Dairies, supermarkets hit by alcohol bill

19:16, Aug 25 2011

A bill banning dairies from selling liquor and forcing supermarkets to hide it away is "devoid of any substantial measures" and was more like a "non-reform bill", critics say.

The select committee that considered the Alcohol Reform Bill for close to 100 hours finally reported its findings last night, and Justice Minister Simon Power immediately announced that the Government would accept all 130 of its suggested changes.

The committee did not suggest changes to drink-driving levels or to the proposed split purchase age, which would allow 18-year-olds to drink in a bar but not to buy from an off-licence until they are 20.

The updated bill will get a second reading before Parliament rises for the November election but it will almost certainly have to wait until next year before passing into law.

The suggested changes include forcing unlicensed police, fire and Defence Force bars to implement "internal codes of practice", with rules bringing them more into line with licensed venues, and changing the definition of "grocery stores" to tighten up on the stores allowed to sell liquor.

But the most controversial of the changes is likely to be the tougher rules on sales at supermarkets.

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"Currently alcohol is being sold as if it's a convenience item, next to milk and other household products," Alcohol Advisory Council chief executive Gerard Vaughan said.

"It is being treated as an ordinary commodity, despite what we know about the harms it can cause."

Both Labour and the Greens expressed misgivings last night about the amended bill, saying the final decisions did not go far enough.

"Basic steps such as lowering the legal blood alcohol level have been missed," Labour's Charles Chauvel said.

Green MP Sue Kedgley said the bill would still not stop supermarkets from the "predatory practice" of selling alcohol at "extraordinarily cheap prices" to lure customers, especially young people.

Alcohol Action spokesman Professor Doug Sellman said the updated bill continued to "dither and tinker" with liquor laws.

THE CHANGES

After almost 9000 submissions on the Alcohol Reform Bill, the justice and electoral select committee recommended 130 changes, which the Government has agreed to implement. The main changes will:

Explicitly prohibit convenience stores from selling alcohol

Restrict supermarkets and grocery stores to displaying alcohol and advertising in one, non-prominent, area of the store

Change the definition of a grocery store to shops, including dairies, that sell "a wide range" of food and where the principal business is the sale of food

Require those who sell alcohol to provide price and sales data to help

the Government decide if a minimum price is necessary. This will be imposed only if the industry and retailers fail to give this

Require police and defence bars, and fire service canteens, which do not need licences, to implement codes of practice that would include not selling alcohol to intoxicated people and providing free water

Allow bars or restaurants where

the principal business is alcohol to open from 6am to serve breakfast, as long as alcohol isn't licensed when trading hours start

Allow exceptions to national maximum trading hours (8am-4am) for events such as live northern hemisphere sporting fixtures and champagne breakfasts.

Introduce a minimum age of 20 to obtain a manager's certificate

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