Liquor licensing (liquor review) amendment bill

(Continued from 29 March 2017)

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (11:03): I rise to speak on the Liquor Licensing (Liquor Review) Amendment Bill 2017. I advise that I am not the lead speaker, but I want to say a few words and put on the record that it is nearly two years since the minister first announced his intention to review the Liquor Licensing Act. At no point over the last two years have the government provided a clear justification for this process. They have not addressed any clear problems. To my mind, they are not providing any reform that will boost industry or protect our community and, by making some changes within the existing act, they do very little to improve the legislative framework.

By way of a bit of history, about two years ago the Attorney appointed Tim Anderson QC to review the current legislation. At that time, there was certainly nothing certain about the government's intention, and it is fair to say that there was a fair amount of confusion and concern from those in the industry. To his credit, Mr Anderson QC did a very good job with the review, and there is no doubt that the stakeholders had ample opportunity to engage in that process. Mr Anderson brought his report to government back in June 2016 with about 129 recommendations.

The government has accepted most of those recommendations but, upon receiving the recommendations in the middle of 2016, the government certainly took its time providing a response to the review. Once again, that led to broad speculation and uncertainty about what measures might be imposed in the final draft bill, and there was a sense of fear that the government was not listening to the relevant stakeholders. That is certainly nothing new in anything we see from this Labor government.

The final bill before us today increases complexity, drastically increases liability and obligation and seeks to contain or restrict trading through massive fees, obligations and red tape. Is that not the hallmark of this government? Red tape is what they do best, ensuring that small businesses, mum-and-dad businesses, cannot get on with the job of what they do best. That is what this government love to do. Then, when it all fails, they blame someone else: they blame the federal government, they blame us on this side, they blame hardworking employers and at times they even blame employees, but they certainly never look at themselves for the mess they create in so many areas.

We have new licence categories, which in my view, and in the view of those on this side of the house, will be largely unworkable. The bill seeks to give South Australian police additional powers, and that exposes venues to significant risk. For me, some of the really big issues in the bill relate to the draft licensing fees that have been proposed. I will say that the licensing fees will ultimately be determined by regulation, as will the structure. The government needs to go back and look at those licence fees and the structure to ensure that the regulations that are finally drawn up are not burdensome red tape on industry.

There has been a lot of proposed change in the licence fees, as I have talked about, and new classes of licences are being created. The model recommended by Mr Anderson QC essentially sees outrageous increases in fees and services on small businesses, on mum-and-dad hoteliers and on bottle shop operators. These fees are nothing more than a tax grab. They are another tax on South Australian businesses. They are nothing more than a tax and they should only ever be seen in that way.

If we look at my own community and some of the licensed venues in my community, Belair Fine Wines, a beautiful bottle shop (which at the moment has a wonderful gin range available for people to purchase), currently pays fees of $771 per year. The proposed fees are $4,000 per year. The Cellarbrations bottle shop at Blackwood, which is a great sponsor of the Blackwood Football Club, currently pays fees of $771 per year; they will go up to $4,000. The Belair Hotel—one of the biggest employers in my electorate in terms of a hospitality venue—currently has fees of $771; they will go up to $2,000.

The Duck Inn in Coromandel Valley currently pays fees of $771; they will go up to $2,000. The Edinburgh Hotel—the iconic Ed Hotel—currently pays fees of $771; they will go up to $1,500. The Flagstaff Hotel, which is a quintessential suburban pub serving many patrons, currently pays licensing fees of $3,525; they will go up to $12,000, which is a huge increase. The Torrens Arms Hotel currently pays licensing fees of $771; they will go up to $2,000. In just my own electorate we are seeing a huge increase in fees that are essentially a tax for a business to do nothing more tomorrow than it is doing today—that is, providing jobs for South Australians, providing entertainment and hospitality for South Australians and providing a venue for people to enjoy themselves.

So many of these venues—our pubs and our bottle shops—actually pour a lot of money back into our communities. They are the sponsors of our local footy clubs, cricket clubs and netball clubs, and a lot of community organisations receive a lot of support from these community assets. With these licence fee increases, the bottom line will need to be absorbed. These increasing fees will need to be absorbed, and if they cannot be absorbed, ultimately they will be passed on to the community and the patrons of those venues.

Another big concern to me, in terms of the licence fees, is a huge increase in fees that we are seeing in relation to about 35 live music venues across South Australia. For those 35 venues the combined fee increases are about $150,000 a year. Those increases apply to so many of the iconic music venues in South Australia, such as the Exeter Hotel, the Austral hotel, the Lion hotel, the Governor Hindmarsh—one of the biggest live music venues in South Australia—the Jade and the Tonsley Hotel. They are all seeing increases in their fees.

Live music venues are critical as places and as hubs that develop live music, that develop budding artists and that provide an avenue for Australian music talent. Essentially, these fees and regulations coming in with respect to these hotels will, I think, over time erode their ability to be fantastic live music venues and erode their ability to be places where people want to go, to spend and to be entertained.

So, there are a huge number of issues within this bill. I believe industry has a right to be concerned about the government's intentions in relation to this. I know the Liberal opposition has proposed several amendments in regard to trading hours. Currently, the government wants to restrict trading between 3am and 8am. Of course, we have huge concerns with the annual licence fees as well, and we will be looking to seek some amendments and clarifications in that regard.

The changes to the 3am to 8am trading period are really an increase of the lockout laws we see at the moment. I would argue that we should not be seeing restrictions in this regard. In terms of our entertainment precinct around Hindley Street and through the Casino, which of course is exempt in so much legislation at the moment anyway, South Australia and Adelaide—any vibrant city needs an opportunity for there to be a nightspot where people can enjoy themselves and where people can have a drink, have a dance and enjoy their friends at almost any time of day or night. We do not want to live in a restrictive society where the Attorney-General decides what time you can have a drink and what you can drink. Otherwise, we will all just be drinking sauvignon blanc—not that there is anything wrong with drinking sauvignon blanc, but there are so many more wonderful things to taste as well.

We want to give people choice in South Australia. We want young people to stay in this state to ensure that it remains a vibrant place and a place where people want to stay, ultimately work, raise their family and spend their retirement. In terms of this tinkering with this liquor licensing bill, a lot of it goes—in my mind—to the nanny state provisions that this government loves to put in. It loves to tell people what to do and how to do it, and at every opportunity that it has—in almost every bit of legislation that it opens up and seeks to amend—it seeks to impose the arm of the state. This is another one of these bills.

As I said, we will be moving some amendments to the bill. To my mind, the most concerning part about this whole piece of legislation is of course the tax grab—the tax grab from South Australian businesses. Those tax grabs should really be reviewed, and moderation should be the order of the day when it comes to anything to do with liquor licensing reviews.