Liquor Control Reform Amendment Bill 2021

I make this contribution on the Liquor Control Reform Amendment Bill 2021 having just spoken to a number of liquor licence holders in my electorate who are on their knees and struggling with yet another statewide lockdown.

This bill makes several amendments to the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 to implement the outcomes of the government’s review of that act. It aims to cut red tape, modernise laws applying to liquor and hospitality and to ensure the harm minimisation measures in the bill are as effective as they can be.

As has been stated—we won’t be opposing the bill but will be moving some amendments to address the concerns that the shadow minister, the member for Euroa, has outlined in her speech.

I was concerned that there would be issues created by requiring the person who is ordering liquor online to be the one to receive that delivery. But I understand the government has since made amendments to this change.

In my electorate we have a number of small boutique producers—like Noodeldoof in Koroit, run by Sam Rudolph and Alex Carr; the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery, which may not be located within my electorate boundaries but owner Josh Walker is a constituent of South-West Coast; and Shane Clancey’s Basalt winery at Killarney, who have turned to gifting and hampers as a way to overcome the restrictions that have been placed on their businesses.

This will mean that if someone in Melbourne wants to organise a bottle of whiskey from Timboon, a sixpack of pale ale or stout from Koroit or a riesling from Killarney for their dad who lives in the south-west for Father’s Day—then those businesses I mentioned above won’t actually be able to deliver it because the father wasn’t the person who ordered it.

I am very glad to see the government has recognised this and has made sensible amendments here to ensure that these businesses who are already struggling because of 18 months of restrictions and closures can still support themselves after finding a way to pivot and adapt their business.

While we are speaking about support and liquor licensing, I want to touch on the shambles of the business costs assistance program and the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund payments that the Labor government has promised.

Victoria has been locked down more than any other place in the world. Businesses are on their knees. They have been destroyed by the continued restrictions that have been put on them.

These businesses aren’t on their knees because they aren’t viable, it’s not a reflection on their business acumen—they are being forced into this position by government restrictions. While some businesses are doing well, our hospitality sector is absolutely crippled by the government’s approach.

The Premier has said it’s a small price to pay, but for the businesses who have been absolutely destroyed by blanket lockdowns, they are paying the biggest price.

I just got off the phone from Michael Pickles who owns the Royal Hotel in Portland—he’s decided to close his business even for takeaway for the rest of this lockdown because he is still waiting for those supposed ‘automatic payments’ to come through.

Michael last received a support payment in June—but there’s been nothing since. Without those payments it’s just not viable for him to keep his doors open. He still has expenses, he still has costs that he needs to make but can’t because he has been shut down by the government, in Portland, 400 kilometres away from the nearest exposure site of active case of coronavirus.

I’ve had calls from pubs and restaurants across my electorate who just get no information about their support payments, their applications have been left in limbo, there are constant errors in payments and processes and when they question it, they just get nothing in return.

They are just left in limbo, watching their applications, waiting for them to progress and keeping an eye on their bank accounts, hoping and waiting for those supposed automatic payments to come in.

But they are told to be patient, to wait, that the money is coming.

That’s not good enough—it’s not fair. These businesses are on their knees, they are doing the best they can, they are trying to survive, but they are being held back by the government—first by statewide, blanket restrictions and then by delays and bureaucracy.

Small businesses like these are the backbone of our communities, they provide jobs and provide the state with taxation revenue that helps pay for doctors, nurses and teachers—but they are being treated with complete distain by this government.

The support offered is a pittance of what is needed to cover the damage caused by the continued lockdowns and then what is available to them isn’t paid in a timely manner or isn’t being paid at all.

My region has been locked down under incredibly harsh restrictions for months—it’s hurting businesses and it’s hurting people. People are tired, they are over the blanket rules 18 months after the pandemic began, they expected we would move to a more nuanced approach.

They accept the need for restrictions when there is an outbreak, but they don’t accept places like Portland, where there hasn’t been a case for over a year and is 400 kilometres from the nearest active case, being placed into a hard, harsh lockdown.

They want a localised approach, they want rapid testing to help get us open. My region is doing their bit—we have some of the highest vaccination rates in the state, we have stayed home, we have stayed away from family and friends. We just want some respect, we want the Premier to tell us what his plans are to open our hospitality and licensed venues.

Overall the bill makes some sensible changes and will help the hospitality industry when it is eventually allowed to reopen. That’s absolutely something I support; these businesses have been through the wringer over the past 18 months and we need to be making it easier for them when they are able to welcome people back.

I support the amendments moved by the shadow minister and I implore the Andrews government to move away from blanket statewide lockdowns that are crippling our hospitality and licensed venues.

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