By Andrew Starke
A war of words has erupted in Queensland over liquor licensing and glassing attacks with the opposition Liberal National Party (LNP) accusing the Government of ‘bungling’ licence renewals.
Last week, LNP Shadow Attorney General Jarrod Bleijie alleged that over 1000 Queensland hotels and clubs had had their licences suspended by the Office of Liquor Licensing, despite many having paid their fees by the August 1 deadline.
“To have this many venues trading believing their licences were current – instead they're been placed on an official suspension list, shows this tired, 20 year old Labor Government just can't manage the basics,” he said.
However Deputy Premier Paul Lucas said the LNP had again been caught out putting a headline over the truth.
“The truth is that (as of mid last week) less than 500 licensees out of a total of 6000 now have outstanding payment issues with their liquor licences,” Lucas said.
“That’s 91 percent of licencees who are paying their liquor licence on time compared to 83 percent at the same time last year.
“Of the 500 outstanding, history shows that a number will not renew their licence because they are either no longer trading or making a choice not to sell alcohol.
“In fact, the number of licences that were cancelled last year at the end of the 28 day suspension period was 196.”
Bleijie called for a complete overhaul of Liquor Licensing's fee collection and processing.
“Licensing fees range up to $20,000 – so this is very annoying and stressful for the businesses caught up in this dysfunctional process,” he said.
”Previous RTI information shows the State Government agency has become an absolute basket case and is an agency in utter chaos.
”It will come as no surprise to anybody that the minister responsible is the Deputy Premier Paul Lucas.”
Lucas denied the claims that his department was in turmoil, saying nothing had changed between this year and last year and licencees were reminded of their obligations via letter in May and provided with a fee notice in June, well in advance of the August 1 due date.
“Advice was also distributed through peak bodies such as Clubs Queensland and the Queensland Hotels Association,” he said.
“While we can see that the vast majority of people are paying on time, operators who take the risk and operate without a licence will have action taken against them which may include prosecution.”
Bleijie also renewed the LNP's call for tougher penalties for glassing offences in the wake of new figures revealing there had been more than 50 ‘glassing’ attacks at Queensland pubs and clubs this year.
“Every Queenslander would be outraged by the growing number of glassing attacks and the shocking injuries inflicted on the victims, and worse still, the fact that the Bligh Government is soft on the attackers,” Bleijie said.