Liquor companies bombarded minister

Liquor companies lobbied the Government furiously in the weeks before a reform package was announced.

They pressed Justice Minister Simon Power with claims he was being served up biased and flawed recommendations by the Law Commission.

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show a procession of companies and industry groups wrote directly to Mr Power, but he insists they had no influence over his recommendations to the Cabinet.

On Monday, Mr Power announced changes that will affect bar hours, off-licence trading, liquor advertising and the purchase age. He declared a moratorium on meeting advocates on either side of the debate after the Law Commission tabled its report on alcohol law reform in April.

But that did not stop more than 150 people writing with concerns about liquor and a further six industry groups or companies sending their views.

On May 10, Hospitality Association chief executive Bruce Robertson wrote to Mr Power expressing "real concerns with the interpretation of some of the data ... and inconsistencies with the [Law] Commission's advocacy".

The Law Commission seemed to have chosen data which supported the advocacy of the public health sector, he wrote. Then, on June 14, Mr Robertson wrote to Mr Power with a full commentary on 146 of the Law Commission's 153 recommendations.

Others who wrote included Foodstuffs executive manager Melissa Hodd, Independent Liquor and the Distilled Spirits Association's chief executive.

Mr Power said he had made his own decisions. A spokesman said Mr Power read the letters and sent "a form" response.