Liquor Control Reforms Bill Introduced to Victorian Parliament

Tuesday 29 June 2021 @ 1.15 p.m. | Legal Research

On 22 June 2021, the Liquor Control Reform Amendment Bill 2021 (Vic) (‘the Bill’) was introduced in the Victorian Legislative Assembly by Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Melissa Horne (‘the Minister’).

The Bill was developed as a result of a 2016 review of the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 (Vic) (‘the LCR Act’). The Bill was specifically based on recommendations from the second half of the review. In explaining the aim of the Bill, the Minister said in her second reading speech that:

“It is vital that the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998, which governs the supply and consumption of liquor in Victoria, keeps pace with industry trends and modern regulatory practice. However, an appropriate balance must be struck with ensuring harm from the misuse and abuse of alcohol is minimised”.

Introducing a definition of 'harm' 

In her second reading speech, the Minister pointed out that although the purpose of the LCR Act is to minimise alcohol abuse-related harm, it does not actually contain a definition of harm. Therefore, the Bill proposes to introduce a definition. The definition would include family violence, as well as “other community level harms, including injury and property damage”.

The Minister noted that the inclusion of family violence into the definition of harm would reinforce the connection between family violence and alcohol-related harm, and its relevance to liquor regulation. Furthermore, she emphasised in her second reading speech that introducing a definition of harm would:

“provide greater clarity and certainty for the regulator, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation ['the VCGLR']”.

Changes to 'high-risk' licence applications 

The Bill seeks to provide for a more rigorous application process for licence applications that are considered to be of high-risk. Under the proposed amendments, the Minister in her second reading speech stated that:

“packaged liquor outlets with a floor space greater than 750 square metres [would] be considered high-risk applications ... [as these outlets] have been associated with an increase in liquor-related harm to local communities”.

Should an application be declared as 'high-risk', the applicant would have to go through a more comprehensive process to be approved. This would include consulting with the community and submitting a community impact statement. Additionally, the Bill proposes that any person would be able to object to a high-risk application “on the grounds of harm”.  

Advertising that is against the public interest 

The Bill also seeks to amend legislation regarding advertising and promotion. The Bill proposes to clarify that some advertising and promotions relating to liquor would be against the public interest, and therefore would be able to be banned. The Minister, in her second reading speech, explained further that the proposed amendments under the Bill seek to ban:

“advertising that promotes violence or … directly or indirectly appeals to minors or is of a sexual, degrading or sexist nature".

Reducing red tape 

The Bill proposes to reduce tape for the liquor and licenced hospitality industry by:

  • allowing liquor to be supplied on premises until 1am for restaurants and cafes;
  • broadening the rights to appeal for parties to appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, where they are dissatisfied with licensing decisions; and
  • allowing sake and mead producers to be eligible to apply for a producers' license.

Modernising the LCR Act: Online liquor supply 

The Bill acknowledges that the changing nature of the liquor industry includes changes in the way in which people order or receive their liquor.

The Bill seeks to introduce provisions relating to online liquor supply. The Minister , in her second reading speech said:

“These provisions will address the specific harm presented by the supply of liquor through online orders by prohibiting deliveries to persons who appear to be intoxicated, same day unattended deliveries, and unattended deliveries on any day if it is the customer’s first order ... It will require age verification procedures … in addition, it will require the display of the licence number and notices on any avenue through which liquor can be ordered”.

Amendments in response to COVID-19 

In recognising that the licenced hospitality industry was significantly affected by COVID-19, the Bill proposes to amend the LCR Act to account for COVID-19 and any future state of emergency situations. in her second reading speech, the Minister said:

“The Bill will amend the Act to allow support to be provided to licensees during a state of emergency by providing the Minister with a power to authorise licensees, who would otherwise not be able to, to supply packaged liquor”.

Ultimately, the Minister commented that, the Bill seeks to significantly amend the LCR Act, in order for the Victorian liquor and licenced hospitality industry to continue to:

“contribute to the Victorian economy in terms of both revenue and employment, whilst also promoting Victoria’s diverse and vibrant culture”.

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Liquor Control Reform Amendment Bill 2021 (Vic) and explanatory materials available from TimeBase's LawOne service. 

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