NEW NSW LIQUOR REG’S TO BRING DRUG PERSPECTIVE

In News & Releases by Clyde Mooney

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NSW Liquor & Gaming has heralded a new era in venue analysis with the new Liquor Regulation 2018 changes including compulsory drug reporting.

Amongst a raft of tweaks in the new Liquor Regulation 2018, which took effect 1 September, the regulator has mandated that any venue required to maintain an incident register will also need to ensure they record incidents involving “possession or use on the premises of any substance suspected of being a prohibited plant or drug”.

The new requirement will allow government to develop a better picture of how drugs are influencing behaviour in and around licensed premises.

Historically, incidents that may involve drugs at premises are bundled into alcohol-fuelled violence statistics. Industry has previously called for automatic drug testing in assaults, but refusal to try such a program has seen licensed premises and drink continue to be blamed.

The new regulation will be yet another for the Kings Cross precinct, although there have been some concessions made for operators there, including the discontinuing of the former Approved Managers system, where pubs had to pay authorities $350 for a compulsory application process for any new manager.

The former requirement to report hourly alcohol sales from 8pm every day has also been ditched; after years of operators breaking down POS data to millilitre figures hour by hour under threat of a Strike, $11,000 fine or 12 months’ prison, government has determined the masses of data collected “has not proved useful from a compliance or policy perspective”.

KX pubs also no longer have to clear the footpath of litter (also previously worth a Strike), and will now get by with a refresher RSA course, rather than having to sit the whole course each time.

But the high-risk licence premiums remain, as does the requirement to operate ID scanners from 9pm every night, and L&G stipulates that from 2020 CCTV will need to capture 10 frames per second, up from six, which may require new cameras and storage systems for the volumes of additional data.

Laws have also changed concerning RSA marshals, who must now hold a current RSA competency card – bringing the rest of the state in line with the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross.

After years of blurred lines between data on illicit drugs and alcohol in public places, a coal-face source of data collection could go a long way to reducing the demonization of businesses based in the sale of alcohol, particularly as volumes show Australians’ alcohol consumption continues to fall.

However, no data collection is useful unless available to decision-makers, meaning the industry’s glacial shift toward digital incident reporting just edged forward slightly.

“To tackle the intoxicated violence problem in the CBD, they can’t just focus on alcohol, they’ve got to focus on drugs and alcohol,” offers Jason Thomas, CEO of digital incident software company AusComply, which has seen 3,559 drug-related incidents recorded at client venues around the country in the past 12 months.

“We are happy for it to happen,” he says of the new regulation. “For one, because our system already allows it, but also we are excited it looks like the government is finally starting to separate the drug issues from the alcohol issues.

“But the data needs to be used for the right reasons, to quantify the problem; if that’s why they’re doing it, we are all for it. It shouldn’t be used as an indication of a drug problem at a venue, but seen as a greater drug problem across society culturally, so relevant action can be taken and perhaps the demonising of alcohol be somewhat eased.”

Liquor Regulation 2018 supersedes the Liquor Regulation 2008, which expired 1 September. Both prescribed matters necessary for the effective operation of the Liquor Act 2007.

The announcement followed a public consultation process, the most significant outcome being proposed changes to Community Impact Statement (CIS) and advertising requirements for licence applications. These will be further refined before related Regulation amendments are finalised.