Liquor Amendment (2006 FIFA World Cup Hotel Trading) Bill
Debate resumed from 23 May 2006.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS (Upper Hunter) [11.09 a.m.]: I am pleased and honoured to lead for the Opposition on the Liquor Amendment (2006 FIFA World Cup Hotel Trading) Bill.
Mr Barry O'Farrell: Point of order: I note that in the Government's rush to push legislation through, copies of this bill are not available for members of the House.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Mills): Order! Copies of the bill are now available to members.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS: At the outset I indicate that the Opposition will not oppose this bill, which essentially is commonsense legislation. It will enable hotels to continue to trade until 1.00 a.m. during the early rounds of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association [FIFA] World Cup in Germany in approximately two weeks time. It will ensure that hotels which will screen the World Cup fixtures, particularly those involving Australia's Socceroos, will not have to adhere to the midnight closing requirement and cause their patrons to leave the premises while a match is in progress. It may well be that a match is a very vital one and midnight is a vital moment in the match, with perhaps 20 minutes before full time, and Australia's Socceroos might be ahead at that point with the score at 1-0. The last thing anyone would want is a riot that would probably occur at every hotel, should the hotel be forced to cause its patrons to leave. This bill will enable hotels to remain open to 1.00 a.m. until telecasting of the matches from Germany has been completed.
The World Cup matches will commence at 11.00 p.m. and extend beyond midnight. Other events that are scheduled to commence after midnight, for example, at 1.00 a.m., 4.00 a.m. or 5.00 a.m., et cetera, are not included in this bill. Obviously the legislation could not be stretched so far as to imagine that they could have been accommodated, but certainly when matches are in progress at midnight, it would be unreasonable to expect a hotel to close at what could be a crucial stage of a match. I am critical of the Government bringing forward this legislation in such a rushed fashion. I was notified of the Government's intention to introduce the bill last Tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately, that was after the opportunity had passed for me to take the bill through the Coalition's shadow Cabinet and party room processes, with the result that I have been forced to communicate with my colleagues in a more cumbersome fashion. I have no doubt that the Government's intention is to rush this bill through to its third reading to enable it to be debated in another place forthwith.
This legislation has been presented with an air of emergency and panic. I would have thought that the Government would have had ample opportunity during the long lead-up to the competition because the schedule of World Cup soccer matches has been well known for a long time. The Government ought to have known that some matches would be held around midnight and that that would necessitate amending the Liquor Act. I think the Government deserves criticism for the rushed fashion in which this bill has been presented and for its failure to process it through the normal course of the business of this House much earlier than today. I take this opportunity to express the Coalition's very best wishes to Australia's Socceroos not only for the World Cup, which will begin in the immediate future, but also for tonight's friendly warm-up match against the European champions, Greece, in Melbourne tonight. I wish Australia's Socceroos all the very best for success this evening.
Mr Grant McBride: It is a win-win.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS: It will be a win if Australia wins. It is a vital match. Greece has not qualified for the World Cup, but Australia has. Tonight's match is vital because it is a lead-up to the World Cup, and the outcome will be a very strong indicator of Australia's prospects in the World Cup. I wish the Socceroos all the best for success tonight and in the forthcoming World Cup. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr GRANT McBRIDE (The Entrance—Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister for the Central Coast) [11.14 a.m.], in reply: The Liquor Amendment (2006 FIFA World Cup Hotel Trading) Bill amends the Liquor Act to allow hotels to trade until 1.00 a.m. on certain nights during the early stages of the 2006 Fédération Internationale de Football Association [FIFA] World Cup, which will be held in Germany. I point out that the last time Australia competed was in Germany 32 years ago, so the forthcoming World Cup is a highly symbolic event for all Australians.
The matches to which the extension will apply are the 11.00 p.m. kick-off games that will occur from 10 to 19 June 2006, which is the first round of the cup matches. As I mentioned during my second reading speech, many Australians will be keen to watch the telecast of matches with friends at their local pub or club. We are assured of seeing a precursor of that custom tonight. As the honourable member for Upper Hunter has pointed out, tonight Australia takes on Greece in front of a sell-out crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The honourable member for Upper Hunter may be able to clarify for me whether Melbourne has the third-largest Greek population in the world after Athens and Salonica.
Mr George Souris: Thessalonica, yes.
Mr GRANT McBRIDE: Melbourne is obviously a great choice of location, and it is little wonder that there will be a sell-out crowd. It reflects the increased popularity of football and the respect that football has won over the past few years with the introduction of the A-League throughout Australia. We all know about the great success of the inaugural A-League, and in that context I pause to mention the success of my home team, the Central Coast Mariners. Football is attracting huge interest in Australia and this will continue as a result of Australia's success in being included in the World Cup for the first time in 32 years.
The bill will enable fans to watch their sporting heroes and our national team with their family and friends without having to leave the venue before the end of the match. The bill allows football fans, new and old, to experience the atmosphere on the big screen, including Australia's first match against Japan on Monday 12 June. I, like the shadow Minister, wish Australia's Socceroos every success in the World Cup and in tonight's match. Tonight's match will be a magnificent opportunity for Australia to establish its credentials in the lead-up to the World Cup. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.