LIQUOR AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL

Posted On: 21 Mar 2017

As I follow my colleague from Beaudesert, I, too, would like to make a very short statement about the news we just heard from the honourable member for Callide. I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Jeff Seeney MP—a true conservative warrior and a very strong advocate for the people of Callide and rural Queensland. This place will not be the same without him, but I am sure he will make his mark somewhere else.

I rise to contribute to the debate on the Liquor and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 as a member of the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee that was handed responsibility for this bill. On 14 February this year the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for Training and Skills introduced the Liquor and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 to the House and the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee was required to report back by 24 February this year—a time line of just 10 days.

Stakeholders were invited to make written submissions to this inquiry the day after the bill’s introduction and were given less than three days to put together and send their views as the time line for submissions closed on 17 February. Despite the compressed time period, our committee received 25 submissions from stakeholders with many remarking on the brevity of the time frame. A public hearing was held at equally short notice on 22 February here at Parliament House.

Government members can, and no doubt will, bang on all they like about the LNP agreeing to the schedule of proceedings for this bill’s time line, but, as they well known, there was not much choice due to the Palaszczuk government’s ongoing incompetence to manage the affairs of Queensland and formulate good legislation. Labor has actually backflipped on their own election promise, not to mention their promise to the honourable member for Stafford, Dr Anthony Lynham.

Our committee is used to heavy workloads, but the extremely truncated time line the Palaszczuk government forced upon us and the secretariat staff for this bill to be investigated was disgraceful, especially considering the whole scenario could have been avoided if Labor had listened to stakeholders in the first place. Instead, they blindly pushed through legislation that was poorly drafted, overly complex and caused untold angst and uncertainty to thousands of Queenslanders who work in hospitality and entertainment industries.

I commend the committee secretariat for pulling out all stops to accommodate the unreasonable time lines demanded by the Palaszczuk government and for keeping committee members regularly informed of activities and progress. I also acknowledge the efforts of our chair and other committee members as we tried to bring our deliberations to a close in such a short period. I thank the witnesses and submitters for being amenable at short notice.

Labor had precious little legislation on the Notice Paper to fill our first sitting week of the year, with the House adjourning at unusually early hours. Yet now, due to poor planning, we are seeing bills rushed through with only 10 days from introduction to being reported on by a committee and then coming back into the House for debate.

To add further intrigue to the reasons we are debating this Liquor and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017, we are told that the Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Act 2016, the TAFV act, contained a section that provided for an independent review of the changes introduced by this act. This was undertaken by the Institute for Social Science Research with an interim evaluation report delivered in January this year.

This report noted that there has not been a single weekend night where all venues in the Fortitude Valley precinct have ceased the service of alcohol at 3 am since 1 July 2016. Further, the report concluded that the current research evidence suggests that the introduction of a lockout is not likely to significantly change current trends in relation to assault and injury. No surprises here: the report endorsed the use of ID scanning and banning orders as harm minimisation measures. The LNP already knew this and made these recommendations in our safe night out legislation but Labor ignored them.

Why were these changes not ironed out beforehand by listening to those in the industry? Instead we got flawed legislation from a flawed government. As the legal affairs committee report No. 48 of the 55th Parliament indicates, the committee agreed this bill should be passed. We did, however, have some reservations which I shall mention later on in this speech.

The bill’s objective is to address the findings of the interim evaluation report on the Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Act 2016 by making the following amendments: repealing the lockout; repealing the 3 am safe night precincts model; winding back trading hours for licensees removed from an SNP due to a boundary change; tightening the temporary late-night extended hours permit regime; and extending the banning order sentencing regime to prescribed drug offences. The bill also proposes to clarify that licensees of regulated premises with approved regular extended trading hours beyond midnight must continue to scan patron IDs if serving liquor beyond their usual hours under a temporary late-night extended hours permit.

The TAFV act was born at the behest of Labor MP Dr Anthony Lynham who gave a number of impassioned speeches pleading for what was known as the lockout legislation to be honoured as a Labor election promise. It was, or so we thought. I spoke on the TAFV bill on 17 February last year and pointed out recommendation No. 1 which highlighted the need for more data. Now we have an interim report that supports that recommendation and shows there has been no significant change in injury presentations at emergency departments and that there have been downward trends even in circumstances where the lockouts were never enforced.

Where was the honourable member for Stafford when this bill was being drafted? What has he had to say about his baby being thrown out with the bathwater? He lamented in a media interview, as we have heard, ‘I am not commenting. It is not my portfolio.’ Honourable members, I have been in this place for a long time and I have seen a lot of backflips, but rarely one as spectacular as this.

Honourable members have heard the illuminating speech from the shadow minister, the honourable member for Kawana, which exposed the farce that was the TAFV bill. All of a sudden the Palaszczuk government has decided that that bill should be given the flick yet 12 months ago it was hand on heart and searching one’s conscience to push through lockouts laws.

However, I must say that I could not help but feel some real empathy for Professor Jake Najman, the Queensland Coalition for Action on Alcohol and the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education. They were all taken along for a ride by this Labor government that was more than happy to trot them out for media appearances when it suited them. These advocates clearly felt a sense of betrayal as they stated they were not consulted on the bill we have before us. Our committee’s report states—

Although the explanatory notes do not indicate that there was any consultation on the Bill before the committee, they advise that in drafting amendments to the Liquor Act and Liquor Regulation, the Attorney-General met with a range of stakeholders during 2015 and 2016 ...

But not 2017. It seems some prominent stakeholders are not impressed that they were not considered important enough or relevant enough to be included in this latest legislation. The honourable member for Pine Rivers asked the following of a witness Mr Brown, Chair of the Newcastle Community Drug Action Team—

Mr Brown, some people comment that lockouts or one-way-door policies may place young women at risk if they are intoxicated and become separated from their group of friends. They may arrive at a venue or step out of a venue after a one-way-door policy applies. Do you have any views or evidence on whether that has happened in Newcastle?

Remember that Newcastle was part of the basis for that first bill. Mr Brown replied—

In relation to women, there is no evidence that it has negatively impacted upon women at all.

I do note the comments from my colleague the member for Beaudesert about women at risk, but I wonder if the Premier now stands by her comments? They were not supported by Mr Brown and they were not supported by other witnesses at last week’s public hearing, so where did she get them from?

The non-government members’ statement of reservation refers to the anguish, pain and job losses the ill-thought-out Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Act 2016 caused. I asked several witnesses at the public hearing if they had seen any negative effects of the lockout on jobs and business, as well as harm minimisation. Mr Trent Meade from the Fortitude Valley Safe Night Precinct replied—

... I do own two venues in Fortitude Valley. Certainly since the reduction of trading hours from 5 am to 3 am we have seen a double-digit reduction in our bar turnover and we have had to look at other means to make up that revenue. Certainly there have been job losses in that period of time because we cannot sell our primary product after 3 am.

When asked to quantify any of that, Mr Meade replied—

Early in the piece there were 15 to 20 per cent reductions in jobs during that period, from the reduction of trading hours from five to three.

Later in the hearing Mr Nick Braban from Our Nightlife said—

It has been a tough period for the industry, without a doubt. Having a 1 am lockout occurring in the future has significantly reduced investment and activity within not only Fortitude Valley but also our other entertainment precincts across the state. Investments have not been made in things such as booking big musical acts, renovating premises, hiring new staff and spending money on things such as marketing, because people were concerned about what the future held.

When asked about impacts and confusion that have been created by Labor’s lockout policy, other witnesses had no shortage of answers. Ms Melynda Robinson from the Safe Night Broadbeach CBD Precinct told us—

There have been a lot of legislation changes. It is very, very confusing for licensees, for patrons and for the entertainment industry. It seems unfair that the casino has been monopolised in that this legislation does not apply to them ... It is really, really hurting local businesses. All of our licensees have seen a huge downturn in trade.

Mr John Lynch from the Safe Night Cairns CBD Precinct reported—

The 1 am lockout has caused huge division amongst the licensees in Cairns. On the one hand, you have the licensees who thought the 1 am lockout would involve their patrons leaving to other venues of larger size and more popularity and therefore rendering those two hours basically useless for them and basically foreclosing their business ...

Secondly, I would like to say that since the introduction of the 3 am cessation and no lockout, we have had no incidents where we have had distressed people out on the street. Being a tourist town, it is almost abhorrent to stand there on a door on the coalface and flat-out refuse someone entry who has just accidentally walked outside and is not aware of the rules. If it is two minutes past one and their friends are inside and have their keys, their wallet and everything, we have to stand there blank faced and almost act rude to them, even though they are not intoxicated ... It is a really poor look for Queensland and a really poor look for Australia, especially from the tourist point of view ...

Mr Damian Steele from the Queensland Hotels Association likened the reaction to the lockouts as ‘death by a thousand cuts’ and there were ‘constant changes and confusion put in with the many different measures’. He went on to say that it was an ‘extremely divisive process’. He said—

We attended many of those SNP meetings as observers when they were going through these deliberations and not once did I hear the word ‘safety’ mentioned, and that should be the objective of the act and these changes.

The bill before us proposes to make changes to the temporary late-night extended hours permit regime. Currently, the Liquor Act provides that a licensee may apply for an extended hours permit to temporarily extend liquor trading hours on a particular day from between midnight and 5 am. The commissioner may issue a maximum of 12 temporary late-night extended hours permits, for a particular licensed premises, within a one-year period.

There are a number of aspects and detailed conditions which make up these changes but, in essence, the proposals restrict the frequency in respect of which temporary late-night extended hours permits can be issued from 12 permits to six per calendar year; restrict the issue of permits to no more than one permit per month; provide that permits can only be issued for special events, such as weddings or private functions; and provide that permits cannot be issued for consecutive days or multiple times in a month unless the permit relates to a single special occasion that occurs over multiple days.

Non-government members do not support the changes to the one-off temporary extended trading hours permits as they are retrospective and complicate the process far more than it needs to be. It is almost as though the Labor government want to punish this industry out of spite for having a win with amendments to sections of the 2016 legislation that would see the repeal of the lockout and the 3 am safe night precinct model.

Whilst the scaling back of these extended trading hours permits from 12 to six in some locations is not of concern, to those in Rockhampton and on the Gold Coast the one event a month ruling was not popular or considered to be properly thought through. Mr Matthew Jones, Director of Liquor and Gaming Specialists and Secretary of the Brisbane CBD Safe Night Precinct Board, told a public hearing—

We had 100-odd 5 am traders in the state, and for the period that they had 5 am trading they had never even heard of an extended hours permit ... We have created this weird dynamic now where the hours have come back to three, yet that whole group of licensees are now saying, ‘Hang on. We can have 12 a year of these permits.

He continues—

Making it six per year and subjecting it to a whole bunch of odd rules and doing it in what appears to have been a fairly rushed fashion is not really a good thing for the industry.

Queensland is a vast, decentralised state with competing interests according to specific regions. Far North Queensland destinations like Cairns rely heavily on tourism from Asia—these visitors like to watch major events involving their own countries that may be played in time zones that are different to Queensland.

Numerous witnesses and submitters took offence to the suggestion by this incompetent Labor government and others that they were ‘gaming the system’ with regard to extended trading hours permits. Submitters views were mixed here and little wonder—as the LNP have said all along, the TAFV legislation was so complicated and had so many bits and pieces to it that many people simply could not understand it. Yet the OLGR made the determinations as to who could hold what extended trading hours permit events and now the Labor government want to reduce them. Are they saying they do not trust decisions made by their own liquor officers?

Mr Bernie Hogan, Chief Executive of the Queensland Hotels Association, stated that his organisation cannot support the reduction in extended trading hours permits from 12 to six per calendar year, saying—

... the report acknowledged there was limited data, that it was too early to make any conclusions and subsequently made no formal recommendations, yet this is the data being relied upon to reduce the number of available extended trading hour permits not just in the SNPs but across the entire state.

QHA also had concerns with the inequity between licensed premises within an SNP where some are exempt from scanning and some are not. The example of a restaurant next to a commercial hotel was given.

Another amendment relating to winding back trading hours for licensees removed from an SNP due to a boundary change created comment from CCIQ. The bill proposes to make a technical amendment to ensure that licensed premises that are no longer located within an SNP as a result of a future boundary change will have their liquor service hours automatically wound back to 2 am. CCIQ said—

CCIQ strongly recommends that any changes to the SNP boundaries must not take place until extensive consultation with the affected businesses (both those who remain inside the SNP and those to be excluded) and for adequate justification to be provided to the public as to why the changes are proposed.

Similarly, the Broadbeach SNP did not support the proposal. They stated—

There is not enough information regarding the proposed changes to boundaries of the SNP. It is unjust to change boundaries of a precincts without consultation and forcibly remove extended trading hours from premises that are currently licensed with regular extended trading hours.

The honourable member for Pine Rivers revealed one of the great divides between Labor and the LNP when she suggested that the need to have two dedicated staff members to operate and enforce ID scanners was job creation. Mr Steele from the Queensland Hotels Association replied that he saw it more as ‘cost creation’ for business with ongoing wages, not job creation. Labor just do not get small business. I listened to the speech of the honourable member for Pine Rivers and I am disappointed that she is not here, because her rant about the non-government members’ statement of reservation—which includes me—exposed her glass jaw and wasted literally half of her speech. If the member for Pine Rivers thinks that her government should not be reminded of the pain and the suffering—

Mrs LAUGA: Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I understand that it is common courtesy in the House to not reflect on a member’s absence.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Stewart): Order! Member for Currumbin, could you not refer to members who are not in the House.

Mrs STUCKEY: Mr Deputy Speaker, I am responding to what was said about me in my absence. In regard to our statement of reservation, if the honourable member thinks that her government should not be reminded of the pain and suffering they caused an entire industry then she is not only delusional but also lacking in compassion, as is obviously the member for Keppel, who is grinning away over there.

The honourable member said that she had never seen a statement of reservation in a committee report with so much vitriol. Could I suggest that she look at the chair’s foreword in report No. 42 from this committee? It might not be a statement of reservation but it is full of vitriol towards innocent witnesses at a public hearing by the former chair. However, it was the response from Professor Najman that exposed this government’s political pointscoring at the expense of good industry and stakeholder consultation when my colleague the honourable member for Beaudesert asked him whether the TAFV legislation implemented by the Labor government was very poor legislation in that it did not give enough clarity as to the regulations and the guidelines for the permits. Professor Najman’s final responses were—

I do not think there is any question that the legislation has not achieved the desired end.

There is no question that it has not worked.

The LNP’s safe night strategy was just that: a safe night strategy and it was working. We know because we consulted with the industry and now this Labor government is implementing much of it. It is such a pity that they put so many people through so much pain and cost so many jobs. From the comments I am hearing while I am speaking, the Labor members really do not care about jobs as they profess to. They do not care about small business. The LNP supports this legislation because we do not support lockouts.

Mrs Lauga interjected.

Mrs STUCKEY: I want to put on record just how rude the member for Keppel has been throughout this speech. I hope that people in her electorate realise—

Mrs LAUGA: Mr Deputy Speaker, there have been a number of occasions on which I have taken offence and I have not raised a point of order, but I will now. I rise to a point of order. I take offence to that comment and I ask the member to withdraw.

Mrs STUCKEY: I withdraw.

Welcome from Jann

As the State Member for Currumbin since 2004 we have achieved much together to make the place we call home an even better and safer community.

It truly is an honour to serve the caring and connected residents of Currumbin.

Your thoughts and concerns matter to me and I look forward to continuing to be a strong voice on your behalf.

My electorate office staff and I are here to help you with state government issues.

Kind regards

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