Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3418 ..
MR QUINLAN (6.37): Mr Speaker, the ALP will not be supporting this Bill. Mr Humphries referred to sending a signal and setting a high bar. He referred to Lindsay Curtis's judgment that the standard is too low. What we see here will compensate for having too low a standard by having no standard at all, placing the burden of proof upon the retailer. I am not all that familiar with going to pubs, taverns and clubs. With this level of legislation, we are getting to the ridiculous stage. If you had any worldly experience, you would know that there are many organisations that virtually do backflips to ensure that they do not get caught under the existing legislation but still occasionally do get caught purely because - - -
Mr Humphries: More than occasionally. It's happening a lot.
MR QUINLAN: I do not believe in creating law to compensate for poor regulation. If the standard is not good enough, change the standard, improve it. You are wiping it out altogether. There are inadequate processes and regulation. If you cannot prepare a decent case, then lift your game in the preparation of the cases that are going forward. When people are running licensed premises and retail premises, there has to be some latitude if the proprietor has done everything within their power to ensure that they are not selling to minors, yet it happens very occasionally because one staff member forgets to ask for the proof of age card once and the police happen to be there. Under this Bill they are guilty as charged because there is no out. It does not matter how the organisation has tried. I know from direct experience that they do try. The ALP agrees totally with the spirit of this legislation. We should not be selling liquor to minors. If this Assembly is so far removed from the world out there, we have a major problem.
MS TUCKER (6.40): I am also sympathetic with the intention of this legislation. Obviously, no-one wants to see alcohol being served to minors. I have talked to a number of groups about this legislation and it does seem to be an extreme response to the problem and one that is very unfair. By removing subsection 140B(3) from the Liquor Act you are taking away any ability for an owner of an alcohol outlet to defend themselves. Mr Humphries said that a defence is too easy under the existing law and that people are being let off too often. I am happy to look at other ways of addressing that issue.
An amendment to be proposed by Labor would up the ante to some degree by putting in "any reasonable doubt". I do not know what the Government's response to that will be but I will be interested to listen to the arguments. To me, that is a step towards upping the ante, or giving a message to the court that quite a strict test has to be applied to licensees if they are trying to defend themselves against a breach of the Act because a minor has been served alcohol.
By removing their ability to defend themselves at all, you could be making the legislation open to abuse. A disgruntled employee could easily decide to punish their employer by purposely not carrying out the normal processes that they have been asked to do and trained to do. These things do happen in the workplace. I agree with Mr Quinlan when he says that the supporters of this Bill do not understand the reality of complicated workplaces. Apart from that, it just seems incredibly unfair to me that a piece of legislation should take out the ability of people to defend themselves against a charge.