Liquor Amendment (Reviews) Bill 2017

23rd May 2017

Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 18:41 :17 ): The bill is relatively modest in size and scale and its merits have been well covered by other members. I will be supporting the bill. This is an area that is fraught and I recognise the Minister and his staff are trying to get this right and satisfy the competing interests. The public wants to have places of entertainment and the people who have invested in these significantly expensive establishments want to ensure their viability. I appreciate the Liquor Amendment (Reviews) Bill 2017 sets out to ensure an appropriate balance and a review at a later stage. I raise with the Minister—and I believe that there is an attempt to deal with it in the bill—the three strikes disciplinary scheme revisions. The present system places the onus on the actual bricks and mortar, the establishment itself. The strikes stay on that property and that can be a huge financial impost, particularly if the next strike is the third. That would have a significant impact.

That could bring about unintended consequences because new owners may wish to come into the business and take on that premises, but if it is carrying the burden of three strikes, or looking at three strikes, then it may not be an inviting proposition. That is a sensible reform. There is also some concern about transferring the strike system onto the licensee which does not allow it to be gamed in some way. There is so much at stake with the possible reduced value of a premises. The member for Seven Hills referred to a discounting of the property value by 20 per cent. It seems there would be good incentives for some people to look at perhaps paying out a licensee in a nod-and-a-wink deal, to move them on and look after them in some other way. There is provision in the bill under remedial action for three strikes as follows:

(c)impose a condition on the licence, or any subsequent licence issued in respect of the subject premises, that a person who is disqualified under paragraph (b) must not be employed or otherwise engaged as an employee or agent of the licensee or manager of those premises,

I have not seen in the bill how that can be detected if it is going to be, to use the term, gamed. If a licensee's employment is to be terminated at the point of say, two strikes, I would like to see an automatic referral to the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority for a review of that circumstance. It would be noted and a flag raised to ensure that people who have very significant holdings and vested interests in protecting the licence for that site do not come to arrangements to sacrifice the employees of licensees to protect their interests. I recognise that this bill seeks to make improvements and amend the situation that has been brought about by some unintended consequences. We need a strong pubs and registered clubs industry and there is tension in the competition from the different sides of the debate as to the operation of those premises. The reality is they are part and parcel of our culture and we need to get this right. We know that a lot of the problems came about because of unintended consequences of legislation that was brought forward more hastily than might have otherwise been wise at the time. This is all I wanted to raise with the Minister and in good faith I ask him to answer my question as to whether or not it has been well and truly considered. If he cannot provide that detail perhaps it could be taken on board for consideration at some stage. I commend the bill to the House.

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