Liquor bill a 'diversion'

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 08:56 02/05/2012
KEVIN HAGUE
KEVIN STENT/SST
KEVIN HAGUE: "The Government needed something to be talking about and diverting attention away from the real issues of the day."

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The Greens are accusing a "beleaguered" Government of using alcohol reforms to divert attention away from controversies such as the John Banks donation affair.

Justice Minister Judith Collins yesterday announced minor changes would be made to alcohol reform legislation which will return to Parliament next month.

Under the changes, the sale of ready-to-drink alcohol beverages (RTDs) will be restricted, and dairies and small convenience shops will be banned from selling alcohol.

Greens health spokesman Kevin Hague said the Government would normally consult opposition parties on changes to legislation "where numbers are tight" and suggested they had been brought forward.

"The Government needed something to be talking about and diverting attention away from the real issues of the day.

"Ordinarily I don't think the Government would have bothered to announce these changes, they certainly wouldn't have called a media conference."

The Government was "beleaguered" over major issues such as the investigations into ACC's privacy breach, concern about its deal with Sky City to build a national convention centre in return for more pokie machines, and the police investigation into whether John Banks knew donations declared as anonymous had come from the Auckland casino and German billionaire Kim Dotcom.

The Government's announcement on Monday about measures to stop boat people was a similar diversion, Hague said.

"For goodness sake, where is there a record of a problem of boats arriving in New Zealand that we have to deal with?

"There is none. It is entirely a smoke screen, and this is too."

The Government had a "once in a generation" opportunity to undertake a major overhaul of alcohol laws that the Law Commission had recommended and New Zealand needed to change its drinking culture, he said.

"The initial Bill didn't do that and some people probably thought because of the time they were taking to progress it through the House, that potentially there were other changes they were making to make it better."

There was "major disappointment" in yesterday's announcement.

"It doesn't make the major impact it needs to on price, hours and availability, which are the things that make the big difference."

The weak reform was a sop to the liquor industry which had been pushing for a split purchasing age, Hague said.

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