Changes to liquor licensing hope to benefit businesses

CONCERNS about children getting drunk at school fetes, hospital patients drinking on premises and small restaurants not needing a "driver's licence" to serve alcohol have been brushed aside to fulfil the LNP's promises to cut "red tape".

The Justice Department, in submissions to a Queensland parliamentary committee, said, rather, liquor licensing amendments were common sense and would help ailing businesses and community organisations through exemptions from burdensome, costly paperwork.

The committee has now recommended the bill be passed in parliament after weighing up submissions from the hotel, club and restaurant industry with concerns from health groups.

The bill proposes allowing nursing homes to serve up to two standard drinks to residents and their guests each day, and allows hospitals to serve patients up to two standard drinks a day, without a liquor licence.

This would bring those facilities in line with retirement villages but the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol was alarmed the changes would apply to hospitals.

"About 30,000 Queenslanders are hospitalised each year because of injuries and diseases attributable to alcohol consumption," it said.

"The NAAA is astonished that, in the face of this enormous drain on the state's hospital system, the Queensland Government is considering ways to increase the access and availability of alcohol to hospital inpatients.

"This is a senseless proposal and should be abandoned.

Lives Lived Well suggested caution for the same reason while Queensland Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies went a step further to suggest permit exemptions for hospitals might lead to increased costs to Queensland's health system.

The bill also proposes exempting low-risk community organisations from needing permits for not-for-profit events.

Clubs Queensland supported the proposal because, it argued harm risks at such events - listing weekend football or school fetes as examples - were generally less.

"It is in the best interest of the community that the benefits, financial or otherwise, are maximised, rather than lost through fees and bureaucratic compliance measures which are often undertaken by volunteers," the organisation's submission read.

The Queensland Police Union raised concerns about the dangers of no longer having designated areas for selling and consuming alcohol fearing patrons could drink anywhere at n outdoor gathering, organisers could not supervise the safety of drinking patrons and minors could be supplied outside the service area.

Police also feared bottles and containers, particularly if not completely empty, could be left around school grounds, resulting in danger to children from broken glass or access to half-consumed alcohol.

The department advised the committee it could prepare guidelines in line with P&C's Queensland's recommendation to clarify best practice without making further amendments to the legislation.

The NAAA also hit out at the bill proposal to remove risk assessment management plans and community impact statements for "low-risk" restaurants and cafes.

"Allowing some licences an exemption from submitting a RAMP is akin to allowing some people to obtain a driver's licence without ever demonstrating they know the basic road laws," NAAA said.

"Alcohol is a potentially harmful product and those who seek to obtain a licence to sell, serve and supply alcohol should first demonstrate that they have the requisite knowledge to do so in the safest possible way."

The NAAA was not alone but the department argued the risk of rogue traders attempting to operate as nightclubs under a restaurant licence was slim because the exemption was restricted to operators closing before midnight and a RAMP could still be sought if there was a potential risk to public safety or amenity.

The amendments also include an exemption for non-profit associations to supply liquor, less than $1000, as a raffle prize if the proceeds aid the association's objectives or benefit the community.

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