By Andrew Starke
Queensland Liberal National Party (LNP) MP Ray Stevens has again denied claims he and a colleague did a ‘runner’ from a Cairns restaurant without paying a bill as parties clashed on the future of the state’s pubs.
Minister responsible for liquor regulation Peter Lawlor said the opposition spokesperson had no credibility on the fate of pubs, citing a 2008 incident when Stevens left a licensed premise without settling an account.
“Ray the Runner had to be called back to pay his bill in a night of shame for the LNP,” Lawlor said.
“People who ‘dine and dash’ cost the industry thousands of dollars each year, so he has no credibility whatsoever.
“Media at the time said the LNP stood for Long Night of Partying,” Lawlor quipped.
At the time Stevens told reporters that when the outstanding amount of about $10 to $20 came to his attention, he finalised the bill.
He said that none of his party had left the restaurant intoxicated and he was only 50m out of the building when staff called him back.
Stevens said Labor’s long-term economic incompetence was causing country pubs to close as they struggled with rising costs and falling patronage.
“When hotels close their doors at the rate they are now doing in Queensland it is a sure sign of an economy in crisis,” he said.
“Under the disastrous long-term economic mismanagement of this lazy, incompetent Bligh Labor government country pubs are closing at an alarming rate.
“Three Toowoomba hotels went into receivership last week while a further 60 of Queensland’s 1050 licensed bars and taverns are in severe financial crisis.
“Publicans are facing increased fees and charges, including an average annual administration fee of $10,000 imposed by Bligh and Labor last year.
“With this government’s characteristic bureaucratic interference in small business, they also have to meet a swag of compliance issues, such as mandatory training.
“On top of that they are struggling with increased costs for goods and services such as rates, water, electrify, registration and transport charges, all brought about by this tired and lazy government’s economic mismanagement.”
Lawlor said fees from the state’s 6700 licensed venues, which were due on August 2, had seen higher fees applied to licensed premises which had a history of breaches or incidents during the past 12 months.
“These fees fund checks on venues to ensure alcohol is not being served to minors; these fees fund checks on crowd control and security guards; and these fees fund checks that staff have responsible-service-of-alcohol training,” he said.
“The fees fund community education campaigns which help boost safety in and around licensed venues.
“The alternative from the LNP is that we should turn a blind eye to this – it’s beyond belief.”
Risk-based liquor licensing fees were first introduced Queensland in January 2009.