Facing tough new penalties for selling alcohol to minors, New South Wales bottleshops question why minors themselves and adults involved in secondary supply have not been hit with a similar deterrent.

The NSW Government last week passed the Liquor Amendment (Statutory Bill) 2014, enforcing a tough new escalating penalty regime for the offence of selling alcohol to a minor on licensed premises, including suspensions and cancellations of liquor licences. The new legislation will come into effect before the end of 2014.

Liquor Stores Association NSW executive director Michael Waters said the association appreciated the government's challenge in striking the right balance between community expectations, individual and industry responsibility.

"We understand it’s difficult to get the balance right on this but unfortunately this balance still has not been achieved. The new legislation carries very serious penalties and implications for licensees, yet no increased penalty for minors who knowingly break the law by attempting to enter and purchase alcohol before the legal age.

“Innocent mistakes will be subject to the whim of a government bureaucrat with no access to procedural fairness as rights of appeal have been removed. The possibility of forced closure just because an RSA-trained staff member checked an incorrect form of ID could result in devastating consequences for liquor retailers, many who have invested their superannuation or retirement savings into their businesses.

"Considering the historically very small number of prosecutions for underage service, this does seem like overkill when the evidence1 consistently tells us that minors are far less likely to purchase alcohol at licensed premises, and more likely to obtain it through parents, friends or older siblings of legal purchasing age, and this is where government should be focusing.”

LSA NSW called on Government to focus on the major problem area – those adults who knowingly supply alcohol to minors.

"Government needs to send a strong message to those individuals that fines of up to $11,000 and 12 months imprisonment apply, and invest more resources towards educating the community, including parents, of their social and individual responsibility. Laws like this already exist but just need better education and enforcement."

"To achieve the kind of lasting outcomes that the community wants and deserves will take continued combined effort from all sectors of the industry, legislators and the community to change drinking culture to tackle underage drinking behaviours," Waters said.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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