Liquor Laws Reformed

  • Doug Graham

A lower drinking age and seven-day a week liquor sales are amongst the key changes in the Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill.

The legislation follows up the 1980s legislative steps to liberalise the country's liquor laws, eliminating red tape and inconsistencies in the way the law is framed.

The Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill will reduce the legal minimum drinking age to 18 years, while allowing those under 18 to buy or consume liquor in licensed premises if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Justice Minister Rt Hon D.A.M. Graham said that, as research shows that a large majority of older teenagers are regular drinkers, it is important to ensure their drinking is done in controlled environments in order to minimise liquor abuse.

An ALAC survey of 24 other countries shows only two which set their drinking age over 18 years.

The legislation allows hotels, taverns and all off-licences to sell liquor on Sundays and supermarkets and grocery stores will be able to sell all types of liquor, not just wine.

The legislation also reforms the liquor licensing laws. It introduces a new concept with the licence dispensation scheme. Amongst those to benefit will be home-stays and small clubs resulting in reduced licencing fees.Club licensing is also streamlined, with existing club licences abolished and clubs eligible to apply for an on-licence.

The legislation does not address the Liquor Review Advisory Committee's recommendations on licensing trusts but Mr Graham says they are being considered and he intends to introduce a bill relating to licensing trusts next year.

Liquor legislation is a conscience vote for Members of Parliament.