Be Liberal with liquor laws

Small bars are a good idea. Let’s get on with it                  29 September 2006

SMALL BARS: NO BRAINER

How can we sit back and let the Parliamentary Liberal Party of Western Australia deny the people the right to a deregulated liquor industry when we are the party for creation of business wealth and providing entrepreneurial opportunity for all?

What really annoys me in this whole affair is that the bloke bringing in the Liquor and Gaming Legislation Amendment Bill 2006, Mark McGowan, is seen to be more progressive and more Liberal than his Liberal opponents.

Our side of the fence is blessed with good blokes and women who enjoy a drink and a knees-up while the Labor Party should be dour idealogues. Mark McGowan looks like the kind of person, who confronted with having to order an alcoholic drink, would ask for a shandy.

Appearances are deceptive. He has introduced what amounts to Liberal legislation into the State Parliament and is being opposed by members of the Opposition on groundless arguments.

However, there are a couple of facts that need be addressed.

The first is that what the legislation proposes is not a ‘stroke of the pen’ introduction of new ideas and new businesses. There are still local government considerations to be met before the proliferation of new liquor outlets.

So, if you own an existing hotel in say Kardinya, the pizza shop in the shopping centre adjacent to your business cannot automatically become a small bar and sell alcohol instead of pizzas or combine the two.

An application to local government would knock out the application before it reached the Liquor Licensing Department.

If the police in that suburb were concerned about troublesome areas of their patch, they could raise an objection and have the new bar vetoed early in its plans.

If there is an existing tavern, bar, sporting club in a local vicinity where trouble is caused – Friday night brawls, people urinating in the street and causing trouble as they head home – the local council and police can take action or request the Liquor Licensing Department does.

Restaurants: The Opposition wants drinkers who don’t order a meal capped at one-third of any restaurant sitting. Labor wants 100%. Huge difference? No.

Why? Because the Opposition want the one-third – end of story. Labor wants 100% (i.e the entire restaurant floor space could be taken up with people drinking and not eating, creating a de facto lounge bar). However, they want to cap the restaurant’s annual revenue from alcohol sales at 40% – in effect they have a 40% ceiling on these sales.

The Opposition’s plan has no revenue restrictions and most people who dine in restaurants drink alcohol with their meal so the one-third probably climbs to a conservatively calculated 60%.

Who then are the wowsers in this equation?

Small bars: The Liberal Opposition still has an obligation to defend existing businesses while new businesses are being created in the same market. This, despite media commentators making the natural link to the Australian Hotels Association’s argument against the plan.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry wants the small bar proposal put through to revive the centre of Perth. Great idea but what businesses will automatically spring up?

It’s chicken and the egg stuff!

NOTE: This article was written on September 29 before Opposition Leader Paul Omodei took a leadership stance on the issue and recommended to his party to accept the legislation.

As said, it was ‘Liberal’ legislation in the first place so the Liberals bipartisanship in this case helped introduce it to parliament. Sometimes being cooperative wins votes.

God speed it through.

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