National dumps plan for RTD ban
Is it a good idea to u-turn on plans for a ban on RTD liquor?
The Government is rejecting last- minute proposals to tighten liquor reforms and has dumped its own plans for a ban on high-alcohol ready-mixed drinks.
Labour yesterday tabled 10 separate amendments to the Alcohol Reform Bill, including a proposal to ban liquor sales from off-licences after 8pm.
Government officials quickly told the Government to reject all the Opposition proposals and Justice Minister Judith Collins responded with her own amendments diluting some aspects of the bill.
"Frankly, I think we can stop treating everyone as though they're fools and can't make decisions for themselves," she said. "It was a bit too much taking away people's responsibility. About 80 per cent of New Zealanders drink extremely responsibly."
Reforms first proposed by Ms Collins' predecessor, Simon Power, included a ban on ready-to-drink (RTD) offerings with 5 per cent alcohol or more from off- licences.
Ms Collins said in May that she would move to a ban on 6 per cent RTDs, but yesterday backed away from that.
Instead, the bill would include regulatory powers for the government to restrict RTD sales in the future. Until the powers are exercised, however, the industry will be left to draw up and abide by its own code for RTD sales.
A ban would have prompted evasion tactics by the industry and risked pushing the industry overseas, Ms Collins said.
"I'm not telling them what to put in their code because I've told them to come up with their very best shot at it because otherwise there is the regulation-making power.
"That's essentially the nuclear option sitting there for if the industry starts to not follow its code . . . The last thing we would want to do is completely destroy an industry in New Zealand and, in fact, encourage one in Australia instead."
The voluntary code was being developed by the industry and would not take effect until the bill became law.
Other changes to the bill ease the previously proposed licensing requirements for low-risk premises such as "cellar doors" and reinstate the right of businesses to offer free goods and services on licensed premises when alcohol is purchased.
Alcohol displays and advertising in supermarkets would have to be in a single non-prominent area, away from the entrance or checkouts.
However, Justice Ministry advice on Labour and Green Party proposals to further toughen the bill, obtained by The Dominion Post, rejected all of the 17 proposals tabled so far.
Labour MP Andrew Little suggested mandatory trading hours for off-licence sales of 10am to 8pm, but officials said that was not necessary because the bill already allowed local communities to set their own trading-hour restrictions.
Another proposal for restrictions on alcohol advertising found some favour with officials, who admitted there was "strong public support for a complete ban", but said there was "little research regarding effectiveness".
Officials remained behind the proposal for a split alcohol-purchase age of 18 for off-licences and 20 for on-licences.
The purchase-age vote had been set down for this week, but was delayed by slower than expected legislative progress in Parliament and is not expected until next week.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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