I rise to make my contribution on the Liquor and Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2018.
This is a bill which amends the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 and the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 to ensure regulatory frameworks support a responsible industry, as well as making minor and technical amendments relating to the commencement of last year’s Gambling Regulation Amendment (Gaming Machine Arrangements) Act, which we probably well remember and which I voted against.
It is a piece of legislation that really brings some common sense into a number of areas. Often people say to me when they talk about what goes on in Parliament that most of what they see is snippets of question time and it seems such an aggressive and angry place. But I do tell them that we spend most of the time dealing with legislation, which is either improving existing legislation or trying to make things work better — updating and the like. This is probably an example of an early step in a process that is currently underway.
I note that many of the provisions in this bill stem from the first phase of a review of the Liquor Control Reform Act that this government began in November 2016, which includes a public consultation paper, and that further and more complex amendments are proposed as that review process continues.
One of the amendments we are talking about today protects minors from alcohol harm. The first of those I would like to refer to prohibits advertising within 150 metres of a school to limit exposure to potentially harmful messages about alcohol. There are a number of exceptions of course that sensibly apply in relation to that in new section 115B inserted by clause 20. There are exclusions about walking past a school if you have advertising on your T-shirt and about existing businesses and those sorts of things. I note that some people raised some concerns about that, but I see that that clause sensibly contains a number of exclusions.
The second change prohibits minors from drinking alcohol with a meal under guardian supervision at licensed premises. That is something I have always known about, and it is possibly more of a country thing. It was not unusual to have a meal in a pub with your parents and they would have a drink. Younger adolescents might have a taste or even be served a tiny bit of wine, and in other cultures that simply was not uncommon. But it seems that there is a level of discomfort about that now, and I believe that licensees are supporting this notion of simply not allowing it, because it creates mixed messages. On the one hand we now have the evidence in about the damage that alcohol does to a developing brain. While there may be a social reason for doing it, we know that there are really strong physical reasons to not have minors drinking in a way that may impact on the development of their brain. It is not a good message, and this bill is altogether removing that as an option.
This legislation will also require the supply of alcohol to a minor in a private residence to be done in a responsible manner. I think anyone who has had teenage children grow up as part of their life knows what a nightmare the party scene can be. We all drop off our teenage children at parties wondering what the hell is going to go on there, if these people will be responsible, to what extent other young people will be bringing alcohol to the party and what level of control there will be, so there is always a lot of angst about that. They say that if you can get your children to 25 without too much drama, you have done well. It is a pretty scary time for a lot of parents, and what is ‘responsible’? It is a very airy-fairy word to put into legislation, but I think it is pretty clear that it is important that the person who is supervising is sober or certainly not drunk. It is important that young people are not reaching a point where they are obviously drunk either. There are going to be a whole lot of levels of understanding of what this means, but more than anything, it places a responsibility on the supervisors of those sorts of events, and of course parents in their own homes, to understand what alcohol does to a developing brain and where all this can lead to.
A lot of these pieces of legislation really just provide guidance to the community. Who is going to enforce this? We cannot have police going into private parties to determine these sorts of things. They simply do not have the resources to do it. This legislation creates a framework. It creates a sense of what community standards are and how people should behave. That responsibility to look after and care for minors, who are often going through a really experimental stage, is still really important because they are and remain vulnerable during those years.
The legislation reduces administrative requirements regarding obtaining liquor licences to streamline and expedite the process. You can apply for liquor and planning licences concurrently. So if the liquor licence was granted first, it was once conditional upon the planning licence also being put in place. There is now the opportunity to get down to business much more quickly and not be waiting for some of those planning requirements to occur first. It makes it easier for spirit producers to conduct cellar door sales. I am a regular watcher of Landline on ABC television, and we often see the boutique gin makers, whisky makers and all sorts of things around the countryside. These are small businesses that we want to encourage in the sense that they are no different from wine growers and winemakers, who also sell at their cellar door, so it is just broadening the opportunities for those businesses that are producing specialty spirits to similarly be able to market themselves in the way that others can.
There are changes to the transfer of liquor licences to enable new licensees to begin trading immediately and to not inherit demerit points. I see in the bill that it is quite careful to not allow people to simply make a transfer to their mother, father, brother, sister or another entity with which they are associated. There must be a genuine transfer for the demerit points to effectively be wiped and the new transferee to then be able to operate the business with a clean slate. That does seem like a fair thing, and people should not really have to carry on the burden of the wrongdoing of the previous licensee.
This legislation also removes considerations regarding licensing from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation to reduce duplications. For instance, where local government has already made findings about noise, traffic or like issues, it will not be necessary for the commission to make a finding about those things when they are considering the application. This really avoids duplication.
I am pleased to see that work has been done by other state jurisdictions and the Australian government to develop a national consumer protection framework for online wagering. It sort of makes a nonsense of the situation where someone might self-exclude themselves from gambling, for instance, but be in another state or city and find that they can gamble. So I think a national register has, again, a lot of common sense to it. My electorate borders New South Wales. I am not sure what the laws there are, but you can imagine that sort of ability to cross the river. When people are trying to do the right thing you really want to support them in their efforts to do that. I understand that the final detail of that national framework is yet to be settled, but it appears that in giving the minister the power to direct wagering services to comply with harm minimisation and consumer protection requirements this legislation has been drafted to enable that, and of course there is a lot more work to be done in this space.
I think we all recognise the risks around the misuse of gambling and alcohol. Getting the balance right is always going to be a challenge for us, and we all perhaps react to and see things in different ways, but I am pleased to support this legislation, because it is on a path to minimising harm and providing protections.