Second Reading – Liquor and Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2018

I am pleased to rise to speak on the Liquor and Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 and note that the coalition will not be opposing this bill. The bill makes some important minor changes that have been welcomed in my electorate by some of the businesses that will be affected, and I look forward to legislation that will tackle some of the more challenging things to come.

The bill particularly makes changes to the licensing regulations for spirit producers, which I will talk about soon. I am not surprised but I am disappointed to see that the government has not thought through the practical implications around the 150-metre limit.

Obviously it is good to make sure that there are no negative influences around our children, but when you consider the fact that we have 887 shopping centres within 150 metres of schools, I am not sure that the government has done due diligence on how this will play out and actually work.

Before I talk about some of the effects in my community, I note the hypocrisy of this government in taking the moral high ground of banning alcohol advertising around schools but allowing a heroin injecting room to be set up next door to a school in Richmond. I find this really quite challenging. I can clearly see the rationale for banning alcohol advertising within 150 metres of a school.

However, alcohol is a legal drug, yet you can have an illegal drug being administered within 50 metres of a school. How is that okay? Is there only one suburb in the whole state of Victoria that has a problem? If it is such a tried-and-tested measure, then why are we not seeing it where there are drug-affected communities that really want to do something about the issue?

That brings me to the Lookout project in Warrnambool. The Warrnambool community, knowing that we have a drug and alcohol problem, have really embraced the challenge. We have some amazing services, but there is one very big gap — and it is right across Victoria — with 100 beds for residential rehabilitation going unmet.

The community in Warrnambool have said, ‘We will take this challenge on board’, and they have raised just short of $600 000 in a very short time. They are saying to the government, ‘Hey, we have done our bit; come to the party and help us to get this actually happening’. But no, I am afraid to say there was no mention of that in the budget. Here we have a community saying, ‘We understand the challenge; we have got a problem and we are prepared to meet it head on’, but they have been ignored.

This bill does good things, and I will give credit where credit is due. The Timboon Distillery, an artisan producer in my region, was opened in 2007. It is an award-winning business run by Josh Walker and Caitlin Mason, who reside in South-West Coast, but their business is actually in the member for Polwarth’s neighbouring electorate. The Timboon Distillery produces a very fine whisky, I am told. I have been given a sample, but have not faced that challenge yet.

Josh Walker came to see me last year to tell me about some of the challenges he was facing. One of them was taxation. We worked closely with the federal member for Wannon, Dan Tehan, and I am pleased to see the taxation changes that were announced last week by the Liberal federal government — the so-called ‘beer taxes’.

Those changes addressed the challenges facing Josh. This bill actually assists this distillery, because when Josh Walker needed to promote his wares at festivals, markets and the like, he would have to go through a very challenging process that cost his business in the order of several hundred dollars on each occasion. This bill brings his business in line to be more competitive with other alcohol distributors that are in the artisan scene.

I am very pleased to say that we in South-West Coast really value food and fibre producers, and we celebrate them. These anomalies hold back businesses — good family businesses, people who are showing innovation and initiative to start up businesses. It is crazy that they are held back as a result of government regulations. I am pleased to see that we were able to help Josh with that challenge.

That takes me to a case where this bill will help reduce administrative delays. In Caramut, a small town in the north of my electorate, a situation occurred where the hotel licensee changed. There was a mix-up of addresses and the licence did not get through, so we had a pub with no beer.

That might all sound very clichéd from the song it was coined from, but it is the only venue in a very small town that the community can use. There are no other shops or even schools nowadays where people can come together and celebrate functions. One such event was the Grand Final, which is when this challenge occurred. Kahl Murphy had no licence for liquor, so he opened the pub but could not sell beer — although they were serving meals.

Families use these venues as a place to get together as a community, and when you have fires like we had six or eight weeks ago you need that focus for a community to come together. We did want to see Kahl Murphy’s business fail, so I worked very hard to get that licence streamlined and through. I am pleased to say we did get that result, but I do not want to see it happen again. Having more streamlined regulation is government’s role, and that is what we needed to see.

On that note, of the township of Caramut, it gives me the opportunity to point out something about little towns like that when they have got schools and the like closing down. The Labor government just walked away from that school. I went through that school not long ago, and they have literally walked out — there are desks, there are pens on the ground and the equivalent of exercise books are still sitting everywhere.

What has happened is people within that town have gone there to play — I imagine it is children — but vandals have also gone there. The windows are broken, there is glass everywhere, the floor is just scattered with possum droppings and it is an absolute disgrace.

It is an opportunity for me to mention that I think the Labor government should take some responsibility, fence that off and make it a safe place. It is a real danger to the Caramut community. I thought this was an opportune time to bring that up. I hope somebody can heed of that, because it is a risk and something that should not be allowed to continue.

I think the issue around parental consent in hotels is probably going to come as a surprise to most people, as it did to me. I would never have thought you could let your children have an alcoholic beverage in a public place, particularly a hotel. I think that just brings the law in line with what the public values are.

While we need to make sure that we do improve the understanding in the community of what the dangers of alcohol are, we do need to make sure as a government we are in this space — when we are in government, I am sure we will be — and as a Parliament we need to be in this space, because we need to find the balance between responsible consumption and also acknowledging the challenge that alcohol brings to our society. It is still the leading cause of addiction — way above ice — and it does still cause huge challenges.

My last minute I will use to say once again that the Lookout project in Warrnambool is the Warrnambool and surrounding community’s way of saying to the current Labor government, ‘We’ve done our bit. We don’t ask for too much. Don’t tell us the process is getting in the way. Let’s iron out the problems’. They have identified the problem is real, and they have raised the money to come to the challenge.

They are only looking for recurrent funding and a streamlining of the process. Geoff Soma, Greg Best, Glenys Phillpot and people on the committee have worked very, very hard. It is a challenge for our community and one we are prepared to meet head-on. I took this challenge on when I was elected. I understand drugs and alcohol. I have worked in the area for 15 years. I have tried to get people beds in rehab for many years. We do need to make sure we address the problems of drugs and alcohol.

I commend the bill to the house.