March 23, 2011  |  Second Reading

Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

I am pleased to rise to speak on the Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. Everyone in this house clearly abhors violence.

Unfortunately a lot of antisocial behaviour and violence is the result of excessive consumption of alcohol, and we often see it in public places. The opposition does not oppose the bill. In government we worked hard to address matters related to antisocial behaviour caused by excessive consumption of alcohol in public places, but we can always do more. I note that some aspects of the bill seek to provide greater confidence and greater opportunities for venue licensees and permittees to address matters of antisocial behaviour on their premises that relate to alcohol consumption.

While it is important for the Parliament to make laws in regard to these matters, it is also about how people deal with these matters in their local communities.

I will use an example from my time on the Banyule City Council, which covers the Ivanhoe electorate, during which we sought to address matters of antisocial behaviour and a lack of community confidence and safety around licensed premises by introducing local laws that provided police with extra powers to fine people and confiscate alcohol rather than using the summary offences of arresting them and taking them to court. These are small matters, but they relate to the bill.

We often talk about licensed venues. Many people would see these as being hotels, pubs and clubs, but in shopping strips, in many instances, there is the sale of packaged alcohol, and there is a need to provide confidence and support to local businesses and communities using those shops to give them peace of mind and confidence that the law is there to serve them and that police have the right powers to address issues that concern local communities.

We found in the Ivanhoe electorate that we needed to address those issues more.

We are not in the CBD nor regional centres where there are large concentrations of people and licensed venues. We found that in small shopping strips where alcohol can be sold and made available you can still have the same sorts of problems that this bill seeks to address.

The purpose of the bill is to amend the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 to enable persons to be barred from licensed premises and their vicinity in certain circumstances. There are other amendments to the act in the bill as well, but I will focus on some of the aspects that address barring orders. Other aspects that relate to the barring orders also relate to the definition of a responsible person. This refers to ‘a person responsible for the management or control of licensed premises’, who may be the general manager or bar manager. The definition does not extend to security personnel or other officers, which is a prudent step by the government and provides an opportunity for the community to have greater confidence in the way this will roll out.

The proposed barring orders provide an additional power for licensees, who already have some rights under common law. The orders will provide some added opportunities for licensees and some staff to implement some of the measures in the bill.

The Australian Hotels Association has indicated its support for the bill. That leaves people in no doubt about the fact that there will be a price to be paid if people choose to behave in an unruly or unsociable manner in licensed premises.

What I have a concern about and what I am looking forward to understanding more about from the explanations of the government is how we can provide protection and support for those in licensed premises who seek to act on what will be the new laws when this bill is passed.

I would like to know how they will order out of a licensed premises someone who is drunk, violent or quarrelsome; how they will deal with being put in risky situations with those who are unruly and who fit the definitions about behaviour in this bill; and how they will bar those people or ask them to leave. These are issues which already have to be dealt with by licensees of premises, and the extra barring provisions proposed by the government are not opposed by the Labor Party, but there need to be good supports in place to support the licensees and staff of these venues who will have the opportunity and the power to implement these barring orders.

As we know, there are a lot of incidents in our community that involve people who are not only alcohol affected but in respect of whom in many cases there is also other substance abuse going on. I have spoken to many licensees in my electorate who have standing in the community and many years of experience.

They often talk about the fact that they have seen people who are antisocial as a result of the excessive consumption of alcohol in many situations over many years, but what we are seeing more of these days are people who are also affected by drugs. That combination can leave people, including licensees and patrons, in dangerous situations, so there needs to be an empowering of licensees regarding barring orders, and there needs to be support regarding how they are going to deal with people who are not only alcohol affected but also drug affected.

Whilst calling the police will always be one option, it is also important to get an understanding of how barring orders will be enforced by licensees. They need to get support from the government about how they will do that. There could probably be some more detail provided by the government about that.

I also think it is important to address the matter of reporting back.

Finding a way to monitor the frequency and effectiveness of the barring orders needs to be done. That would be good data for the government to be collecting, and there might be a way that can be done. I am interested to hear further in the government’s response as to whether there will be provisions in the legislation for licensees to report to the department on the number of barring orders that have been issued so we can get a sense of the effectiveness of these extra orders.

The opposition supports the bill, but a lot of concerns in the community relate to young people. While I am not a parent yet I can understand people’s concerns. Going out to licensed venues is in many cases a rite of passage for young people. They do so with their friends, and often they do that because of camaraderie and to look after each other. We have seen a number of advertising campaigns over the years along those lines.

What we are always looking to do is to provide opportunities to give the community confidence that there continue to be initiatives that empower licensees, law enforcement agencies and the community through their understanding that these powers are available. They should be able to demand and expect licensees in venues to understand the powers. They should be able to say, ‘You need to be protecting us as patrons from this sort of behaviour’.

There is an obligation not just on licensees; we are wanting to ensure that they are supported in terms of how they apply the new barring orders. We want to make sure the community understands the potential inclusions of some of these initiatives and barring orders. Community members need to understand and be clear about these initiatives and barring orders so they can advocate for and understand their rights when they are patrons lawfully going about their business in a licensed venue. These things are a part of the bill and are to be commended.

A barring order can be varied by the person who has issued the order; it can also be varied by the director, either upon request or on the director’s own motion. It is interesting that a request for revocation may be made by the person barred, the licensee who issued it or a member of the police force.

I have a question regarding the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee, which has noted that:

… no statutory provision has been provided in the bill for an independent body to review a decision by the director —

of liquor licensing —

under part 7A (barring orders).

I would be interested to hear more from the government about the rights of those who wish to pursue or challenge barring orders that may apply to them.

In closing my comments in support of the bill I indicate there is an ongoing desire from all members of this place to empower law enforcement and to empower licensees and put obligations on them around how they deal with their venues and with their patrons. The ongoing concerns people have will be addressed in part by the bill. But there are some aspects on which it would be helpful to get some further advice from the government, such as how we might manage the numbers of the barring orders that apply over time so we can look at further initiatives in this place to provide greater confidence to the community that when people are out on the town at licensed venues and behaving appropriately, they will have the support of this place with this legislation.