bottle caps (stock.xchng)

The devil in the alcohol detail

Alcohol policy can be very confusing, especially in complex legislation and regulations such as liquor acts. And as with many things; the devil is very much in the detail.

The NSW government recently responded to recommendations made in the five-year statutory review into the Liquor Act and the Gaming and Liquor Administration Act conducted by Michael Foggo. This review started before the NSW Government introduced the strong changes including earlier closing times and other measures in Sydney CBD earlier this year.

The government accepted the vast majority of recommendations from the review with some key exceptions – wherein the details hide. Unfortunately GrogWatch is concerned that the NSW community may be receiving mixed messages about the ways in alcohol may be sold and served in the community.

One of the outcomes of the government’s response to the review is the removal of the requirement for not-for-profit organisations to acquire a liquor licence for fundraising events. For up to six fundraising events a year between the hours of 6am and midnight, organisations will be able to serve and sell alcohol without a license. They will in theory still be required to ensure they give police 28-days’ notice and that all people serving alcohol should have completed Responsible Service of Alcohol training. But if you don’t require an organisation to obtain a permit to sell alcohol, how can you be sure that people are trained to serve alcohol responsibly?

Will local police be required to respond to notifications of upcoming events and monitor them, as well as having to provide guidance, enforcement and referrals to community groups about how to obtain Responsible Service of Alcohol training?

GrogWatch is concerned about the message it sends when the government tells the community that they are relaxing supervision of the serving of alcohol by ‘cutting red tape’.

The Queensland government made changes very similar to these in a red-tape removal exercise last year. Since then the Australian Drug Foundation has been approached by several parents and teachers who have been concerned with unlicensed school fetes setting a less than desirable example of drinking to students in attendance. GrogWatch very much supports community organisations such as schools holding fundraising events, but believes if they are serving alcohol they should be subject to the same rules as others in the community who want to sell and serve alcohol. Liquor licensing is one of the key tools we have in our community to reduce and control alcohol related harm.

In other news about alcohol-related legalisation, in Victoria last weekend the Napthine government controversially introduced new minimum 10 year non-parole sentences for anyone convicted of a fatal ‘coward punch’. This is even more severe than NSW which introduced 8 year minimum sentences earlier this year after a spate of alcohol fuelled casualties in Sydney streets.

GrogWatch wants to hear from you: should it be mandatory to have a liquor permit whenever you are serving and selling alcohol?