By Andy Young
The Leader of the Opposition in the Australian Capital Territory, Jeremy Hanson, has told TheShout that he does not support the massive licence fee increases for bottleshops, being proposed by the Territory's Government.
The incumbent Labor Party has put forward increases of up to 25 per cent on top of fees which are already the highest in the country. The move has seen the Liquor Stores Association ACT (LSA ACT) launch a campaign against the proposal, with thousands of consumers already signing a petition against the fees.
Speaking to TheShout about the proposal, Hanson (pictured) said: "We do not support the proposed fee increases. We have a very clear position. I put out a position statement quite some weeks ago, regarding Proposal 20 on the Government's White Paper and we made it very clear that we will not be supporting the massive increases in fees being proposed by the Government.
"The increases are punitive, they are unfair, they will blow through to kill jobs and increase the price of alcohol."
Not only does Hanson not support the measure, but he said that he would act against them if his Liberal Party is elected in the Territory's election in October.
"If the fees are increased in line with what the Government proposed in its White Paper then we would repeal them," he said. "At this stage I don't think that those are going up before the election, I think it is more likely that it is something the Government will do if they are returned. If we get into Government then we will not be putting those fees up.
"It is the case that the licence fees in the ACT are the highest in Australia and with these proposed increases from the Labor Party that would get even worse. Most of these retailers are small and medium businesses working in the ACT, they employ a lot of people. We have no concerns with the way that they operate, they are ethical businesses and they are selling a legal product."
He added: "In part I think this is an ideological attack on these businesses, but it is also clearly a cash-grab by the Government. It is poor policy from a Government that clearly does not support small and medium businesses. They don't seem to care, they don't seem to get it and they are pursuing this ideological agenda which won't have the outcomes that they are intending. There is nothing wrong with people wanting to buy alcohol to consume responsibly. This assault on these businesses is pretty outrageous."
Hanson also told TheShout that if he is elected he would work with local businesses and retailers. "Business is part of the solution and not the problem; the Government seems to view business as the problem, not the solution. From my point of view we respect business, we will work with business. Where there are improvements that can be made we will work with business to implement those solutions, but it has got to be a collaboration between government and business rather than an ideological assault."
Hanson also pointed out the the ACT Goverment has cut funding to police as well as rejecting coward punch and police assualt legislation. Hanson told TheShout that "it does seem that they are not genuine or serious about the actual issue of alcohol-related violence, they are much more focused on squeezing small businesses out in the suburbs who are really not the problem."
The LSA ACT's petition has already gathered a lot of support and you can have your say on the LSA ACT website, Hanson also said that he would be very pleased to receive the petition on behalf of the Territory's liquor retailers before the election in October.