SALE OF LIQUOR AMENDMENT BILL (NO 2) REPORT BACK SPEECHJustice
I move that the House take note of the report of the Justice and Law Reform Committee on the Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill (No 2).
I do not intend to go into the merits of the issues contained in this Bill at any length.
However, I do want to take the opportunity to provide some background to the Bill, outline the work done by the Justice and Law Reform Select Committee and explain the proposed procedure for the House to adopt in its consideration of the bill.
Purpose of the bill
The Bill has two aspects to it.
First it amends the Act in relation to a number of broad controversial issues such as lowering the minimum drinking age, permitting Sunday trading from on and off-licence premises, allowing supermarkets to sell all types of liquor and abolishing club licences.
Secondly it makes a number of other changes which seek to improve the operation of the Act.
These include a number of technical and operational issues as well as a number of consequential amendments.
There was a major review in the 1980s that led to the enactment of the current legislation.
It is generally accepted that the current Act is working reasonably well.
Therefore, this review was not intended to be a full review redesigning the Act from first principles.
It was to focus on improving the operation of the Act and whether it was meeting its objective and underlying principles.
It would also provide Parliament with an opportunity to revisit previous decisions on a number of controversial issues for example Sunday trading and the minimum drinking age in light of experience in the last 10 years.
Accordingly, the Government appointed a Liquor Review Advisory Committee to assist with the review.
Sir John Robertson chaired the Committee.
The Advisory Committee considered around 400 submissions and made a number of recommendations for changes in the law.
The Advisory Committee urged the House to adopt its recommendations with the minimum of change.
It considered that significant changes might well upset the balance of the package and detract from the value of the review.
The Government decided not to make any policy decisions in respect of the Advisory Committee's recommendations.
Therefore, the amendments contained in the bill implement the Advisory Committee's recommendations as a package.
Members should note that the bill does not deal with the Advisory Committee's recommendations in relation to licensing trusts.
At the time the bill was ready for introduction the Government was still considering the Advisory Committee's recommendations on licensing trusts.
However, the Government is now in a position to introduce a separate bill on licensing trusts into the House soon.
Select Committee consideration
The Justice and Law Reform Select Committee should be commended for its report. It has obviously given a lot of thought not only to the issues contained in the Bill but also to the procedure for the House to adopt for its consideration of the bill. I have taken this seriously.
The select committee indicated that consideration of the bill was complicated by a large number of linkages that exist between the issues.
The major difficulty the select committee encountered was that there were a number of broad 'conscience type issues' that needed to be determined before other issues in the bill (the technical and operational changes) could be considered.
The Committee did not report back on these other issues because it was not feasible to do this without first knowing how the House would vote on the controversial issues.
In order to assist the House, what the select committee has done is recommend that the House consider a range of options set out under each of the 11 "controversial" issues.
The select committee indicated the options it set out under each issue reflected the wide range of views it had considered.
The report contains an extensive summary of the issues, which I am sure all Members will find very helpful.
The Committee does propose three amendments to the bill, namely:
· To extend the proposed infringement notice procedure to include an instant fine for minors not only found purchasing liquor but also for minors found on certain parts of licensed premises.
· To abolish the proposed licence dispensation scheme. Given the weight of the opposition to the dispensation scheme in submissions it would appear sensible to amendment the bill in this way. However in light of the select committee's comments in its report I have asked my officials to look at extending the current special licence procedure to address the concerns of some small operators such as small clubs. In any event, I believe club licences should be retained. As should permanent charters. I will move SOPs in order to give members the opportunity to retain club licences and permanent charters.
· Thirdly, to abolish the proposed accreditation scheme. Under this proposal selected district licensing agencies would be able to carry out the full range of functions of the Act that are currently carried out by the Liquor Licensing Authority. Removing this from the bill does not mean that some operating power will not be devolved to district licensing agencies. This will be dealt with in the second phase of the bill.
Procedure for consideration of the bill
Members will see that the select committee in its report recommends a procedure to enable the House to deal with the bill. These recommendations followed close discussion with myself.
At a meeting hosted by the Speaker on Tuesday morning, the select committee's proposal and other possible procedures to best deal with this bill in the House were discussed with representatives of caucuses, as well as the Clerk of the House. The Business Committee has further considered the matter.
In broad terms what is proposed is that the bill will be dealt with in two stages in the Committee of the whole House.
First there will be the 'Issues phase' in the Committee of the Whole. The idea is that the House will debate each of the 11 issues outlined in the select committee report. The Business Committee has allotted 20 hours for this phase next week. It is hoped the House will go into extended hours on Tuesday.
Each of the options identified by the select committee under an issue will form a supplementary order paper.
At the end of the debate on an issue there would be a vote on each of these supplementary order papers on each of the options. Options will be considered from least restrictive to most restrictive as set out in the Committee's report. Once one SOP gets 50% + 1 of members' votes, that position will be considered the position of the House.
At the conclusion of the Issue phase overall the Committee will then report on progress and there will be a break.
It is essential that once the issues phase has been completed there be a pause of some weeks.
This will allow time for consequential provisions to be drafted and the implications of the decisions taken in the issues phase to be considered alongside a large number of other technical issues.
The Committee of the Whole will then go into the second phase. It will go through the bill clause by clause in the usual way. This will also be when any other SOPs will be considered. It will also be when any possible inconsistencies resulting from phase one will be remedied. Past experience suggests we may need to recommit one or two issues.
This process has been developed in order to assist the Members deal with these difficult issues in the most effective way.
The Speaker and I are liaising with members of each caucus on this procedure. We have set up a cross-party management committee to facilitate deliberation on the bill.
In particular it is important that we know whether any member intends to advance an option on any of the 11 issues that has not been identified by the select committee.
If so, we need to have as much advance notice of that as possible to enable the option to be fully considered.
The important thing is to try to ensure that we get a coherent Sale of Liquor Act at the end of the process.
I consider that this bill should proceed and commend it to the House.