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Address to the NZ Institute of Liquor Licensing Inspectors

Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Justice

6 September 2012 Speech
Address to the New Zealand Institute of Liquor Licensing Inspectors Conference

Intercontinental Hotel, Wellington

Good morning,

Thank you for inviting me to speak today. It’s great to be here.

I’d particularly like to acknowledge New Zealand Institute of Liquor Licensing Inspectors President Murray Clearwater, who I met with in June to hear the Institute’s views on alcohol law reform.

I have met with a range of people interested in reforming our alcohol laws since taking over responsibility for the Alcohol Reform Bill and have been impressed by the industry’s professionalism and expertise.

Now that the Bill is back in the House, we’re beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.

I’d like to thank all of you for your significant contribution to this process – through submissions, meetings and conversations with me and officials.

Your input, along with that of other key stakeholders has helped shape the Alcohol Reform Bill.

As enforcement professionals, you play an important role in reducing the harm caused by excessive and inappropriate alcohol use.

We are all familiar with this harm – including increased crime and disorder as well as major health problems.

We know that it places significant demands on our Police and hospital and emergency staff.

And we all have a role to play in reducing its effect.

I’m pleased to say for the first time in more than two decades, Parliament is acting to restrict, rather than relax, our drinking laws. The Alcohol Reform Bill provides a strong legal framework for reducing alcohol-related harm in this country.

I can appreciate that some people, including some of you I’m sure, feel the Bill doesn’t go far enough.

Parliament’s decision last week to keep the purchase age at 18 eliminated one effective way of minimising alcohol abuse.

However, the Bill contains a number of other measures to drive a change in our drinking culture and a range of tools for all parts of society – from central to local government, communities and parents – to make that happen.

It’s a big step in the right direction.

And it strikes a good balance.

One of the key areas that the Bill addresses is easy access to alcohol.

We buy it in corner stores, bottle stores and supermarkets – often around the clock.

The Bill will stop the proliferation of alcohol outlets and 24-hour trading by making it harder to get a licence. It prohibits dairies and convenience stores from selling alcohol and introduces national maximum trading hours.

Local communities will also be able to develop their own local alcohol policies and can cap the number of new alcohol outlets in areas that have reached saturation point.

The Bill also proposes stricter controls on where alcohol can be sold and how it can be advertised and displayed. We also want to give parents more tools to control their children’s drinking.

The Bill is a major part but is only one part of a whole solution. It cannot be achieved without experienced, hard-working, enforcement agencies like yours working to implement it.

With your help, and other measures alongside the Bill, I am confident that we can make a difference.

The Bill will make it easier for enforcement agencies in local areas to police the laws around alcohol more effectively and create safer drinking environments for New Zealanders.

Different areas, such as rural communities and big cities, will require different approaches. One size does not fit all.

This morning I’d like to focus on how the Bill will ensure you have the tools you need to effectively implement the law.

In the past, licensing inspectors were unable to enter licensed premises without having to identify themselves so it was difficult to monitor any real compliance with the law.

Our Bill changes this – inspectors will have the power to enter licensed premises without the need to identify themselves.

The Government’s final supplementary order paper, which I tabled at the end of August provides you with another tool to help you monitor compliance with the Act, by granting licensing inspectors and Police access into permanent club charter premises – such as workingmen’s clubs.

Although these premises do not have to hold a licence they still must comply with key provisions of the Bill. Currently Police and inspectors do not have the right to enter these clubs to check compliance. The Bill will allow them to do this.

The Bill also promotes using infringement offences as an effective way to immediately sanction inappropriate behaviour.

For example it would give licensing inspectors the power to issue infringement notices for regulatory offences, such as a manager being intoxicated on duty. The paper also updates the definition of ‘intoxicated’ to better align with Police’s practice of determining whether someone is intoxicated.

Officials are currently working on developing a risk-based licence fee regime, which will see councils given the right tools for liquor licensing activities.

To improve the timeliness and effectiveness of a range of lower level offences, the Bill also expands the number of infringement offences.

Previously there were only two – the Bill increases these to nine, including those relating to evidence of age documents and buying alcohol while under the purchase age.

This will help make your enforcement role easier and sends a clear message that alcohol related infringement will not be tolerated.

I expect you to show a zero tolerance policy towards bad behaviour.

We must send a clear message from the start that we mean business and this new law will be strictly enforced.

We’ve made it perfectly clear we expect to see a high standard of responsibility from those working in the alcohol industry and propose cancelling licences and manager’s certificates for repeat offending or breaches.

The Bill introduces a persistent non-compliance regime, which puts licensees and managers on notice. I’m sure you will agree that those who repeatedly fail to meet their obligations in relation to selling alcohol have no place in the industry.

The new Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority will create an environment of social responsibility among licensees, managers, and patrons of licensed premises alike.

I encourage you to use it, and report those who you know are letting down the industry.

One thing that makes it hard for licensees is having to deal with patrons preloading on cheap alcohol before entering their licensed premises. I know that many of you have concerns about this and would like the Bill to go further to address RTDs and cheap off-licence alcohol prices.

The industry has indicated a willingness to introduce a voluntary code to restrict RTDs in the first instance, and I want to give them the opportunity to do this and to deliver results.

However I have made it clear that if the industry measures are not strong enough or not working the Government will take action.

The Bill includes a regulation-making power that allows the Government to restrict the sale of RTDs at any time in the future. This can be done in a matter of weeks, unlike legislative change which can take years.

First, I want to see what industry comes up with and if they are serious about addressing concerns about RTDs. As I said earlier, all of us have to play a part – and that includes the industry.

I am also aware of the Law Commission’s warning that where RTDs are targeted, substitution to self-mixed drinks can occur.

The Government is also continuing to investigate a minimum price for alcohol, and I am looking forward to the outcome of this work.

Finally, I know you are all looking forward to the rest of your conference, not only for the speakers and information that will be important to your work, but for the valuable networking opportunities that the conference will provide.

Listen to and work closely with your enforcement partners.

The Bill stresses that enforcement agencies, such as licensing inspectors, Police and medical officers of health must collaborate and share information.

I know that many of you are already doing this, and I encourage you to continue the good work.

The Bill retains the ability for enforcement agencies to work together to conduct controlled purchase operations – or CPOs.

As I’m sure you will agree, these are an important part of ensuring that licensed premises do not sell alcohol to minors.

CPOs support other new aspects of the Bill designed to limit alcohol supply to minors, such as requiring the express consent of a parent or guardian for supplying alcohol to minors.

We need to protect our young people from excessive drinking, and make sure that if and when they are introduced to alcohol, it is in a responsible and controlled manner.

But it’s not just about young people.

It’s about reflecting the concerns of our communities, giving New Zealanders the opportunity to make changes to their drinking behaviour, and taking control of this issue.

The Alcohol Reform Bill has been a long time in the works – that is the nature of setting new laws in such a complex area, where there is a diverse range of views.

I expect the Bill will pass by the end of this year. Once passed, the Justice Ministry will work closely with the Institute, local authorities and those with an interest in alcohol reform to ensure it works really well on the ground.

This is an exciting and challenging time to be the Minister of Justice and this Bill is a priority for me.

I’m very much looking forward to the next stage of implementing the Bill and seeing some meaningful changes in the way New Zealander’s drink.

Thank you again for inviting me to speak to you today and for your contribution to the development of the Alcohol Reform Bill.

Your Institute has provided valuable input throughout the policy process, and I expect it will continue to be closely involved over the next year to implement the Bill.

Enjoy the rest of the conference.


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