LIQUOR AMENDMENT (3 STRIKES) BILL 2011 (NO. 2)
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from 18 October 2011.
Mr PAUL LYNCH
(Liverpool) [10.07 a.m.]: I lead in this place on the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2). The shadow Minister who has responsibility for this bill is the Hon. Steve Whan, who is in the other place. The bill was introduced yesterday and we are proceeding under the enabling Act, suspension of standing orders having been moved a couple of days ago. The shadow Minister was briefed yesterday at 1.00 p.m. To suggest that that gives the Opposition time for proper consideration is, of course, preposterous. The Government has the respect for democratic process of Parliament of the Long Parliament and the style of the Barebones Parliament. Clearly, we will not oppose the bill in this place but we reserve our position in the other place to consider it further.
The object of the bill is to introduce a three strikes disciplinary system for licences in respect of premises in which multiple breaches of the Act have occurred. Within a short space of seven months of this Parliament the bill has had a fascinating history. The legislation was promised within the first 100 days of the new Government. The rushing of the original bill was, to put it bluntly, an absolute disaster. The original Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill proposed serious penalties that could have been imposed for unproven allegations and had a number of major flaws, not the least of which was that it was a fundamental denial of natural justice. It was drafted in haste and introduced at the time without informing the Parliament that it was intended to be put out for consultation. That strikes me as an ex post facto justification. It is claimed that the industry was told, but the Parliament was not. The Opposition, legal experts and the industry all raised concerns about the initial bill. Indeed, a media release issued by the Hon. Steve Whan on 11 August states:
The O'Farrell Government should withdraw the deeply flawed Three Strikes legislation it has introduced to the NSW Parliament in a rush to pretend it had met the Premier's 100 Day Plan promise ...
In the Premier's rush to bring the Three Strikes legislation to Parliament to meet his 100 Day Plan deadline, he has produced a Bill which quite simply denies justice.
The bill was indeed discharged yesterday, indicating that the shadow Minister's call has been heeded by the Minister. When the Government initially refused to withdraw the bill, the Opposition suggested that it move a number of amendments to introduce some rationality and justice. I am pleased to note that this new version of the bill picks up many of the Opposition's amendments. In that regard, it begins to approach a decent piece of Labor legislation and it follows that the Opposition supports some aspects of it. We welcome the fact that the new bill provides that an offence must be proven. However, that raises the fundamental issue of whom the strike is against. As the Opposition understands it, in the case of a hotel the strike is recorded against the premises rather than the licensee.
The obvious question is whether it attaches to the licensee and whether the licensee can move on. I note the Minister's comment; it would be helpful if he would put that on the record. The process in this bill for dealing with three strikes is different from the process in the original bill. The first strike is determined by conviction for a serious offence. That strike is automatic and it is administered by either the police or the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority—which title was changed yesterday in legislation. The second strike, which is discretionary, is administered by the Director General of the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services. The third strike, which is also discretionary, is administered by the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority.
The bill provides that the licensee/manager can make a submission with regard to a discretionary strike, and the business premises owner can also make a submission on the second and third strikes. That allows transparency for owners and operators to appeal against alleged acts. This was denied to them in the original bill. That is obviously a significant improvement. Appeals against strikes issued by the Director General of the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services will be dealt with by the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority, and reviews of decisions made by the authority will be dealt with by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal. That allows for a degree of transparency and provides some balance in the decision process.
After a first strike is issued, the Director General of the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services can determine the particular restrictions to be imposed, such as requiring the licensee to develop a plan of management or an incident register, a prohibition on the use of glass and breakable plastic containers and/or engagement of dedicated staff to promote responsible service of alcohol. If a further strike is issued, further conditions can be imposed, such as a prohibition on serving alcohol prior to the venue closure and/or a reduction in trading hours before 10.00 a.m. or after 11.00 p.m. The conditions will depend on the severity of the strike.
The bill creates a list of serious offences against which the authorities will determine whether a strike will be incurred. They include permitting intoxication on licensed premises, the licensee/approved manager selling or supplying alcohol to a minor, the licensee/approved manager not complying with a direction issued by the director general to a licensee or staff member and so on. The bill requires a register to be provided to interested persons where a venue has incurred a strike. One issue that arises from that is whether the register will be available to the public or only to the industry. The Minister has made an indication about that and I would appreciate it if he would also put that on the record. The Opposition's concern is that if it is not made available to the public a prospective purchaser might not be aware of it.
The notice of a proposed second or third strike is to be provided to interested parties and recorded on licence records, and a condition can require a licensee to notify business and premises owners of strikes. That is also an improvement on the original bill. The bill has also been improved by providing that if an appeal is lodged against a discretionary decision, there will be an automatic stay. In addition, a strike will not be incurred until there is a conviction for an offence. The strike will commence from the offence date and will last for three years, whereupon it will be automatically extinguished. Once again, that is an improvement on the original bill. As I indicated, subject to reserving its position in the upper House, the Opposition does not oppose the passage of this bill in this place.
Mr CHRIS PATTERSON
(Camden) [10.17 a.m.]: I support the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2). New South Wales has more than 14,000 licensed premises and the majority of them have not been and are not associated with serious breaches of the liquor laws. However, I believe that this bill will have a deterrent effect on problem licensees who repeatedly offend. This policy aims to improve compliance within the Liquor Act. The Government wants licensees to be held accountable for the protection of their patrons and their community. Alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour will always be a problem when licensees repeatedly refuse to abide by the law. The provisions of the bill will apply to any restaurant, bottle shop, pub, club, nightclub or venue that holds a liquor licence. Any venue will be on notice that this Government is out to curb alcohol-related crime. The Premier and the Coalition Government have taken an extremely tough stance on alcohol-related and antisocial behaviour.
After extensive community and stakeholder consultation, the Government is now introducing a revised three-strikes scheme to Parliament. Industry concerns have been addressed while still targeting rogue licensees and repeat offenders. This legislation will be reviewed after four years to determine whether the policy is valid and whether it is appropriate given the policy objectives. The revised scheme is based on the previous bill, but with a number of important changes. Strikes may now be incurred only where there is a conviction for a serious offence, including payment of a penalty infringement notice. The 10 most serious offences under the Liquor Act are defined under the scheme. I will not detail them today because they are in the bill and they can be identified as needed.
A new offence is included in the scheme requiring licensees to comply with a notice restricting or prohibiting an activity that encourages misuse or abuse of alcohol. A strike can be incurred following a conviction for a single serious offence. The strike will commence retrospectively from the offence date when a conviction is recorded and it will last for three years. A first strike is automatic, with second and third strikes being discretionary based on the seriousness of any harm resulting from the offence. For a further conviction to result in a second or third strike, the offence must occur within three years of the imposition of the first strike, with any conditions imposed being reasonable given the behaviour that led to the strike.
Trading hours following a second strike can be restricted before 10.00 a.m. and after 11.00 p.m. and conditions prohibiting liquor sales prior to closure can also be imposed. Notice of a second or third strike will be provided to all persons recorded on licence records. Excluding registered clubs, at the third strike a licence can be suspended for 12 months or cancelled, a prohibition can be placed on the granting of a licence to the same business operators at the premises for 12 months, the licensee can be disqualified and conditions can be imposed on the licence. In relation to registered clubs, secretary/managers can be disqualified, any or all club directors can be dismissed, licence conditions can be imposed and/or an external person can be appointed to manage the club.
The decision-maker for conditions following a first or second strike will continue to be the Director General of the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services, whilst the third strike decision maker will be the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority. The Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority will be able to review decisions made by the Director General of the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services. A number of factors must be taken into account by decision makers, including venue size, capacity, change of business practices, compliance, incident history and submissions from police and the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. Consultation and input from a number of affected stakeholders will come into the determination and that will be by far the fairest way to determine ongoing strikes.
As a result of a first strike, conditions that can be imposed include a requirement for an incident register or a plan of management, the use of unbreakable plastic only, and the engagement of staff solely to promote responsible service of alcohol. Following a second strike, conditions that can be imposed include restrictions to trading hours and patron admittance times, a prohibition on the conduct of types of entertainment, a requirement to stop service of alcohol prior to closure of the venue, drink restrictions on high-alcohol content drinks and rapid consumption drinks, additional security measures, requirements that members of the governing body of a registered club undergo training, and restrictions on who may be appointed as manager of the premises. It can be seen that a number of practical measures can be imposed on licensed premises to ensure good community outcomes, good safety outcomes and good social outcomes.
The bill is fair and provides for due process and reviews. Licensees must be given 21 days to make a submission before a decision is made that could lead to a strike or conditions being imposed. An application for the review of a decision can also be made within 21 days of a discretionary decision. Having been in the industry myself for twenty-odd years, knowing how hard licensees work to provide a safe and responsible venue, knowing the time, money and energy spent on ensuring responsible service of alcohol, the security of patrons and being considerate of neighbours and the extended community, I know that responsible licensees will think that it is about time that this necessary legislation was introduced.
At 2.00 p.m. last Monday my mother and father retired after being in the same hotel in Camden for 27 years. They told me that they were busier on their first day of retirement than they had ever been in their 27 years in the hotel. I am not sure that that was the case. This bill demonstrates clearly just how our Government is tackling alcohol-related crime. The Government is already reinforcing the individual's responsibility when drinking alcohol through expanded move-on powers for police, the introduction of the offence of intoxicated and disorderly conduct, and the trial of sobering-up centres. Through the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2) the Coalition Government is targeting licensed venues that are refusing to abide by the law and are fuelling alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour through their failure to serve alcohol responsibly.
I have spoken to a number of people about this bill. I single out Adam Zarth, the fresh-faced adviser to the health Minister, who said to me this morning that the bill enabled him, his wife and friends to go out and feel safe in licensed premises once more. Where there was a doubt in the past about safety there will now be surety. It is very uplifting to have people like the fresh-faced adviser come to me and say that. The member for Liverpool mentioned that this bill was promised in the first 100 days of the Government. I make no apologies, I am sure the Minister makes no apologies and certainly this Government makes no apologies for engaging in extensive community consultation to ensure that we get this bill right. Good government is about bringing good legislation to the Parliament.
Unfortunately, during the time of the former Government we saw far too often those on the other side rushing legislation through that later needed to be amended or reviewed. The Government's intention is to get this right the first time. The legislation will be in place for a long time, so that ensuring that the community benefits from good legislation and good policy will be a far better outcome. I commend the Minister for his hard work. I know that considerable time and effort has gone into this legislation by the Minister and his staff. As a person who has been in this industry, and from talking to people in the industry, I know that this proposed legislation is very welcome. I make the point that 99 per cent of operators in the industry are good operators in both hotels and clubs. This legislation is about saying to those in the industry who are not good operators that enough is enough.
Mr George Souris:
That's the point.
Mr CHRIS PATTERSON:
It is the point: Enough is enough, and this Government takes this matter seriously. People should be able to go out and enjoy themselves and not feel that alcohol-related violence will impact on their evening. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr JAI ROWELL
(Wollondilly) [10.26 a.m.]: The Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2) is an important piece of legislation because it has the ability to impact directly on the safety of our families, friends and loved ones—and safety is of the highest priority. The bill will help to prevent alcohol-induced violence and antisocial behaviour and will work to minimise any adverse effect that drinking to excess may have. The bill features a number of inclusions from the original bill that was introduced earlier this year as a draft; however, a number of areas have been revised after an extensive consultation period with key stakeholders.
The Government is committed to delivering our election commitments while ensuring that adequate consultation has been undertaken. In that light, we are now proposing to introduce a revised three strikes scheme via this bill. The scheme will address industry concerns while maintaining a robust system designed to target rogue licensees and repeat offenders. In my electorate of Wollondilly there are a number of establishments that residents, young and old, can visit for a social drink or a meal, or simply to socialise with friends. For the most part, patrons are happy to abide by the regulations set down by the establishment and abide by the law. However, at times situations can arise that require a system to deal with those who do not wish to abide by the law. Such a system is the intention of this bill. The legislation is not intended to hinder or disadvantage establishments but to ensure that the protection of patrons and the general public remains the highest concern.
The Liberal-Nationals Government is sending a strong message to rogue operators that they have no place in the New South Wales liquor industry. The Government is determined to ensure that our liquor licensing regime is not undermined and that alcohol is served and supplied responsibly and in line with community expectations. Through a series of targeted enforcement operations and new policy initiatives the Government is ensuring that those who break or attempt to undermine our liquor laws suffer the consequences. The centrepiece of our tough stance against alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour is the Government's comprehensive Three Strikes and You're Out policy, targeting rogue licensees who repeatedly break liquor laws. The scheme encompassed in the bill simplifies the policy and sends a clear message to rogue licensees: If you commit three serious offences and incur three strikes, you can lose your licence. This policy delivers the ultimate sanction to rogue licensees who repeatedly put the safety of patrons and the broader community at risk—loss of licence and disqualification from the industry.
The community should not have to tolerate licensees repeatedly committing serious liquor offences that lead to violence, antisocial behaviour and neighbourhood disturbance. This scheme will ensure that these types of venues face severe penalties if they do not reduce intoxication and violence and improve management and compliance standards. At the same time, the Government has carefully considered issues that were raised by industry and stakeholders about the scheme in order to ensure that it is robust but fair. The three-strikes policy delivers severe penalties when there is repeated non-compliance with the liquor laws. It is vital that the scheme operates fairly and effectively to deliver maximum benefits to communities, without undue impact on responsible licensees. Strikes can be imposed when the licensee or approved manager of a licensed venue is convicted of one of a range of serious offences under the Liquor Act.
The offences that are prescribed in the bill include permitting intoxication on licensed premises; permitting indecent, violent or quarrelsome conduct on licensed premises; selling or supplying alcohol to an intoxicated person or a minor; allowing alcohol to be sold or supplied to a minor on licensed premises; permitting the use or sale of substances which a licensee or manager suspects are illicit drugs; not complying with a direction issued by the director general to a licensee or staff member; selling or supplying alcohol outside of authorised trading hours; non-compliance with a closure order issued under the Liquor Act to prevent or reduce a significant risk to the public interest where there are serious breaches of the Act; and a breach of key liquor licence conditions applying to violent venues listed in schedule 4 to the Liquor Act or conditions imposed on a venue that has incurred three strikes. The defendant for these offences must be the licensee or the approved manager.
The first strike is automatically imposed upon conviction for an offence and is active for three years. A second and third strike can be imposed upon further convictions for these offences within the three-year period. When imposing strikes, venue size and capacity, change of licensee and business practices, compliance and incident history, and crime statistics will need to be taken into account. Submissions from police, the New South Wales Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, the licensee and business and premises owners will also need to be taken into account by decision-makers. A third strike can result in licence suspension or cancellation, disqualification of a licensee, and a 12-month moratorium on a new liquor licence being granted for the venue.
In the case of a registered club, a third strike can result in disqualification of a club secretary, dismissal of any or all of the club directors, and the appointment of an administrator. To provide an escalating response, conditions can be imposed on licensed venues in response to the behaviour that led to strikes being incurred. The bill allows for the imposition of the following conditions and restrictions as a result of a first strike: a requirement for a plan of management or an incident register; a prohibition on the use of glass and breakable plastic containers; engagement of dedicated staff to promote responsible service of alcohol; notification to persons that the strike has been incurred; and, in the case of a club licence, requiring members of the governing body of the club to undergo training.
The following conditions and restrictions can be imposed following a second strike: additional security measures; drink restrictions targeting high-strength and rapid-consumption drinks; lockouts, where patrons cannot be admitted after a certain hour; a requirement to cease serving alcohol prior to venue closure; a prohibition on the conduct of types of entertainment; a requirement that members of the governing body of a registered club undergo training; restrictions on who may be appointed as manager of the premises; and reductions to trading hours before 10.00 a.m. or after 11.00 p.m. Importantly, licensed venues will be able to request reviews of decisions made by the Director General of NSW Trade and Investment by the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority. A decision made by the authority can be reviewed by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.
While they may seem complex, these changes will help to promote a more harmonious environment that balances regulation with measures designed to increase safety for patrons. It is important that we get the balance right. The Government does not want to burden business and industry with red tape like those opposite. However, the safety of our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and other family members must remain a priority and the three-strikes bill will help in that regard. It is important to get the balance right because many licensed establishments in the Wollondilly and surrounding areas are very generous when it comes to community and charitable donations. I know that many are proud to support charities such as the Society 389 Charity Club and the Right Start Foundation. The family of Mr Chris Patterson, my good friend and the member for Camden, ran a local establishment and was generous in donating to the local community.
This bill is another sign that the Government is dedicated to delivering on its election promises, that it values consultation with key stakeholders and that it is actively working towards a better New South Wales. The New South Wales Government will continue to take decisive action to reduce alcohol-related antisocial behaviour and violence by targeting irresponsible licensees, as well as protecting the integrity of our liquor laws. I commend Mr George Souris for his dedication to the industry and for the amount of consultation that has gone into this process over the past six or seven months. I note that those opposite complained about the fact that the Government said it would introduce this legislation in its first 100 days in office. It is important for us to get the legislation right so that the safety of the industry is protected and we can get on with doing the job. I commend the Minister and I commend the bill to the House.
Mr MARK COURE
(Oatley) [10.35 a.m.]: I support the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2). The "three strikes and you are out" policy complements other measures introduced by the Liberal-Nationals to tackle alcohol problems in the community by reinforcing the need for personal responsibility. Alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour are significant concerns for the community and the Coalition Government intends to do something about the problem. That is why it is implementing a series of election commitments to tackle the irresponsible service and consumption of alcohol which results in neighbourhood disturbance, offensive behaviour, vandalism, assaults and other violent incidents. The New South Wales Government is sending a clear message that a culture permitting excessive consumption of alcohol, under-age drinking, violence and antisocial behaviour is unacceptable.
People are entitled to enjoy a night out without fear of having their evening ruined by drunken and violent hooligans. That is why the Liberal-Nationals have introduced the offence of intoxicated and disorderly conduct and strengthened police move-on powers. This has provided police with further tools to give a measured but escalating response to intoxicated and disorderly conduct. Police can now issue move-on directions to individuals and prosecute should the offending behaviour continue in any public place. Intoxicated individuals who continue to engage in disorderly conduct in any public place after being given a move-on direction will be committing an offence. Police are now actively enforcing these powers which are designed to target individuals determined to drink to excess and who then ignore reasonable directions to go home before trouble starts, particularly in our entertainment precincts.
Enforcement operations by the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing and the New South Wales Police Force are also targeting rogue operators and ensuring that alcohol is not sold and supplied irresponsibly. In the lead-up to Schoolies Week, authorities have launched a crackdown on minors with fake identification in pubs and clubs in six police local area commands, in particular, beachside areas. The Juvenile Drinking Initiative is being rolled out in the Hunter Valley, Newcastle City, Lake Macquarie, Tuggerah Lakes, Brisbane Water and the Tweed-Byron local area commands. Inspectors from the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing and licensing and general duties police are conducting high-visibility inspections of licensed venues, sweeping for minors and checking identification. Officers are also ensuring that venue security officers are conducting proper checks at entry points to keep out minors and to catch anyone attempting to use a fake identification.
The operation is in response to teenagers bragging on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter about using fake identification to get into licensed venues and to consume alcohol. While most venues do the right thing, clearly some are slipping through the cracks and this operation is targeting high-risk venues to stop minors getting into pubs and clubs or accessing alcohol through bottle shops. An emerging trend has been identified where teenagers are bypassing fake identification for borrowed identification from a relative or friend, if they have a similar appearance. This operation is catching out these people. In Newcastle police recently caught a 17-year-old girl inside a hotel with borrowed identification while another hotel stopped at the door three minors who were attempting to use other people's identification.
The message is clear: Any underage person caught unlawfully inside a licensed venue or buying alcohol will face a fine of up to $2,200. Underage persons may even have to spend an additional six months on their provisional licence if caught using fake identification. Licensees who allow underage drinkers on their premises face a maximum penalty of $11,000 and up to 12 months in jail. The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing is also targeting rogue operators attempting to bypass or undermine the liquor laws. Unlicensed alcohol operators using social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter to advertise 24-hour home delivery of alcohol have been targeted. Under New South Wales liquor laws the sale of liquor without a licence is illegal, with a maximum penalty of $11,000 and up to 12 months imprisonment. A small number of operators were attempting to exploit the limited exemptions that exist for legitimate gift delivery businesses. Investigations found that they were not delivering gifts—they were simply delivering alcohol with a packet of chips or popcorn in the early hours of the morning.
A series of operations involving inspectors and police resulted in enforcement action against two operators—the Blind Pig, which the Minister mentioned in question time, and the Beer Baron—for the alleged unlicensed sale of alcohol and associated offences. This included the issuing of nearly $5,000 in fines, court prosecution and the seizure of a delivery vehicle and a substantial amount of liquor. The Government also introduced legislation into the Parliament on 17 October that will strengthen the law relating to vendors who include liquor as a part of a gift. The new laws require vendors to market a genuine gift service, package the gift in such a way that the recipient would assume it to be a genuine gift, and limit delivery hours to between 7.00 a.m. and 7.00 p.m. This sends a clear message to those who take advantage of the gift seller exemption under the liquor laws that they must be genuine businesses selling gifts that are delivered to third persons and not to the person who has purchased the gifts.
At the same time the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing and police have targeted unlicensed wholesale businesses. In September authorities seized an estimated $20,000 worth of beer, wine and spirits, as well as business records, from an unlicensed warehouse in Wetherill Park. It was alleged that liquor was being sold without a licence by a business operating from the warehouse to clubs, hotels and other businesses. The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing and police will continue to crack down on these unlicensed operations which increase the risk of alcohol being supplied irresponsibly and falling into the hands of minors. The sale of liquor is subject to a strict licensing regime to minimise the harm associated with alcohol abuse and protect the public.
The New South Wales Government is determined to protect the integrity of the industry, which is why it took decisive action earlier this year to stop the Kensington, an unlicensed venue in Newcastle, from using a caterer's licence effectively to operate a nightclub. A statutory condition was imposed on the authorisation used by licensed caterers to sell liquor on premises other than their own permanent licensed premises. Now licensed caterers cannot sell or supply alcohol on premises which have been refused a liquor licence or extended trading hours in the previous two years. The New South Wales Government will continue to take decisive action to reduce alcohol-related antisocial behaviour and violence by targeting irresponsible individuals as well as protecting the integrity of our liquor laws. I commend the motion and I support the bill.
Mr BRUCE NOTLEY-SMITH
(Coogee) [10.43 a.m.]: I support the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2). Alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour are major concerns for people all over New South Wales. It has been of particular concern to the residents of Coogee for many years. More than 40 per cent of violent crime is alcohol related. This type of crime is often quite visible and confronting and can affect the lives of innocent people—as we have seen in my electorate over the past few years. During the election campaign we promised that a Liberal Government would introduce a range of initiatives to punish licensed venues that repeatedly flout the law and cause disruption to the neighbourhood. The community has given us a clear message that it has had enough of alcohol-related crime. This Government is honouring its election commitment by implementing these tough new laws.
Not all licensed premises have a problem with drunken, violent patrons and not all venues breach liquor laws. Very few of the 14,000 licensed establishments in this State are notorious for violence or overt intoxication. This policy targets venues that are associated with this unacceptable activity: the venues that repeatedly break the law under the Liquor Act. As I said before, there is no more effective way to control the management of a rogue venue than the real possibility of it losing its licence. The Government will tackle this problem head-on by applying tough sanctions to rogue licensees and problem venues.
The prescribed offences in the new policy are disturbingly common. They include a licensee permitting violent conduct, selling alcohol to a minor, allowing the sale and the use of illicit drugs or breaching key liquor licence conditions. Under this policy, venues that receive a conviction for a serious offence will incur a first strike against their licence. Repeated non-compliance with liquor laws will result in further strikes. A third strike will have a severe impact on the business of any licensed premises. It will serve as a deterrent to venues and put them on notice to clean up their act. The director general will be given some discretion in this process in the event that impropriety is suspected. Importantly, this bill espouses responsibility. It highlights the fact that licensees have a responsibility to take action to prevent circumstances that lead to violent conduct by their patrons. They have a responsibility to their patrons and the community and they have a responsibility to abide by the law. This is also a fair policy. It targets only the guilty—those who consistently flout the law. It deals with the problems of alcohol-fuelled violence at the source by taking dodgy owners and managers out of the industry.
As I said earlier, people in my electorate have put up with this type of behaviour for years. Drunken, antisocial behaviour, low-level crime and vandalisation of private property and public infrastructure are often committed by people outside my electorate but this has seriously affected the lives of the people who live there. I am encouraged by some of the provisions in the bill which provide that a strike can be incurred following a conviction for a single serious offence rather than multiple offences as was previously proposed—so this legislation is even tougher. Trading hours following a second strike can be restricted before 10.00 a.m. and after 11.00 p.m., which is consistent with existing disturbance complaints within the Act. Following a second strike, conditions prohibiting liquor sales prior to closure may be imposed. Available options at the third-strike stage include licence suspension for up to 12 months, licence cancellation, prevention of a licence being granted to the same business operators at the premises for up to 12 months, disqualification of a licence, or the imposition of licence conditions. These are tough measures.
In the past few years residents in the Bondi Junction area formed a residents group with a view to cracking down on alcohol-fuelled antisocial behaviour. I have met with these residents before and I will meet with them again in a couple of weeks. Some improvement has been made but we still have a long way to go. This issue has been on the agenda of the Coogee Precinct Committee year in and year out. In 2004, when I became Deputy Mayor of Randwick, I began to attend the Liquor Accord meetings. I was surprised by the attitude of some of the licensees who seemed to believe that they were not in any way responsible for the antisocial, violent and drunken behaviour that was taking place in Coogee.
They attributed the violent and drunken behaviour to underage drinking—I do not know where the kids got the booze from—and that at 3.00 a.m. kids as young as 10 or 12 years were running amuck. I decided to witness for myself exactly what was happening. It was disturbing. I turned up outside those two major venues in Coogee a couple of times at around 1.30 a.m. and stayed until about 4.30 a.m. One of the hotels had an enviable amount of security but the difference in the closing times of the two hotels meant that the patrons from one hotel migrated a few hundred metres across the road to cause an enormous ruckus before turning up at the other hotel. Those patrons were then turned away because they were too intoxicated, which left them to fend for themselves in the streets of Coogee right at taxi changeover time. It was a complete disaster.
In 2008, as the mayor of Randwick, I successfully got the council to adopt a 1.00 a.m. lockout policy for the Coogee Bay hotels but the council had no control as whether or not the lockout could be imposed. Later that year the former Labor Government adopted a 2.00 a.m. lockout, which amounted to a watered-down version of my policy. That 2.00 a.m. lockout has had a dramatic effect on the incidence of loutish behaviour in Coogee, but it will never entirely solve the problem. The tough sanctions in this bill will go a long way towards tackling irresponsible service of alcohol by rogue venues and the consequent loutish behaviour of patrons.
We need a change of culture in alcohol consumption in New South Wales and that change will start by making drinkers and licensed venues responsible for their actions. I thank the Minister for the amount of work he has put into this process. The Government is delivering on yet another of its election commitments. I will be watching developments with great interest to determine the success of this bill in managing licensees and licensed venues in the future. There is no silver bullet to resolve these alcohol-related problems. There is not one action that can be taken by any government, local council or residents action group to resolve this issue; there must be a combined effort. We must forever be vigilant to stamp out this type of behaviour. I commend the bill to the House.
Ms NOREEN HAY
(Wollongong) [10.52 p.m.]: I speak in debate on the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2) and state at the outset that the Opposition does not oppose the bill. The Opposition recognises that the Government gave an election commitment but notes that this legislation was promised within its first 100 days in office. To put it bluntly, the original bill that was proposed was a nightmare; it had a number of major flaws and the Opposition was concerned about it. For example, it proposed serious penalties that could have been imposed on licensed venues for unproven allegations, yet under our judicial system people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. In August this year the shadow Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing, the Hon. Steve Whan, called on the Government to withdraw the flawed three-strikes legislation and to review those aspects within the original bill that would have denied natural justice.
The original three-strikes bill was drafted in haste and the Opposition was not informed that it was intended to be for consultation. Upon advice from the Opposition, the liquor industry and others also raised concerns about the initial bill. We indicated that we would be moving amendments to the bill to make it more just. Pleasingly, many of the Opposition's foreshadowed amendments have been included by the Government in the new version of the bill. The Opposition is now generally supportive of the bill but it seeks further clarification of some issues. The Opposition welcomes the fact that an offence has to be proven but notes that a fundamental question remains about the person against whom the strike is listed. For example, in the case of a hotel, under this legislation the strike is recorded against the premises rather than the licensee. The Opposition would like more detail about this aspect of the legislation. It is of concern that a licensee could incur a strike at one premise and leave that premise without the strike moving with him or her.
The former Labor Government had an excellent record in introducing legislation that imposed serious penalties for failures in the responsible service of alcohol. The Hassel Free Nights program was very successful, and in the electorate of Wollongong it greatly assisted in the reduction of alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour. Under the former Labor Government crime was reduced in New South Wales. I, like the member for Coogee, have attended a number of Liquor Accord meetings and the majority of hoteliers, police and council representatives at those meetings took their roles very seriously. In my electorate the hoteliers were more than willing to make suggestions and they even undertook voluntary lockouts in a number of places. I acknowledge the role played by all stakeholders in working together to achieve an outcome that to date has not yet eliminated alcohol-related violence.
As the member for Coogee said earlier, there is no silver bullet to resolve these alcohol-related problems. But by working together we will achieve improved outcomes as we go forward. The Opposition is seeking further clarification on a number of issues. The Opposition's foreshadowed amendments that were included by the Government in its new version of this bill indicate the willingness of both sides of the House to achieve a beneficial solution for everyone in New South Wales. Hopefully this bill will result in a lowering of the incidence of alcohol-related violence.
Mr GLENN BROOKES
(East Hills) [10.59 a.m.]: Within the East Hills electorate there are several pubs and 10 clubs but, based on recent available figures, alcohol-related crimes are not common in my electorate. In fact, the East Hills electorate is not a hot spot for alcohol-related assaults, non-domestic violence or non-domestic assaults. I am mindful that that very fortunate situation in the East Hills electorate could change quickly if appropriate laws are not in place to ensure that the operators of licensed premises are held accountable for the behaviour of their patrons. It is a situation that could quickly change if appropriate legislation is not in place to ensure that operators of licensed premises are reminded of their obligation to the community to provide safe premises that are free from alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour.
The Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No. 2) is intended to provide a deterrent to alcohol-related violence. It is intended also to provide a deterrent to antisocial behaviour. However, the bill does much more than that. The bill directly targets licensed venues that time after time are linked with serious offences under the Liquor Act. It also directly targets licensed venues that are not good corporate citizens and that fail to take appropriate measures to safeguard the community from alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour. Pubs and clubs that are good corporate citizens and that ensure their patrons behave themselves and that care about their place within the community have nothing to fear from this bill. Those pubs and clubs are not targeted by this bill because they are not the problem. Those pubs and clubs are not the reason it is necessary for the Government to introduce this type of legislation.
I have two teenage sons: one is 16 and the other is 17. In just 12 short months my eldest boy will be able to visit licensed premises either on his own or with his mates. Like every normal father, I am concerned about my son's safety. Like every normal father, I want my son to be able to have a night out without fear or worry. Like every normal father, I do not want my son to be a victim of alcohol-related violence. I do not want my son to be a victim of the problems associated with the irresponsible service of alcohol by careless venue operators. As I said, none of the pubs or clubs in my electorate has anything to fear from this bill because they are all good corporate citizens. But even though most people drive safely, we still need traffic laws.
Just as drivers can accumulate up to 12 demerit points, so a pub must have three strikes against it before its licence can be cancelled. Let us face it: if the owner of a pub does not get the message after the first strike and clean up their act and does not get the message after the second and third strikes and clean up their act, the owner of that pub does not deserve to keep their licence. Exactly the same applies to clubs. I congratulate the Government on taking the initiative and introducing this bill for the consideration of Parliament. I congratulate the Government on taking steps to ensure that my son is protected from alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour. I commend the bill to the House.
Ms CLOVER MOORE
(Sydney) [11.04 a.m.]: Sydney has a thriving nightlife but it needs to be safe for everyone. Alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour are a serious ongoing problem, particularly in the inner city. In Kings Cross last year the City of Sydney recorded 80 violent incidents in just one hour between 1.00 a.m. and 2.00 a.m. on a Sunday—and police tell me such incidents are happening every weekend. Making our night-time economy safe is a priority. Our current approaches are very limited and crime safety experts, police, emergency workers, venue patrons and city residents all want something to be done. Having high quality, well-managed and safe late-trading premises is central to our reputation as a safe place to visit.
I support the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2), which will encourage better venue management. The bill creates a strike system: serious offences such as supplying alcohol to drunken patrons or minors, or permitting assaults, can lead to a strike. Three strikes can result in a liquor licence being suspended for 12 months or being cancelled. The proposed system does not go as far as the initial bill introduced in June. Strikes are only possible for a serious offence, not for repeated offences that are not deemed serious, and only when there is a conviction for that offence.
The first strike will be automatic following a conviction, with discretion to impose a second and third strike following a second and third conviction depending on the seriousness of any potential harm. Action taken in response to a first or second strike must be a "reasonable" measure to deal with the offence that resulted in a strike. There are provisions for reduced trading hours and liquor sales prohibitions on a second strike and for cancellation or a 12-month suspension of liquor licence on a third strike. The system is fair on licensees, who will be able to appeal against a third strike in the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, and there is discretion to impose conditions instead of a strike. Good operators with well-managed venues should be allowed to trade but unscrupulous, irresponsible operators should be held accountable. Venue managers that do not address antisocial behaviour, that serve drunken customers and whose venue is the scene of repeated violence are a major problem and should not have free rein to trade late at night.
The proposed strike system would complement the late trading permit system that the City of Sydney has suggested to the Government. A permit system would encourage and reward good management, and such systems already operate successfully in Queensland and global cities such as Paris, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Vancouver and New York. The nightlife in these cities now contributes extraordinary amounts of dollars to their local economies. Legislation should also be introduced to allow councils and the State Government to further manage liquor outlet density when assessing late-trading applications. Research shows that the density of liquor outlets in a particular area is directly linked to street violence, and we need to establish criteria to assess whether an area has reached saturation. I note that the Victorian Coalition Government has recently introduced such reform.
The liquor freeze has helped stabilise trading in the hot spots of George Street south, Oxford Street, Darlinghurst and Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross, and I welcome the extension of the freeze to allow time to develop long-term reform that will create a sustainable night-time economy. Late night transport is a crucial issue and it is urgently needed. I welcome the Government's expansion of NightRide bus services. Drunken punters often roam the streets at night waiting for their train or bus service to resume because of the difficulty or prohibitive cost in catching a taxi. I do not blame people for that; no-one wants to pay $100 to get a taxi from Kings Cross to Bondi. Such people are vulnerable to street violence and the sheer number of people walking the streets creates the potential for conflict and major noise impacts for residents who are living in the highest densities in Australia.
The City of Sydney is developing a 20-year vision for Sydney's nightlife, informed by recent consultation in which thousands of people participated. In fact, we talked to 6,000 people online and had many community meetings, and I hosted many roundtables with industry. Research includes a cost-benefit analysis of the night-time economy, which has not been done in Australia before, a comprehensive report on how people use late night entertainment areas, and an international review of what distinguishes other successful global cities' night-time economies. The City continues consulting with business, police, industry leaders, creative communities, residents and visitors. We recently announced a range of summer trials including streamlining the development application process, in response to business, activating underutilised venues, in response to residents, pissoir trials, in response to everyone, and precinct ambassadors to help people in the central business district.
We have listened to what Sydneysiders think about late-night activities in their city. The message is loud and clear that people want a safer night: they want to go out by themselves, they want a safer night for their friends and families, and they want better transport options to get home. We need a sophisticated approach to address late-night violence, an approach with a range of actions that acknowledge the complexities of this problem. I look forward to continuing to work with the Government and will share the results of the City of Sydney's late-night policy consultation research, and work closely with the Minister to identify the best solutions for the city. We need a range of solutions to deal with the cause of alcohol-related violence, and the new Government has recognised this and committed to a range of responses. I commend the Minister and the Government.
Mr CHRIS SPENCE
(The Entrance) [11.09 a.m.]: I too speak in support of the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2)—with the policy known as "three strikes and you're out". The prevalence of alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour is a significant concern to the community. These issues can be addressed from both the supply and the demand side. That is why a series of key election commitments on addressing the irresponsible service of alcohol and individual consumption of alcohol were given by the New South Wales Coalition prior to the March 2011 election.
Measures that this Government is introducing to address the demand side of these issues include reinforcement of the individual need for personal responsibility and accountability on the part of drinkers, recently passed expanded move-on powers for police, introduction of the new intoxicated and disorderly offence, and trialling of sobering centres. In addressing the supply side of this issue, the cornerstone of this Government's approach is the three strikes policy. I put on record comments made by the Minister in a media release relating to the bill. The Minister said:
The draft Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 was introduced in June with the express commitment that the industry would be consulted and have an opportunity to make submissions about this important legislation.
The Government has carefully considered submissions and representations to ensure this policy targets rogue operators and does not adversely impact on responsible licensees.
This policy delivers severe penalties so it is paramount that the scheme operates fairly and effectively to deliver maximum benefits to communities where there are incidents of unacceptable alcohol-related behaviour.
The scheme simplifies the policy and sends a clear message that there is no place for rogue licensees in the NSW liquor industry.
Key elements of the Three Strikes and You're Out policy are:
· Strikes are incurred when a licensed venue is convicted of one of a range of serious offences under the Liquor Act;
· offences include permitting intoxication, allowing violent behaviour on the premises, supplying alcohol to a minor or an intoxicated patron, selling alcohol outside authorised trading hours, allowing a substance on premises the licensee suspects is an illicit drug, failing to comply with an official direction, non-compliance with a closure order and breaching key licence conditions;
· The first strike is automatically incurred upon conviction for an offence and is in force for three years. A second and third strike can be incurred upon further offence convictions within three years;
· A decision that a venue incurs a second strike is made by the Director General of NSW Trade and Investment;
· The Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority—the State's independent statutory body responsible for liquor licensing—will determine if a venue incurs a third strike and is subject to a review by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal;
· Venue size and capacity, change of licensee and business practices, compliance and incident history, and crime statistics will need to be taken into account;
· A third strike can result in licence suspension for up to 12 months, licence cancellation and a moratorium on a new liquor licence being grated at the venue for the same business operators for up to 12 months or disqualification of a licensee for any period of time;
· In the case of a registered club a third strike can result in disqualification of a club secretary, dismissal of any or all of the club directors or the appointment of an external administrator to manage the club;
· Conditions can be imposed on licensed venues in response to the behaviour that led to strikes being incurred. These include bans on glass and responsible service of alcohol marshals for venues with one strike, and reduced trading hours, lockouts, drink restrictions and extra security measures for those subject to two strikes;
· Licensees will also be required to comply with any notice issued by the Director General restricting or prohibiting any activity that encourages misuse or abuse of alcohol such as drinking games;
· Reviews of decisions will be available by the Authority or the Administrative Decisions Tribunal;
· The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing will maintain a public registry of strikes;
· The Three Strikes and You're Out legislation will be reviewed after four years to ensure it is operating effectively.
As the Minister said:
This policy can deliver the ultimate sanction to rogue licensees who repeatedly put the safety of patrons and the broader community at risk—loss of licence and disqualification from the industry.
In his agreement in principle speech the Minister said:
The aim of the Government's three strikes policy is for its deterrent effect to complement these regulatory and enforcement programs, thereby leading to improved compliance with the law, safer licensed premises and reduced levels of alcohol-related harm—including alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour.
After the bill's introduction in the House in June this year extensive community and industry consultation was undertaken on this bill. An express commitment was given for industry consultation and submissions were made. After careful consideration of the submissions amendments were made to help ensure that this policy targets rogue operators throughout the liquor industry and does not adversely impact on responsible licensees. This legislation has been designed to ensure that severe penalties are incurred by rogue operators.
The vast majority of the community want to visit venues for a nice meal, a cold drink and a good time. Unfortunately, there are a very small number of individuals who choose to let these occasions become too big, and their behaviours adversely impact upon others throughout the community. Examples of this type of behaviour include violence, intoxication, under-age drinking, excessive alcohol consumption and the use of illicit drugs. The bill is about taking action to make our community safer. It is in line with the commitment given by the Coalition before the March election. The Government has consulted, and that is why this second bill comes before the House. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr NICK LALICH
(Cabramatta) [11.16 a.m.]: I speak on the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2). Alcohol-related violence is one of the biggest challenges facing not only our Police Force but our society today. For better or worse, there exists a culture of drinking which at times can border on alcoholism. You just need to look at the roaring trade done by pubs, clubs and bars each Friday and Saturday night here in Sydney. No-one wants to disallow an alcoholic beverage when someone wants to unwind or relax after a long day or week's work; however, people need to drink responsibly. Unfortunately, these days not everyone does. The incidence of alcohol-related violence can unfortunately occur at licensed venues, and it can occur domestically. We often read or hear about violent incidents occurring in the city hotspots, incidents including bashings, stabbings, fights and drive-by shootings. These incidents are often fuelled by alcohol. It may sound like a pun but alcohol really does add fuel to the fire.
The Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No. 2) seeks to establish a three strikes disciplinary system in respect of liquor licences for venues at which multiple breaches of the Liquor Act 2007 are alleged to have occurred. The bill takes strong action against venues and owners of venues where alcohol-related incidents occur frequently. Licensed premises owners and staff have an obligation to serve their patrons responsibly and, where necessary, to cease serving alcohol to patrons who have consumed too much. This is not about New South Wales becoming a nanny state; it is about protecting the vast majority of licensed premises patrons who want to consume alcohol in a responsible manner. The vast majority of patrons obey the rules, understand the negative consequences of excessive alcohol consumption, and behave accordingly.
This bill establishes a clearer framework and process for three strikes, a definite improvement on the original bill tabled a few months ago. The process will be that strike one is determined by a conviction for a serious offence, and this strike is automatic, and it is administered by either the police or the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority. Strike two is administered by the Director General of the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services. The third strike is administered by the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority. The process of appeals involves the licensee or manager making a submission in respect of a discretionary strike. The owner of the business premises also can make a submission regarding the imposition of second and third strikes. This improves on the first version of this bill as it allows improved transparency for owners and operators when they appeal against a decision.
Appeals against strikes issued by the director general will be dealt with by the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority, and reviews of these decisions will be undertaken by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal. The director general can impose a number of sanctions after the first strike, including requiring the licensee to develop an incident register, prohibiting the use of glass and breakable plastic containers, and requiring the engagement of dedicated staff to promote the responsible service of alcohol. It is important to note also that this bill creates a list of serious offences that the authorities will use to determine whether a strike is warranted. These offences include permitting intoxication on licensed premises, the licensee or manager selling or supplying alcohol to a minor, and the licensee or manager not complying with a direction issued by the director general to a licensee or staff and others. The Opposition wants the register to be made publicly available to ensure increased transparency in the industry and to enable both venue owners and potential licensees to see whether other parties have one strike or more incurred against them.
One great Aussie pastime is fishing a day's work and having a drink. I see nothing wrong with that as long as we do not allow society to lose control with alcohol and as long as everyone drinks responsibly. We have all seen or heard of the devastating effects that alcoholism has on people. Nothing is spared: physical and mental health suffers, family and interpersonal relationships are tested, often with distressing consequences, and work life is affected. Drinking responsibly and in moderation allows a person to enjoy a beverage without having to suffer unnecessary consequences. This bill gives incentive to owners to cease serving patrons who are inebriated or have consumed an excessive amount of alcohol. Venues that operate within the boundaries of the law and serve their patrons responsibly should fear nothing from the law.
Sanctions will be imposed on venues that blatantly and repeatedly transgress and breach the Liquor Act 2007. This is not acceptable business operation and, as I have already said, has far-reaching consequences for the community. It would be wrong to blame all alcohol-related incidents on the licensed premises industry. At the end of the day all individuals have to take responsibility for their behaviour and actions. Education and rehabilitation will ensure that one of our great Aussie pastimes does not cease to exist or lead us down a path of destruction. This bill is a step in the right direction to ensure that venue operators, owners and patrons share the onus of the responsible service of alcohol.
Dr GEOFF LEE
(Parramatta) [11.22 a.m.]: It is a pleasure to contribute to the debate on the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2). The object of the bill is to establish a three strikes disciplinary system in respect of liquor licences for venues at which multiple breaches of the Liquor Act 2007
have occurred. This bill is part of the Liberal-Nationals key election commitment given and fulfilled by Minister Souris to make society a better and stronger place by getting rid of rogue operators that give everyone else a bad name. The bill also is part of the O'Farrell Government's suite of complementary legislation that it has introduced in the past six months, which included enhancing police move-on powers regarding intoxicated individuals by enabling them to be held in custody if they refuse to leave the vicinity to go home. This bill aims to make the community a better place in which to live and work.
Minister Souris informs me that the bill is not directed at good licensed venues or at those who serve alcohol responsibly by complying with legislation and having proactive strategies to control and manage the responsible service of alcohol or any issues that may arise within their establishments. Those organisations, clubs and pubs that serve patrons responsibly and comply with the legislation, should welcome this bill as a way to deal with problem rogue operators. Those organisations in harmony with their communities should not fear anything from this bill as it is directed at those recalcitrants who refuse to honour their commitments, as well as the requirements under the Liquor Act and their responsibilities to society to serve alcohol responsibly.
Residents in my electorate of Parramatta talk about the noise of drunk people walking down their streets at 2.00 a.m. or 3.00 a.m. making a hell of a racket and often damaging properties and cars. We need to stamp out that antisocial and criminal behaviour. The bill is directed at those recalcitrant organisations that refuse to cooperate by putting in place strategies to comply with the responsible service of alcohol. Parramatta is the capital of western Sydney but it is not immune from these issues; alcohol-related antisocial behaviour and violence have been an issue for Parramatta. I commend the police at Parramatta and Granville for their fantastic work, together with Parramatta council, in cleaning up many alcohol-related issues. The incidence of alcohol-related antisocial behaviour and crime is reducing constantly through the good work of the police and Parramatta council.
Recently the council withdrew the liquor licence for a hotel in one hot spot in Parramatta city adjacent to the major bus and rail interchange. The hotel closed down and the incidence of antisocial and criminal behaviour suddenly decreased. The Parramatta local area commander, with whom I have spoken on many occasions, consistently reflects on the relationship between alcohol and antisocial and criminal behaviour. The more places that serve alcohol, especially late at night, the more incidences there are of violence and antisocial behaviour, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Those operators who serve alcohol responsibly and look after their patrons have nothing to fear from the provisions contained within this bill.
I shall not delve too far into police activities as I am sure the member for Campbelltown, representing the opal of the south-west, who has a long and distinguished career in policing matters and much experience in controlling people under the influence of alcohol, will talk from that perspective. Parramatta has some good venues that take the community commitment seriously. These venues include places such as the Parramatta RSL, which has thousands of members, and the Parramatta Leagues Club. I meet with the directors constantly to talk about their proactive strategies. We have places such as the Vikings Sports Club in the Telopea-Dundas area, Dundas Sports and Recreation Club, the Rose and Crown Hotel, the Commercial Hotel and, of course, Parramatta Stadium, where the almighty Eels rugby league team plays in front of 15,000 people. The stadium is a fantastic, small boutique venue that holds up to 20,000 people. Whilst this year was not the best of years for the almighty Eels, things are improving all the time. We support those organisations in their responsible service of alcohol.
What I really want to talk about is the drinking culture in Australia. The legislation tries to eliminate criminal and antisocial behaviour and make the license holders responsible for their service of alcohol when excessive and binge drinking is a societal issue, especially for young people. Other members have said that part of the Australian psyche is that you have to drink to have a good time. The excessive consumption of alcohol by young people and some older people can lead to incapacity and violence. Antisocial behaviour occurs when drunken people are on the street: either they are the perpetrators of fights and create damage and carnage, or they are the victims. The culture of binge drinking combined with taking illicit drugs further exacerbates problems. We must change our culture, especially the culture of young people, and provide appropriate role models.
Our message should be that you do not need to get drunk to have a good time: you do not have to drink for recreation. Society's attitude to drink-driving has changed over the past 10 to 20 years. Once upon a time it was accepted that people would drink and drive, even thought it was illegal, but people now frown on that type of behaviour. The bill addresses how we influence the whole of society, especially young people such as those I can see in the gallery. Lots of young people are in our gallery, which is fantastic. I welcome them to the Legislative Assembly. A number of people are in the lower gallery—the young at heart—and I welcome them also. The last word should be for the excellent Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing, and Minister for the Arts for introducing this legislation. The Minister is working hard for the community.
I will summarise the main points of the legislation. A strike is incurred when the licensee or manager of a licensed venue is convicted of one of a range of serious offences under the Liquor Act. Offences include permitting intoxication, allowing violent behaviour on premises, supplying alcohol to a minor or intoxicated person, selling alcohol outside authorised trading hours, allowing a substance on a premises that the licensee suspects is an illicit drug, failing to comply with an official direction, not complying with the closure order and breaching license conditions. They are very serious issues. This policy complements other measures introduced by the Liberal Party and The Nationals to tackle alcohol-related problems, including reinforcing the need for personal responsibility with expanded police move-on powers and a introducing a new intoxicated and disorderly offence.
Mr GUY ZANGARI
(Fairfield) [11.35 a.m.]: I concur with my Labor colleagues and I support the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2). I am pleased to note that the Coalition Government has listened to the concerns voiced in this Chamber and has redrafted the legislation to address some of the issues raised when the original bill was tabled. It was clear that the original bill was not drafted with due consideration of the implications for major the stakeholders the legislation sought to put on notice. The original bill had some major flaws, not the least of which was that it denied natural justice to those who would have been implicated under it. The original bill proposed the imposition of serious penalties for unproven allegations. I congratulate the Government on listening to those concerns.
The subject of this bill is of great concern to the community. Alcohol-related violence costs the taxpayers of this State a great deal of money. In 2005 the combined total alcohol activity salary cost for the time spent by New South Wales police in local area commands and the special purpose Vikings Unit was estimated to be just under $50 million. To put it into perspective, $50 million could provide New South Wales with approximately 1,000 full-time police constables. It was estimated that police officers spent an average of up to 15 per cent of their shift-time dealing with offences committed as a result of alcohol consumption, depending on the local area command. These are the costs that we can quantify. The costs to victims and their families are far greater. Serious assaults in which alcohol is a factor put people in hospital and cost families financially and emotionally—seeing a loved one suffering and in a great deal of pain is traumatic. Therefore it is important that this Government gets the legislation right.
On the flip-side, the bill places a great deal of responsibility on businesses and institutions that serve alcohol to the public, including pubs, hotels, bars, licensed restaurants and registered clubs. As I said, whilst I agree in principle with the general content of the bill it is important also to consider the roles that these establishments have in the community. Local clubs employ thousands of people across New South Wales and inject billion of dollars into the New South Wales economy. They are fundamental to many community groups. Indeed, local clubs play an important role in the community by providing a place to socialise with friends, be it over a couple of drinks or as a participant in the many sporting and social events that clubs organise. The local club is a place to bring your family for lunch or dinner and a place to catch up on a show and have a laugh—it is a place where people enjoy themselves.
Clubs give back to the community. As members would know, clubs provide millions of dollars in community grants and funds that are important to social services. That is why it is vital that this Government gets the legislation right. I am pleased to see that the Government has listened to a number of the concerns raised by my Labor colleagues. I note in particular that this amending bill has changed the process of the three strikes. Strike one will be incurred if a relevant person is convicted of a serious offence—the strike is automatic. It will be dealt with by the Police Force or Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority. Strike two will be incurred if a relevant person commits a prescribed offence and the director general decides it warrants a strike because of the seriousness of any harm that may have resulted from, or have been associated with, the commission of the offence. It will be dealt with by the Director General of the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services.
Strike three will be at the discretion of the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority. The repercussions for an establishment acquiring a third strike are severe, and rightly so. Establishments can have their licences suspended for up to 12 months. The authority can disqualify the business owner and prevent the business owner's associates from being granted a licence for premises in respect to which the strikes have been imposed. It can disqualify a licence to the manager of the subject premises from holding a similar position in licensed premises elsewhere. As I have stated, the repercussions are severe. I am pleased that clubs and other institutions now have a line of appeal. They are able to make submissions addressing the imposition of discretionary strikes, which are strikes two and three. This will provide transparency for owners and operators to appeal any acts, which was previously denied under the first draft of the bill. Further, I note that a proper tiered appeals process is now in place.
The strikes given by the Director General of the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services can be appealed to the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority. These decisions of the authority are reviewable by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal. The entire new regime implemented in this version of the bill provides for transparency and balance in the decision-making process.
The bill also makes provision for a register that is to be provided to interested persons where an establishment has incurred a strike. However, clarification is needed as to whether this register would become available to the public. It would be appropriate for the public to be aware of this information. After all, it is the members of the public who go to these institutions and rely on them to provide a safe environment so that they can enjoy themselves with their friends and families. Once again, I thank the Government for listening to the concerns raised by my fellow Labor colleagues.
Mr TROY GRANT
(Dubbo—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.41 a.m.]: It gives me great pride to make a contribution to debate on the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2). I do not intend to repeat the contributions made by previous speakers. My contribution will have more of a practical application. I had 22 years in the New South Wales Police Force, and the large majority of that time was spent on regional issues. I support the bill from a practical, on-the-ground perspective. I commend the Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing for introducing this bill. It was interesting to hear previous speaker refer to the alterations in this bill following its first incarnation, given the significant contribution of Opposition members when they failed to make a submission in relation to the bill. I am not sure where their contribution was—it must have been in their dreams, their thoughts or their prayers. Perhaps it was on a whiteboard, which is their modus operandi.
Let us not be mistaken: This bill was introduced by Minister Souris to send a clear message to the liquor industry and our community as a whole that we needed a serious conversation about the operation of the liquor industry. Rogue operators are having a significant impact on our community. They disregard their obligations to the community by trading without due regard or care for the community and the patrons they serve. The Minister introduced the bill to trigger significant and serious discussion on this issue, which is a fundamental blight on our community. It has triggered exceptional dialogue between industry, independent operators and the Minister.
The bill has given members on this side of the House the opportunity to speak to operators in their community who may have been affected by the bill. The bill originally introduced generated an enormous body of work, which has now resulted in a bill that is both pragmatic and practical. This bill strengthens the original intent of the Government, that is, to honour a key election commitment to ensure that we have tough sanctions for rogue operators. But in trying to achieve that outcome we did not want to scoop up legitimate operators. As the analogy goes, we did not want to let one bad apple spoil the barrel. I commend the Minister for his approach because the contents of this bill have achieved that outcome.
I will not talk about facts and figures. For too long our service agencies within New South Wales—police, health, welfare, housing—have been subjected to rogue operators across many areas of our communities. In particular, rogue operators in the licensed premises sphere, through their disregard and contempt for our community and without consideration of their obligations to the community, have caused enormous cost to and toil for our service agencies. It has ripped the guts out of their capacity to service their true goals. The Police Force has been diverted from achieving key policing outcomes because it has had to roster officers to meet the problems caused by rogue operators. That has detracted from its efforts to police the rest of the community.
Why did this happen? The former Government did not provide the tough legislation that we now have to properly address this issue. The mechanisms were in place but they had no teeth. It was like hitting the rogue operators with a feather duster. This perpetuated the actions of rogue operators and they became an untouchable breed. The whole industry became tarred and tarnished by a few. A key, fundamental aspect of the legislation is that those who have an incident in their licensed premises will no longer be tarred with the same brush. The legislation has plenty of checks and balances to keep the actions to address poor behaviour in perspective. It gives the operators of licensed premises an opportunity to correct their behaviour. When serious incidents occur the legislation provides the capacity to accelerate those operators into a strike situation. They immediately come under notice and they will have to go through a prescriptive process. They will have to answer plenty of questions if they want to continue to operate.
About 15 years ago I was unfortunately a victim of a stabbing in the licensed premises of a rogue operator. There is no excuse for rogue operators to continue to be allowed to operate. Their operations directly impact on front-line police whose job it is to protect and serve the community from patrons who, on leaving those premises, wreak havoc, and cause malicious damage and vandalism. We all pay for the actions of their patrons, but the rogue operators never did. They may have received a slap on the wrist with a feather duster—the imposition of a fine of $500 or $5,000, which had no impact and was no deterrent. This legislation is a real deterrent. It works hand in hand with the industry to ensure that licensed premises are managed properly and in harmony with our community and our State services, such as police and health.
This legislation has a very clear structure for those who operate outside reasonable practice: If they choose to ignore the many warnings about their rogue behaviour they should not wonder their operations are eventually shut down for 12 months or even for life. There will be no recourse and no excuse as to why or how they got to that point. The message is clear: The people of New South Wales will no longer accept operators who are a blight on their community without proper recourse and without their being held to account. The amendments, which are the result of extensive consultation, mean that operators need not fear that they will be scooped up and banished from the industry for small indiscretions or for bad luck—unfortunately, things happen around licensed premises. This legislation is specifically designed and structured to target those in the community who need to be targeted, and the strength of this legislation will achieve that outcome.
This week the Police Association strongly supported the Minister and this legislation. For too long we have expected the police to pick up the pieces of a broken community because of the actions of a few. That responsibility will no longer rest solely on the shoulders of police and front-line workers in our communities; the mutual obligation will be on industry, operators and service providers to get it right. The Police Association has welcomed this initiative because it will take the enormous strain off our front-line and already stretched and finite resources. The community benefit from improved compliance will help the citizens of this State, who are currently paying the price for rogue operators. For example, operators fill people up with grog, allow them to behave badly and tip them out of their premises. Those people then walk along the street and may kick in a window.
Somebody has to pay for that damage through their insurance premium. When that happens we all pay because our insurance premiums go up. That is an example of the cumulative impact of that behaviour on our community. This legislation will help stymie that. Not everyone will pay the price for rogue operators and their behaviour—rogue operators will pay for it. This legislation makes good on the O'Farrell-Stoner Government commitment to the community to turn the tide on community standards. During the election campaign I proudly promised to strengthen police powers to deal unruly and antisocial behaviour, and that has been achieved through legislation introducing police move-on powers. Rogue operators within the industry were a key driver for the legislation. A lot of hard work will go into rebuilding this State.
I commend the Minister for this significant legislation, which provides a framework and the basis from which we can launch much more improved responses to social dysfunction within the community. Licensed premises in our State can be reassured that they will not be scooped up under draconian legislation. The industry and those who operate within the rules welcome this legislation; they do not want rogue operators in their industry because it gives them a bad name and it makes their jobs harder. As insurance costs increase and impact on the community, industry costs rise and that impacts on their sustainability. I thank the Minister for introducing this bill. I know that my fellow colleagues, particularly those from regional New South Wales, join me in congratulating him on the significant strengthening of the legislation. It is a great step forward in restoring some stability to our communities, making a contribution to the better structure of our communities and getting rid of rogue operators once and for all. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr BRYAN DOYLE
(Campbelltown) [11.54 a.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to support the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2). As the most senior police officer to have ever entered Parliament, I strongly endorse the comments of my colleague the member for Dubbo, who has also had a lengthy and illustrious career in the New South Wales Police Force. It is no surprise that the Police Association strongly supports this legislation. The Police Association president, Scott Weber, said that police were pleased that Premier Barry O'Farrell's three strikes policy for licensed venues would soon be introduced. There is good reason for him to say that. Having a licence in our community is a privilege. A driver's licence is a privilege that allows us to drive on our roads.
Having a licence to sell alcohol is also a privilege—it is not a right—that should be respected and honoured. If that privilege is abused a licence can and will be removed. This legislation is all about community safety: the responsible service of alcohol and enabling people to go out and enjoy themselves without being harassed and offended by those who have seriously abused alcohol. In my 27 years of policing I have seen firsthand the problems that arise when alcohol is not served responsibly—problems not only for the police but also for the general community. Campbelltown—that great opal of the south-west—has a very strong liquor accord with police, licensees, the council and the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing working together, and these provisions will add to the good work that is already being done. I know this issue concerns many members of the House.
I know it concerns the member for Wollongong, the member for Cabramatta and the member for Riverstone. It affects all of us across New South Wales. This is good legislation presented by the wonderful Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing, and Minister for the Arts, which sends a clear message that the days of rogue operators who operate on the basis of fill them up with alcohol, empty their wallets and kick them out onto the streets for the rest of the community, the police and the hospital system to deal with are well and truly over. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr THOMAS GEORGE
(Lismore—The Deputy-Speaker) [11.58 a.m.]: Much has been said about the detail in the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2). I was involved in the consultation process and it amazes me that those on the other side claim that we have adopted their ideas. We have been criticised for taking a long time to introduce the bill; we have been criticised for carrying on a consultation process; and we have been criticised for apparently taking on board all the Opposition's amendments. I did not see any documents and I was involved in the consultation process. I represented the Minister at meetings with three organisations. Everything that was raised during the consultation process is covered in this bill. That is what a true consultation process is all about, and I compliment the Minister in that regard. If an organisation has three strikes against it, clearly it should not be in the industry. With liquor accords and responsible service of alcohol and gaming, organisations should not find themselves in that situation. As everyone has clearly articulated today—and I say this as a former publican—this industry has no room for rogue operators.
All the way through this process I have held concerns for mum and dad investors. However, I am sure that if the licensees of hotels in which they have invested receive a first strike those investors will negotiate with the licensees to ensure that they receive no further strikes. I encourage any mum and dad investors in hotels or freeholds to take that on board as it is in their best interests to do so. If one of their licensees receives a strike they should step in immediately and negotiate with that licensee on the future of the hotel. I commend the Minister for his work on this bill. He consulted widely with industry which is why this is the second version of the three-strikes bill to come before the Parliament. I also pay tribute to ClubsNSW and the Australian Hotels Association for their contribution.
Mr KEVIN ANDERSON
(Tamworth) [12.00 p.m.]: I support the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2). I will take a different line from the line taken by those who have supported the bill so far because I believe this issue needs a whole-of-community approach. Those who partake in alcohol need to take responsibility for their actions and they need to know when enough is enough. This is not just about dumping all the blame on licensees; this bill is targeted at rogue licensees. However, I am sure that 99 per cent of the industry is doing a great job. The Tamworth Liquor Accord is working well in my community to create an awareness of the responsible service of alcohol and to look after people who enter our venues, pubs and clubs. The accord, which comprises many stakeholders, works closely with licensees, council, police and NSW Health.
This proactive organisation, which has Roger Rumble as its chairman and John Begley as the Liquor Accord project officer, is committed to promoting public awareness and public education programs to promote the responsible consumption of alcohol. Some of the projects and programs that are rolled out across our region are well worth noting. During 2011 the Tamworth and District Liquor Accord is concentrating its efforts on underage drinking and looking at ways of educating the next generation of licensed premises patrons on the dangers of misuse of alcohol and what is expected of them when they enter licensed premises. The accord set up a partnership with student representative councils at the major high schools in Tamworth to find the best methods to address these problems. The accord believes that an authoritarian approach does not work. It aims to have student leaders come up with strategies and design the best way to deliver those strategies, including via Facebook.
The accord is also seeking State Government subsidies to conduct responsible service of alcohol courses at a price that is affordable by students. It is believed that this will give senior students an insight into the behaviour expected of them in licensed premises, which cuts to the heart of what we are talking about—a whole-of-community approach to ensure that patrons take responsibility for their actions and know when enough is enough. These issues will not be solved by dumping all the blame on licensees. The Tamworth Country Music Festival is a major event in my electorate. Up to 30,000 people come to our city and go to clubs and pubs to enjoy the entertainment on offer. At that time there is a major increase in police presence. We must ensure that those police who do a wonderful job do not act outside the boundaries in applying the heavy hand of the law. As I said, this is about a whole-of-community approach. We must recognise those licensees who do a good job and weed out those who do not. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS
(Upper Hunter—Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing, and Minister for the Arts) [12.04 p.m.], in reply: I appreciate that no fewer than 16 members have spoken in debate on the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) 2011 Bill (No 2). The member for Balmain and the member for Cessnock were waiting to participate in debate but unfortunately we ran out of time. I acknowledge that they would have contributed greatly to debate on this bill. I express appreciation to the acting shadow Minister, the member for Liverpool, and to members for the electorates of Camden, Wollondilly, Oatley, Coogee, Wollongong, East Hills, Sydney, The Entrance, Cabramatta, Parramatta, Dubbo, Fairfield, Campbelltown, Lismore and Tamworth.
Many speakers have mentioned that this is a replacement bill. It follows the exposure draft of the bill for consultation prior to the winter break. I assure the House that there has been extensive consultation since that time. Notable fundamental issues were raised and have been addressed. The most important issues raised in the consultation process concerned two new features of the bill. Firstly, that the strikes regime is based on convictions and not charges and that there is an arm's length discretionary decision-making process with a review and appeal mechanism. That is a fundamental aspect of this bill. Secondly, that the three strikes scheme will apply to three serious offences over a three-year period, not six offences including minor offences as was first contemplated. I believe those two features represent the most significant aspects of this bill.
Good and responsible venues have licensees who take responsible service of alcohol seriously, operate venues in harmony with their neighbourhood and have a good history of compliance and of actions taken to address issues arising out of schedule 4 listings or through the imposition of strikes. This legislation is not specifically targeted at such venues; it is targeted at those operators who are irresponsible, have poorly managed venues and are not interested in their communities. This legislation is focused on those who we call rogue operators and who give the industry a bad name. Support for this legislation by the Australian Hotels Association and ClubsNSW has been published in today's press. Those organisations are the two principal stakeholders associated with this legislation. Of course, they are by no means the only stakeholders and they are not the only stakeholders who were extensively consulted. But I note, as published today, their in-principal support in general terms for this bill.
Yesterday the Police Association issued a media release in support of this legislation. I thank the association for its support. Over the past few days I have also received numerous messages which have taken various forms. I welcome the Labor Party's in-principle support. I commend the party for adopting a responsible approach and for raising two issues which I will now address. The first issue relates to the imposition and impact of strikes on licensees and landlords. The second issue is that the strikes register ought to be a publicly available document. Labor's position of support will not go unnoticed in the broad community. I appreciate the contributions made by previous speakers. The bill decouples real property from management. In determining the imposition of second and third strikes the decision-maker must consider changes to business practice, the licensee and management.
If a responsible landlord takes action to change the manager a second or third strike might not be applied. The bill strikes a fair balance to protect responsible operators and remove rogues who cause community harm. That is why it is important that strikes two and three remain discretionary. The bill prescribes that size and history are to be considered and also that the second strike and, importantly, the third strike retain a discretionary range of sanctions, including a venue suspension up to 12 months and up to life suspension of a licensee. It is important that this is not a mandatory scheme. It is a most important feature of this legislation that they remain discretionary options, otherwise it would not be possible to take into account the important issues that have been raised in this debate on both sides of the House.
Where a review relates to a second or third strike being incurred, business and premises owners can also apply for a review. Business and premises owners have a real interest in how the business is being operated and the review right recognises this significant interest. I believe that addresses a significant industry concern regarding the rights of landlords. The member for Wollongong also raised a point regarding the imposition of strikes on licensees. It is expected also that responsible business operators will consider whether a proposed licensee or manager has incurred strikes at other licensed premises before employing them. The decision-maker will also consider a change in the manager and licensee before imposing a strike. Putting it plainly, any venue operator, including a landlord, who is considering employing someone who comes to them having incurred a strike at a previous venue would be taking a significant risk.
The protection of the discretionary powers included in the legislation would, by the actions of the venue owner, impair any chance the owner would have of a review. If a licensee incurs a strike or a second strike that fact would be part of the consideration in the discretionary application of the three-strikes scheme in determining the outcome of a subsequent potential strike. The second issue that was raised by the member for Wollongong related to the public register that will be maintained. I think I have already answered the question by using the word "public". This will provide a rich source of information about rogue operators and licensees. If a first, second or third strike is imposed it will be recorded. It would be a very rare thing for a licensee with one or two strikes to again become a licensee in the industry.
The decision-makers will have regard to the history of strikes in determining whether someone is a fit and proper person to hold a potential new licence. These are the aspects that would apply. Will the register be public? Yes it will, although it is not specifically provided for in the legislation. However, the intention is that as soon as a strike occurs it will be published and publicly available through the department's website. It is intended that the register be public. Finally, I thank the people involved in the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, Elizabeth Tydd and Peter Cox, and my own staff, Frank Marzic, Jinesh Patel and my chief of staff, Matthew Hingerty. I appreciate that many others have been involved in the consultations apart from the people I have singled out. The period of consultation on and development of the bill has been extensive and intensive. I commend the bill to the House.
Question—That this bill be now agreed to in principle—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Passing of the Bill
Bill declared passed and transmitted to the Legislative Council with a message seeking its concurrence in the bill.