By Andrew Starke
Last minute ultimatums and behind-the-scenes negotiation have characterised the arrival of significant liquor reform to the ACT with the major parties accusing each other of delaying tactics.
The Government hopes to have the reforms passed and a public education campaign underway before December 1 this year.
Changes to the Liquor Bill 2010 are set to replace the outdated Liquor Act 1975 and are designed to curb violent behaviour by introducing risk-based licence fees and a risk management regime on late-night venues.
Last week the Greens refused to support the reforms unless the Government committed $500,000 to night bus services, which Attorney-General Simon Corbell described as a ‘last minute ultimatum’ that would ‘seriously jeopardise the implementation of the Bill and the essential community education to take place before the busy festive season’.
Corbell said the Government has provided extensive detail on the Bill to MLA's, the liquor industry and the general community for more than 12 months.
While the Greens voted with the Liberals to adjourn the bill, the ACT Legislative Assembly now looks set to pass the overhaul after Labor struck a compromise with the Greens after promising to fund a three month trial of the Nightrider service over summer.
“I call on the Liberals and the Greens to reconsider their position to ensure that these crucial liquor reforms do not become bogged down in details that can be worked through at a later date,” said Corbell.
However the Liberals said Corbell was to blame for delays in the debate on the new liquor laws and any failure to meet the implementation date of December 1.
“Mr Corbell claims to have developed a liquor law reform package, but has allowed the Assembly to see only one part of the three-part package,” said Shadow Attorney-General, Vicki Dunne.
“The Bill was incomplete in the context of the accompanying Regulation and the all-important schedule of new licence fees, which we already know will carry heavy increases. Mr Corbell was asking the Assembly to pass a Bill without knowing the financial impact on the industry.”
Dunne noted that December 1 is also licence renewal time and suggested the deadline imposed was designed to significantly increase fees revenue.
“Of critical interest to licensees is the detail of the bureaucratic processes, how those processes can be tailored to meet the particular needs of licensees, and, most importantly, how the new licence fees will be calculated,” she said.