The New South Wales Government has today announced a new liquor review; this one into the way in which community views are considered during liquor licence applications.
Is this a positive step forward and a chance for concerned members of the public to have a greater say in liquor licencing decisions that negatively impact their communities, or another step on the road to dismantling the regulatory protections designed to keep the people of NSW safe from harm?
The announcement comes hot on the heels of the decision by the NSW Government to further weaken the Three Strikes Scheme, an already flawed government program designed to ensure licensed venues across New South Wales comply with liquor regulation.
Minister for Racing, Paul Toole says this latest review is “an opportunity for the community to better understand the liquor licensing process, including Community Impact Statements, which are required as part of the assessment of liquor licences.”
But Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) Chief Executive Michael Thorn says it’s not enough that the community merely ‘understands the process’.
“We already know the system is weighted heavily against local communities. It’s not a level playing field, and the only way to restore balance and fairness is to ensure their voices are heard. Local residents must have a voice in the decisions that impact their community.”
Community campaigner, Tony Brown is scathing in his assessment of the NSW Government’s recent concessions to the alcohol industry.
“I am concerned that this is simply more smoke and mirrors from the NSW Government and another chance to dismantle what little community protections are still in place. Minister Toole states this is the first such review in nine years. I’m not entirely sure whether that statement of fact was meant as a boast or intended as an apology.”
Mr Brown encouraged the people of NSW to make a submission.
“Regardless of my cynicism, it is important that the people of NSW take the opportunity to make a submission, and make clear that they demand the opportunity to effectively influence the local licensing decisions that can impact them so negatively.”
In 2013, FARE published the report, Breaking down the barriers: Community involvement in liquor licensing decisions in NSW, which examined in detail the existing liquor licensing regulatory framework and identified the legislative, regulatory and resource-based barriers and challenges faced by communities in navigating the system; barriers which remain in place today.
Submissions to the Evaluation of the Community Impact Statement requirement for liquor licence applications close on Wednesday 26 July. To find out more about the review, including details on how to make a submission, visit Liquor & Gaming NSW.