Retail Drinks Australia (RDA) has branded the Northern Territory Government ‘drunk on power’ over its Alcohol Secure scheme, which the RDA will target the elimination of small business selling takeaway alcohol.
According to the RDA, the NT Government’s proposed changes will deal a devastating blow to the local community in Alice Springs, with more than 100 jobs set to be lost over time. In addition six stores in Darwin have already written to industry bodies detailing how devastating the changes will be to them.
RDA CEO, Julie Ryan has called on the public and the media to demand an independent review of the secret report that the NT Government is using to justify its changes, and to sign a petition to protect NT small business from the unfair trading rules. She added that people should not be fooled in believing the government’s claims that only a few stores will be affected and that the impact will be minimal.
“A significant number of our members are telling us that the NT Government sent a representative to ask them questions about their store but they didn’t seem to understand the information they were providing. They are really concerned that the NT Government just doesn’t understand business,” said Ryan.
Ryan added that even though they are not affected large supermarkets don’t support the measures because they are not fact based and are arbitrary and ineffective.
“Industry supports fact and evidence based measures to tackle harm from alcohol misuse,” she said.
“Our members are unified in their condemnation of these proposed discriminatory rules targeting 44 small businesses, because they are not evidence based.
“The harm to be caused to families, small business and communities far outweighs any perceived benefit by the government – and it is just that, perceived – because they have no evidence it will do anything except hurt a huge number of people.”
Ryan also said that the government was hiding a secret report into the impact of the liquor law changes to small grocery stores. She called on the government to stop its bullying tactics and to begin meaningful consultation.
According to the RDA the Chief Minister’s Alcohol Review Implementation Team (ARIT) assured industry bodies that a report being commissioned on the impact of the proposed changes to small liquor stores would be shared for the purpose of consulting on those proposed changes.
The report summarises information obtained from 44 small stores, and the ARIT team are not only denying having agreed to provide the report to industry, they are also trying to maintain that the information gathering exercise satisfies their obligation to consult on the proposed changes.
“This is classic bully boy tactics and our members are demanding that the government be called to account for continually avoiding the obligation to meaningfully consult,” Ryan said.
“These store owners were significantly distressed to find out that other areas of government were being told the consultation with them was completed and worse that ARIT were alleging it was comprehensive.
“These stores did not feel that being asked a few questions was consultation and on the basis of inconsistent questioning they received, none of them had faith the report would provide an accurate summary of the financial impact of the changes.”
The RDA’s CEO said that small stores have little experience or understanding of their rights with government and rely on industry bodies to conduct consultation on their behalf.
“It’s unconscionable for a government department to prey on small businesses who don’t have the time for proper consultation and think that asking them a few questions satisfies their obligations of due process,” Ryan added
Liquor Stores Association of NT President Faye Hartley and Ryan were both present when the industry report was promised by ARIT to be used for meaningful consultation. They said the fact the ARIT are now denying that fact and refusing to provide a copy of the report calls into question what they are trying to hide.
“This government isn’t interested in consulting and they are denying industry access to a report that is being used for the purposes of briefing Cabinet on highly controversial changes,” said Ryan.
“Cabinet cannot make a decision on unverified reporting that industry alleges will be inaccurate and will vastly underestimate the financial impact of the changes. We are calling on the government to produce a copy of the report for meaningful industry consultation and to stop railroading small business.”
The RDA is calling on the public and the industry to sign a petition to protect NT small businesses from the unfair alcohol trading rules. You can sign the petition here.