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NSW Government fails to implement key plank of lockout laws

Troy Grant’s office… caught up in knots over timing of announcement. Photo: Daniel MunozThe state government has quietly delayed a key plank of its 2014 reforms to combat alcohol-fuelled violence, a change the Deputy Premier Troy Grant announced to a dinner of the hospitality industry lobby.
Nanjing Night Net

The “risk-based licensing system”, opposed by many Sydney bars, would hit venues with up to $20,000 in additional fees if they incur infringement notices or are the site of violent incidents. Larger venues and those in “riskier” areas would also face fee hikes.

Mr Grant’s office initially tried to deny that the delay  had been announced to the Australian Hotels Association function.

The scheme was originally announced by then-Premier Barry O’Farrell for introduction in 2014 as part of a range of measures to combat alcohol-fuelled violence, including the controversial “lockout” legislation. This start date was later changed to 2016.

The scheme has been endorsed by public health advocates and was a key recommendation of the 2013 Foggo review of the state’s liquor act as a way to give clubs an incentive to reduce violence. It has been consistently opposed by the hotels association.

But two months ago the scheme was delayed by another year, Mr Grant is reported to have announced to a February 16 dinner of the Hotels Association NSW council.

“Lockouts … were enforced on the community days after the ink had dried on the 2014 legislation, yet measures that would make the big pubs and clubs pay for breaching liquor laws [have been delayed],” said Greens MP Jenny Leong.

Mr Grant told the AHA the licensing fees would be delayed to allow for the independent review of the state government’s lockout laws being undertaken by former High Court Justice Ian Callinan.

“It wouldn’t be fair to impose additional loadings on business while the review is being undertaken,” Mr Grant was reported to have said at the dinner, according to a report in industry’s magazine.

Mr Grant’s office initially claimed that the changes were announced earlier in February, at the same time as the government announced the independent review.

But a review of the press release issued by Mr Grant’s office and a subsequent press conference shows no mention was made of any delay, only that the licensing scheme would be considered as part of Mr Callinan’s review.

The Greens have questioned how the scheme can be reviewed when it has never been implemented.

Mr Grant’s office also said the change had been “communicated to industry in February”. It would not provide a date for when the change was “communicated” or placed on government websites.

But it appears to have been three days after the reported date of the AHA dinner.

The regulatory changes were only pronounced in the February 19 edition of the NSW government gazette.

In an “urgent” memo that same day Clubs NSW announced it had just received word from government regulators that the scheme was to be delayed.

The AHA was a major donor to the Coalition parties in 2010, shortly before the election that brought the O’Farrell government to power. It was banned from making donations, along with other liquor industry entities, later in 2010.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.