By Scott Leach, AHA National and NSW President
Scott Leach, who has been president of the AHA NSW since 2008, was recently elected as national president of the association. In this opinion piece, he discusses the challenges and opportunities facing publicans across Australia.
In every state and territory our industry battles the ever constant growth of regulation and compliance. Hotel operators are frustrated by the overwhelming, un-coordinated approach of the increasing numbers of local, state and federal agencies. It appears no aspect of our business is without the scrutiny of someone, often driven by methodology or philosophy rather than an appetite for a common-sense outcome.
At times, conversation and debate around the role of the industry can be swept up in a 24-hour media cycle seeking content and conflict. Elected representatives can be pressured into immediate action based on emotion, rather than considered action based on evidence. Our detractors are constantly seeking to be more than participants in this process, often wanting to be umpires as well as players in public discussion. The suggestion is that we have no right to be heard, or at the very least our opinions must be discounted due to vested interest. Yet the interests of others are left unchecked.
In 2017, perhaps more than at any other time in our recent history, it is imperative that industry speaks with a voice to ensure fairness, justice and common sense prevails in the evolution of policy and regulatory outcomes. This is not the time to be a silent passenger and allow fate to chart the course of your business, to allow jobs and investment to be undermined and to give a ‘vocal minority’ a free kick in public debate.
Recent political events in the United States and the UK Brexit referendum tell us decisions are made by those who turn up.
The Australian Hotels Association is embarking on an unprecedented program over the next two years to ensure that the needs of the industry are understood.
We are respectful of governments, but too often unintended consequences have more than modest impacts, they are significant and require political opposition. There is direct, significant real and anecdotal evidence that shows many recent policies around Australia have resulted in a disproportionate effect on industry – with limited positive outcomes outweighed by enormous costs.
Hoteliers are remarkable people capable of extraordinary things. They are not to be under-estimated. They are to be respected for their drive and determination in business, compassion for their communities and wisdom in human endeavour. Long before social media coined the expression “influencers” hoteliers have been doing just that over the bar, through the kitchen or tucking you away after a long day’s journey; influencing the attitudes and opinions of customers for generations.
With more than 6,600 businesses located around Australia, every pub is a permanent polling booth within communities that can leverage our influence. To push back the nanny state, bring back common-sense and balance to political outcomes, we will turn up and communicate.
Much is written about the activity of the AHA, its motives and personalities. We are an association that is proud of our members and the way in which these businesses are interwoven into local communities. We make no apology for turning up to advocate this and shout down those who seek to shame, discredit or attack our great institution.
The AHA supports those who have empathy for our industry and are willing to consult. And for those who take a prohibitionist view of our right to trade, we say the voice of every customer in every bar, pub and hotel across this country will be heard in the years ahead.