Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — It is a pleasure to rise to speak on the Gambling and Liquor Legislation Amendment (Reduction of Red Tape) Bill 2014. As other members have said, the gambling and liquor industries certainly need proper monitoring and regulation, so it is very important that we put in place measures to ensure that those who want to gamble are able to gamble and that we do not promote situations where gambling gets out of control. That is why this government established the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, of which I am a proud member, along with the member for Geelong and the member for Murray Valley. The coalition government has made some substantial changes in our first term of government.
This bill focuses on arrangements for exempting minor businesses and not‑for‑profit clubs from the need to apply for a liquor license in certain circumstances. This legislation will cut red tape to allow many organisations, such as those in the not‑for‑profit sector, including RSL clubs, to do what they do best — that is, service their membership and allow such small organisations and businesses to compete against larger operations. The Victorian government made a commitment back in 2010 to cut red tape by 25 per cent right across the board — through all agencies, through all areas and through all ministries and departments. This bill goes to the crux of that commitment. It is great to be able to talk about a series of amendments which will reduce red tape. These measures include removing the requirement for the minister to approve the conduct of a game of two‑up if it is conducted or approved by an RSL club, and they remove the requirement for certain clubs to purchase liquor from bottle shops instead of liquor wholesalers.
On the two‑up scenario, in my electorate is the Caulfield RSL club, and each year on Anzac Day it runs its own game of two‑up. This bill provides that, rather than the club having to wait for approval from the minister year in, year out, it can work through its membership body of the RSL to be able to operate such activities in a more nimble manner. That is what this sort of red‑tape‑reduction amendment is all about. Removing the requirement for clubs having to purchase liquor from bottle shops instead of wholesalers is very important because such a restriction is anticompetitive. Although, as many of us might know, in some instances bottle shops might be cheaper than wholesalers in the marketplace, clubs should have the opportunity to make that choice and to purchase as larger clubs and larger organisations do, whether it be from wholesalers or from bottle shops, and this bill will enable them to do so.
The bill also extends the exemption from requiring a liquor licence to businesses where the supply of liquor is incidental to their operations, including hospitals, nursing homes and retirement villages. The amendment will also reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses, such as hairdressers and butchers, who currently provide liquor under the exemptions. This bill is about introducing more competitive measures. For some businesses, providing alcohol to their customers is not a core part of their business. This bill provides such businesses — including retirement villages, hospitals and nursing homes — with the ability to serve their customers and clients a glass of wine or another alcoholic beverage as part of a meal. My father is in a nursing home in Caulfield. He is in Arcare. Each Friday at 5 o’clock is happy hour, when the residents are served a drink. It is a great way for the residents to sit down, socialise and have a drink before their meal. They really look forward to it as an activity they can all participate in. As the member for Dandenong said, such people are not going to get absolutely drunk over a period of 1 hour; they have a drink before having their meal. The same will apply for hairdressers and butchers, who currently do the same sort of thing. When you are having your hair cut, if you are offered a glass of champagne it is simply a nice gesture by the salon as part of its business, and this bill will exempt such a business from having to have a liquor licence.
Cruise ships, which are not based in Victoria specifically but operate in international waters, will also be exempt from that process. The current law applies in other states. What we are doing here is ensuring that we are competitive and that we are keeping up with what is happening in other jurisdictions, and that is why this is very important. The bill provides automatic extensions for trading hours for most liquor licensees serving on premises on New Year’s Eve. Again this allows the discretion of the regulator to extend trading hours. This is allowing that important flexibility for venues to operate as they do once a year during the New Year’s Eve period.
The last part of the bill looks at removing the requirement for under‑age and mixed‑age live music events at liquor licensed premises to be approved by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation. This means that young people will have the opportunity to experience live music in venues with great acoustics that are set up for live music, provided that alcohol is not being served. The current situation is that applications have to be made 45 days in advance — again, more red tape — and that needs to be approved by the regulator, and only then can somebody start to market this under‑age event. Quite often the opportunity is missed, particularly considering how young people operate — a good idea comes up when there is an opportunity to promote an event as part of a festival or something else that is happening — especially in rural and regional communities.
I had the opportunity to be involved in the Education and Training Committee inquiry into music education in schools. Throughout the regions we saw that the opportunity for live music events was being lost. Quite often the problem was that young people could not find a venue to hold these concerts in. As I said earlier, the flexibility to hold events at clubs that are perfectly set up with all the right equipment — providing alcohol is not being served at the venues — is important. It certainly goes to the crux of being able to promote live music and encourage young people to participate in the live music industry. I know providing that flexibility would give the FReeZA program, Blue Light and a number of other organisations that promote live music and try to get more people involved in it the opportunity to do so. It is a great experience for a young person to be able to do that.
This legislation is all about reducing red tape. It is very specific. I have the ability to stand here in this place and look at things that are not getting in the way of small business — people who are flat out trying to keep their doors open — and in particular not‑for‑profit organisations, which are often made up of elected volunteers. They have put their hands up to do something for the community. They spend most of their time filling in paperwork, complying with requirements, and have little time to do what they want to do — that is, to provide a service to the community. This enables them to do that. I am sure that many people within the community will say this is a step in the right direction. As I said, it is important to distinguish between the promotion of gambling, which is not what this is about, and the promotion of an equal footing. This will ensure that opportunities are there for all organisations — whether they be small enterprises or not‑for‑profit organisations — to participate on an equal footing. As I said earlier, most importantly, while ensuring that businesses comply with requirements, the bill reduces red tape and makes it easier and more appealing for those who want to participate to do so.
I commend the bill. I commend the minister on the work he has done in this area. It is a step in the right direction. It is not the first step; we have had a series of bills to reduce red tape and compliance costs in liquor and gaming regulation. It is important that we continue to do that, that we continue to make things easier and that we give small businesses an easier run so they can compete on the broader platform. I commend the bill to the house.