in the community and the business and tourism sector,” he said.

    Clubs will also be major winners under the new laws with more flexibility to hold non-member functions.

    Mr McGowan said another key feature of the new legislation was a strong emphasis on law and order, with a particular focus on removing criminal elements from the liquor industry.

    “Large-scale events, such as Schoolies Week and Skyshow, have demonstrated that police need additional powers to deal with antisocial behaviour,” he said.

    “We will be giving police powers to seize and destroy opened liquor, impose bans on the sale of packaged liquor in designated areas, arrest people who refuse to ‘move on’ after being evicted from a licensed venue, and to seize IDs which are suspected to be false.

    “Another new provision will see it become an offence for a juvenile to be in possession of liquor in a public place. The laws will also prevent criminals and people known to associate with criminals from owning, managing and working in licensed venues.”

    Mr McGowan said the reforms would also have a strong focus on harm reduction by making it easier to enforce liquor accords, ensuring free water, not extending Sunday trading hours for pubs and nightclubs, and abandoning the notion of a declared entertainment precinct.

    Licensees would also see a significant reduction in ‘red tape’ and other administrative burdens as a result of the changes.

    For further information on the changes, please go to http://www.orgl.wa.gov.au

    Premier’s office: 9222 9475
    Minister for Racing and Gaming's office: 9222 9111