South Australian Bill to Tighten Liquor Laws

Friday 30 November 2018 @ 2.35 p.m. | Legal Research | Trade & Commerce

On 5 September 2018, the South Australian Attorney-General (the Hon VA Chapman) introduced the Summary Offences (Liquor Offences) Amendment Bill 2018 (the Bill) into the SA Parliament. A version of the Bill that was introduced by the former Government lapsed before the last election - (the Summary Offences (Liquor Offences) Amendment Bill 2017). The former Bill had broader powers for the search of vehicles in specific areas which are not included in the current Bill.

A key area of reform in the Bill, indicated by the Attorney General in her second reading speech, is the creation of new offences and provision of additional investigative powers to reduce the incidence of unlawful sale of liquor and supply of liquor to vulnerable communities where the possession and consumption of liquor is generally prohibited - colloquially known as "grog running". The reforms are important according to the Attorney General, because the "grog running trade" often leads to alcohol-related harm, which can include serious violence, disorder, antisocial behaviour and resultant medical problems for many residents of vulnerable communities and "sadly, current strategies designed to combat grog running are falling short and, in some instances, a long way short of meeting the challenges".

The Bill's Proposed Amendments

Summary Offences Act 1953: New offences are to be included in the Act relating to the possession or transporting liquor for the purpose of sale, with a rebuttable presumption that possession above a prescribed quantity of liquor is for the purpose of sale. In such a case it would be the responsibility of the person found to be in possession to establish that it was not for sale, rather than the normal onus which would apply.

A further new offence to be included in the Act is with respect to a person who supplies liquor or possesses or transports liquor with intention to supply it to a person in a dry community. Here there would be a rebuttable presumption that, where an offender possessed or transported liquor in a designated area, the possession or sale was for the purpose of supply.

For the purposes of the reforms "designated areas" are to be determined by the minister and must not be more than 20 kilometers from the boundary of a "prescribed area". Prescribed areas are:

  • "dry areas" within the meaning of the Liquor Licensing Act 1997
  • trust land, within the meaning of the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 2013; or 
  • "the lands" within the meaning of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act 1981 or
  • ''the lands" within the meaning of the Maralinga Tjarutja Land Rights Act 1984.

Liquor Licensing Act 1997: New offences are to be included for the holder of a licence who sells liquor to a person reasonably believed to be an unlicensed seller intending to sell liquor and where the unlicensed seller then sells that liquor. Further, a new offence is to be included in the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 for an ". . . occupier or person in charge of premises" who knowingly permits the unlicensed sale of liquor on those premises.

Criminal Investigation (Covert Operations) Act 2009: The Act is to be amended so that "serious criminal behaviour", for the purposes of undercover operations approved under that Act, includes offences against section 29 of the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 - including two new offences under the Act discussed in the previous paragraph and the new offences proposed in sections 210B and 210C of the Summary Offences Act 1953, namely, possession, transportation of liquor for sale and the supply of liquor in certain areas.

Criminal Law (Clamping, Impounding and Forfeiture of Vehicles) Act 2007: The Act is to be amended so that a forfeiture offence, for the purposes of forfeiture and impounding of offenders' vehicles, includes the new offences in proposed sections 210B(1) and 210C(1) of the Summary Offences Act 1953.

Differences in this Bill to Previous Bill

In her second reading speech the Attorney General identifies two areas of difference between the current Bill and the Bill introduced by the previous government:

  • Firstly, the limit in relation to the designated area of land deferred to in the proposed section 210D(3) has been reduced from 100 kilometers to 20 kilometers - the 100-kilometer limit being seen as "excessive and unnecessary".
  • Secondly, some of the additional police powers proposed in the original Bill are removed from the current Bill. Particularly, police powers to stop a vehicle, detain and search a vehicle and direct a person to open any part of a vehicle without reasonable suspicion, also removed, is the power to seize and dispose of property suspected on reasonable grounds as intended to be used for the purpose of committing an offence or as affording evidence as to the commission of an offence.

Comments on the Bill.

Commenting on the Bill in a letter to the Attorney General, the Law Society of South Australia, supplementing its original submission on the former Bill, indicates to the Government that it "supports the objective of the Bill, which is to address the unlawful selling of liquor in prohibited areas, in particular, the issue of grog running." Further, the Law Society backs the changes to police powers and the changes in this respect, to the previous Bill saying:

"The Society is pleased to note that the Bill has removed the excessive police stop and search powers, which were proposed under the earlier version of Bill. As noted in the Society’s submission of August 2017, the proposed powers were contrary to the established and accepted practices in relation to the existing powers of search and seizure, as provided under section 68 of the Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA)."

The Law Society also mentions the changes from the former Bill with respect to "designated areas" saying:

"The Society further notes that the Bill has reduced the designated area of land, referred to in proposed section 21OD(3). The designated area has been reduced from 100 km to 20km. The Government may like to consider consulting with the Aboriginal Lands Trust communities affected with respect to their views on the proposed change."


Since its introduction the Bill has passed the Assembly and as at 15 November 2018 is being considered in the Council and has reached second reading stage. 

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Summary Offences (Liquor Offences) Amendment Bill 2018 and supporting materials, available from TimeBase's LawOne service

Summary Offences (Liquor Offences) Amendment Bill 2018 Letter - Law Society SA

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