Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 13 Hansard (Thursday, 17 November 2011) . . Page.. 5593 ..
highest fees of any nightclubs in the country. It seems quite preposterous that it is more expensive to open a nightclub in the ACT than it is in the Melbourne or Sydney CBD in terms of licensing fees.
These are some of the issues that have come to our attention. There are other issues. We have seen the spectacular backflip from the government last week when immediately after the liquor licensing regime was brought in, there were phone calls being made to, I understand, about 20 liquor licensees to say that the licensing authority did not believe that they had the appropriate licence and that they were going to demand a change to their licences for this new period without consultation.
There is clearly a lack of understanding about what “predominant use” means in the liquor licensing regime. It is not suitable and appropriate for the minister to just palm that off by saying: “The industry, the opposition and the Greens wanted more delineation in the licensing regime. Now we have got it we are going to charge people accordingly.” We have to actually look at the predominant use and make approaches. But when there was an outcry, there was an immediate backtracking on that matter.
It shows that there is very little understanding of what is involved in running a liquor licence because there is so much uncertainty provided by the government on these things. We have also seen some lack of clarity, for instance, in the issues relating to whether quarterly payments are available and whether the quarterly payments are themselves legal. I notice that the fee notifications that have gone to liquor licensees allow for quarterly payments dated 30 November this year, then 28 February next year and so on. I cannot remember the other dates but you can work it out from there.
There are problems with that because at the same time this is not set out in regulation. If it is not set in regulation, the Legislation Act would require that all quarterly fees that are paid quarterly are paid on 1 January, 1 April, 1 July and 1 September; so there are some issues there. But that is only a minor issue. What we have seen is a lack of clarity and a lack of warning. These were the same issues that I was talking about a year ago tomorrow. So I am having a deja vu experience here. It is a time warp. It is time that a clear and thorough look at the liquor licensing fees and the regime that hangs around them is undertaken by someone other than the government, because the government has failed in transparency when it comes to this issue.
The reasons for this have had a considerable airing in the community. I know that we are short on time. I commend the reference. The motion does not refer just to the fee schedule; it refers also to the regulations. The document was tabled in September for review and report. My office has had a conversation with Mr Rattenbury’s office. They are proposing an amendment which is a very good amendment. I commend Mr Rattenbury for the amendment because it requires the government to report within three months. I know that that is standard practice, but reviewing the list on the committee’s website today, in this Assembly only 25 per cent of government responses have been made available within the three-month period.
With the shortened sitting pattern next year because it is an election year, I think Mr Rattenbury’s amendment to require a reporting within three months and to require that to be published out of session is laudable. I congratulate him on it and we will be