Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3419 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
While I would not support this Bill and I would consider supporting the Labor amendment, I am happy to work with the Government to look at other ways to increase the responsibility of licensees, if that is the issue. I would have to see the stories behind the breaches to understand what exactly is going wrong. It is an issue that I am prepared to put time into, but this particular legislative response is right over the top and very worrying and unfair. It does not give natural justice.
MR CORBELL (6.44): Mr Speaker, I join my colleague Mr Quinlan in saying that this Bill, as Ms Tucker rightly points out, is an extreme response to a problem which, whilst a difficult one, is being addressed by an overly reactive approach. It is disappointing that we are here this evening because Mr Osborne has said he wants this Bill debated this evening. There are members in this place opposed to the Bill and raising concerns about the Bill, and where is Mr Osborne? It stretches credulity just a little bit when we are all hanging around here so that Mr Osborne can have his Bill debated, and he does not even do us the courtesy of listening to the debate. As it is his Bill, Mr Speaker, you would think that he would do that.
I move on to the substance of the Bill. As my colleague Mr Quinlan rightly points out, the issue here for the Labor Party is that this Bill completely reverses the onus of proof. Even if an organisation, a pub, a club, a tavern, is responsible, does everything in its power to properly and effectively train its staff and has proper and effective procedures in place to deal with the possibility that staff may serve alcohol to minors, and they serve alcohol to a minor they are committing an offence. You would think that we would want to be encouraging a responsible attitude. This does the reverse. It says, "We do not care whether or not you adopt a responsible attitude. If you serve alcohol to a minor, you will be at fault and you will be punished". They may not be at fault. My colleague Mr Berry rightly points out that approximately 4,500 people turn 18 every year. Are we seriously suggesting that someone just under the age of 18, 17 and six months, is not going to walk into a pub or club and attempt to buy an alcoholic drink? Of course they are.
This Bill is not going to resolve the problem that has been identified. In fact, it is a draconian approach to an issue that needs to be addressed in a wide range of ways. Simply to pass a Bill and walk out of this place later tonight and say, "I fixed the problem because I changed the law" is unrealistic. As my colleague Mr Quinlan pointed out, who are we kidding? The only people we will be kidding are ourselves. This Bill is not necessarily going to address the issue of under-age drinking in Canberra but it is going to put an incredible onus of proof on the providers of alcoholic beverages in quite an unfair way. Yes, the problem does need to be addressed but simply legislating is not the way to address it.
MR OSBORNE (6.48), in reply: I thank the majority of members for their support. Mr Speaker, I believe that selling alcohol to under-age people is something that we as an Assembly and as a society need to cover all bases on, to make sure that there are no loopholes for people to slip through. Unfortunately, such a loophole has been provided in the past to licensees through a generous application of the due diligence test by the Supreme Court. This test is now so broadly defined that, as long as a licensee can argue that he had procedures in place to require staff, for example, to seek identification from purchasers, despite their neglect to do so, it constitutes a rock solid defence to a prosecution for the sale of liquor to a minor.