Debate resumed from 6 November.
Mr OAKESHOTT (Port Macquarie) [4.55 p.m.]: The Coalition does not oppose the Liquor and Registered Clubs Legislation Further Amendment Bill and sees sense in many of its amendments and the clarification of anomalies it addresses. Our only concern is that many of the issues must still be dealt with through the regulatory process. Whilst the changes are agreed to in principle, it is difficult to comment one way or the other on whether some of them are either too draconian or too liberal in their outcomes. We will probably have to wait and see how the changes are addressed in the regulations. If necessary, the Regulation Review Committee can deal with those matters if the Coalition and others feel that they are either too draconian or too liberal.
The Coalition can certainly see sense in amending the Act to allow liquor to be sold or supplied to residents of nursing homes and hospital in-patients without the need for a licence. The departmental briefing I received concerned a nursing home in Ballina in which the residents like to go into the kitchen to have a drink. At one stage it appeared that the nursing home would have to take out a liquor licence. However, good sense prevailed and the nursing home is now treated as any other private residence in New South Wales. In other words, it is the residents' home and under the Liquor Act they are able to have a drink within it.
The Coalition also sees sense in the amendments relating to vessels while berthed at certain wharves prescribed by the regulations. However, it is important that we know which wharves are prescribed by regulation. I have raised the matter with the department and have been assured that this relates to only a couple of wharves in Sydney Harbour. The Coalition will monitor those amendments. However, we can see sense in them, not only because the Chartered Vessels Association wants them but also because we want to maximise as much as possible the benefits of industries that use Sydney Harbour for tourism purposes.
The Coalition can also see sense in allowing the Director of Liquor and Gaming to give certain directions to licensees in relation to the promotion of liquor where that promotion is considered to be undesirable because of its effect or its likely effect on minors. Without doubt, no member of this place would want any tricks in promotions or advertising to be targeted at minors. Given the creative nature of that industry and the creative nature of the sale of liquor these days, that combination can lead to the targeting, either real or perceived, of minors. It is therefore important that the Director of Liquor and Gaming, through the Minister, be given power to adjudicate on issues in which there is the perception or the reality of targeting minors. I am sure all members of this House would support such a measure.
The Coalition supports other machinery amendments that are part of the legislation, including clarification with regard to caterers' licences, clarification of dine-or-drink authorities, and the omission of the two uncommenced provisions requiring date of birth and custody to be recorded on the invoice or delivery document that accompanies liquor sold through an Internet site. We have no problems with any of those amendments. As I have said, our only concern is that many of the issues must still be addressed through the regulatory process. If it is not as the principle and spirit of the legislation suggests, we will deal with that, probably through the Regulation Review Committee.
Whilst I have the opportunity to speak about liquor I should like to comment on last night's Australian Hotels Association [AHA] awards presentation. It was a great evening and it was pleasing to see country hotels win some awards. In particular, Finnians Tavern at Port Macquarie won an award for best bistro and also received a commendation. Bevan Douglas' hotel and the Family Hotel at Tamworth won special awards. Both Bevan Douglas and Terry Shephard from those country hotels are longstanding members of the industry and I was pleased that they received recognition from the industry last night.
Finally, every hotelier is waiting for the gaming bill to be introduced, and I urge the Government to bring it on. There has been six months of media speculation and all sorts of industry consultation, but we are waiting for that legislation to be introduced in the Parliament. It is now almost the end of the year, and the Government cannot argue that it should introduce and ram the legislation through in the last week. The Government has had plenty of time to deal with it, if it is not introduced soon we will not deal with it until next year.
Mr FACE (Charlestown—Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [5.00 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Port Macquarie for his contribution. In relation to his last point, the bill will not be rammed through this Parliament. The drafting of the bill has taken longer than I expected. I must say that the pain that we are going through with everybody wanting to have another say is becoming tiresome. As far as the introduction of the legislation is concerned I agree with the honourable member for Port Macquarie—the sooner the better. I assure him that the bill will be introduced in time for it to be properly debated. In defence, the Government has had an opportunity to knock off some of the rough edges of this comprehensive legislation.
I agree with the honourable member for Port Macquarie in relation to the AHA awards last night. I congratulate the AHA on showcasing itself at a time when it is important for regional and country areas to get their share of the tourism dollar following the events of 11 September. As the Government announced yesterday, its program is to promote country and regional tourism. It is interesting to note that on a pro rata basis country and regional New South Wales—especially the Hunter—did very well last night. That shows the faith of the Government and the Parliament in extending gaming to hotels, which are working the way they should be working in relation to liquor, food and the supply of accommodation. The Duke of Wellington hotel at New Lambton won numerous awards. It is evidence of a suburban hotel, built probably 40 or 45 years ago, which was down at the heel but has become a very good business, providing food and family entertainment.
The new controls applying to undesirable liquor promotions will be subject to administrative guidelines approved by the Minister responsible for the liquor laws. Those guidelines will cover the making of orders by the Director of Liquor and Gaming in relation to liquor promotions, and the promotion of liquor generally. The guidelines will be developed in consultation with relevant stakeholders, including Government agencies and the liquor industry. The industry will certainly have an opportunity to provide input into the guidelines before they are finalised. I do not see any benefit in not having the industry involved, otherwise there is a chance that they will not work properly. The guidelines will cover issues such as specific types of promotions that may be considered undesirable, the procedures to be followed when the Director of Liquor and Gaming issues a direction, and the procedure for dealing with complaints and concerns raised by the industry and the public.
That falls into line with what I placed before the House today in relation to an aerosol product that has come onto the market. A few mavericks will try to test the law. After the Liquor Industry Consultative Council meets tomorrow not only will we have provisions to ban the product, but I will have a procedure to develop guidelines for undesirable promotion of certain products. Recently I gave a good example of someone who bought sausages in a Woolworths supermarket in my electorate and got a can of a mixer drink when they took the tag along to the nearby bottle shop.
In relation to the sale of liquor on vessels whilst they are berthed, the Government intends to prescribe a handful of wharves only—such as King Street wharf, Circular Quay and possibly some nearby wharves. Those wharves are already designed for passengers to board cruise vessels. I make it quite clear that there will not be a whole raft of prescribed wharves; the Government will certainly not prescribe every wharf in Sydney Harbour or New South Wales. The wharves will be prescribed only after consultation with relevant stakeholders. It is clearly an important issue in that it will impact on the surrounding neighbourhood and the environment of a vessel that sells liquor while berthed at a particular wharf.
The amendment regarding the supply of liquor to hospitals and nursing homes follows representations on behalf of nursing homes, and a recommendation from the Liquor Administration Board. The board pointed out that liquor is already being supplied, without a licence, to patients in some hospitals, usually as an accompaniment to their meal. That potentially exposes the hospital staff and the directors to legal action for breach of liquor laws. A similar situation exists in nursing homes, where alcoholic drinks are provided to residents in a responsible manner, and there is uncertainty as to whether it is legal.
I used to visit my aunt, my father's sister, who lived at Dalmeny, on the South Coast. Management of the home at which she resided was uncertain about whether it could legally provide liquor to the residents. My aunt had always enjoyed a drink with her husband at the local bowling club. In her twilight years she had to consume alcohol in her room because of the uncertainty of the liquor laws. I am not critical of the Illawarra nursing home, which tried to be responsible. She was happy at that home until she passed away.
My mother's sister spent her final days at Maclean Hospital in Inverell, where the same uncertainty applied. My cousins—her daughter and son—used to take her a bottle of whisky, and there was some doubt about whether it was legal for them to pour it into a glass. Towards the end of her life, although she could feed herself, she was not capable of pouring it into a glass. The circumstances with regard to my Aunt Nellie and Aunt Ella made me realise the stupidity of the situation. My cousin at Inverell told me that he thought he may have been breaking the law, and it has taken me some years to rectify the situation. This, clearly, was a position that had to be rectified.
Rather than require hospitals and nursing homes to expend their scarce resources on obtaining and paying for a liquor licence, the Government and I felt that it was better to provide a limited exemption from the liquor laws for hospital patients and residents of nursing homes. In this way, patients and residents who are unable to care for themselves can expect to be able to have a drink in the same way that we all do in our own homes. That was a point made by the honourable member for Port Macquarie. It is important to note that the amendment does not allow hospitals and nursing homes to set up licensed cafes. At the time there was concern that the State might be forcing some liquor provisions upon institutions that do not believe in the consumption of alcohol. Firstly, these are not mandatory provisions. Secondly, in no way, shape or form could such institutions be regarded as cafes licensed to sell liquor or liquor products to persons who are not residents or patients of those institutions. Any hospital or nursing home that wishes to do so will apply for a liquor licence in the usual manner.
One might ask whether the hospital and nursing home sector has been consulted. In response to such a query I can advise that the Government has been in contact with certain representatives who have raised concerns about the legal situation to which I have already alluded, that is, with regard to the provision of liquor in hospitals and nursing homes. It is also important to note that the amendments do not require hospitals and nursing homes to provide any liquor. It is merely an option open to them if they so desire. The final decision as to whether or not a hospital and nursing home makes use of this new benefit will be a matter for management. The Government expects that a number of institutions will want to make use of this benefit.
New South Wales Health was consulted during the Government's consideration of these proposals. New South Wales Health understandably was concerned to ensure that hospitals and nursing homes act responsibly in the provision of liquor to patients and residents. Ultimately, it is a matter for New South Wales Health and the management of institutions to ensure that appropriate policies and procedures are in place. In conclusion, I point out that these measures represent a far better system than at presently operates, because under the present system the provision of liquor to hospitals and nursing homes is potentially illegal. I do not think that anyone would expect medical or nursing staff or nurses aides to be subject to fines when liquor is provided to patients and residents. As I said recently, a few years ago it was illegal to have footy competitions, which meant that many people were breaking the law. Over a period of time I have attempted to bring some realism to the law.
In regard to the caterer's licence, I have been asked why the provision is to be extended to three years. In relation to the extension of the moratorium on caterers who obtained their licences before the 1999 amendments to the Liquor Act, the Government is progressing this extension because of concerns raised by some long-term caterers who obtained their liquor licences prior to the 1999 amendments. They have advised the Government that they would be put to considerable trouble and expense if they were required to comply with the principal business requirements introduced as part of those amendments. A good example of that lies in my visit to Armidale recently. The honourable member for Northern Tablelands is a former warden of the union at the University of New England. His successor as warden of the union of the university, which operates a caterer's licence for function operations, noted that the union would have some difficulty complying with the principal business requirements at this time.
The proposed three-year extension will provide those affected caterers with some breathing space before they are required to make significant changes to their business operations. Considerable expense would have been involved in that case. The measure will apply to fewer than 30 caterers throughout New South Wales. These are people who have been involved in this business for a long time. It is not as if we are asking a whole group of people who are new to the industry to comply with these requirements. In the meantime, the Government is conducting a National Competition Policy review of liquor laws. It is expected that the review will look at the caterer's licence principal business issue well before the proposed three-year extension expires.
I can advise that the National Competition Policy review is under way and that various stakeholders have made submissions to the review. The review process was made public through notices in the press and through advice provided to a range of stakeholders by the Department of Gaming and Racing. The Government is currently preparing a discussion paper outlining various issues arising from the consultation process that has already been undertaken. It is expected that the discussion paper will be completed shortly and that it will provide some opportunity for further input to the review. The date for completion of all National Competition Policy reviews has been set at 30 June 2002, and the Government is working to ensure that the review of the liquor laws complies with that timetable. It is fair for those caterers who were well aware of the liquor laws when they obtained their licences and established their businesses in accordance with it. This matter will be rectified for them at a later date. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.