WA liquor reforms attacked as ‘costing jobs’

23 March, 2018 by Andy Young

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) has hit out at the State Government’s proposed restrictions on liquor outlets, saying they are anti-competitive, will costs jobs and that they have no evidence of health-related harm to support them.

The CCI’s move comes as Endeavour Drinks Group (EDG) has said it will shelve plans to invest $85m across more than 35 store developments in the state over the next 10 years.

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The State Government proposes restricting the floor space of new bottleshops in areas where there are already a number of liquor stores.

At the time, Giuseppe Minissale, the President of the Australian Liquor Stores Association (ALSA), told TheShout that he believed this was anti-competitive legislation and that he could not understand why the liquor industry and packaged liquor licensees were being singled out when other retail industries were free to open stores of any size. It’s a sentiment echoed by the CCI’s CEO Chris Rodwell.

“To date, no evidence has been provided by the State Government to support claims that restricting the size of a liquor outlet or the number of outlets in one location reduces alcohol-related harm in the community,” Rodwell said.

“You don’t see Harvey Norman or the Good Guys being told to restrict their store size. There’s no justifiable reason why the liquor retail industry should be singled out when smart regulation for the responsible service of alcohol is already in place.

“The retail sector is already facing extraordinary disruption, which for those with a model based around physical site presence, often requires that they can achieve greater scale.

“The State Government has claimed that they want to boost local jobs, but all they are doing is encouraging businesses that want to invest in our state and our communities to go east or online.”

EDG said that if the legislation goes ahead that it would shelve its investment plans, which the group said would have supported more than 600 ongoing jobs in the new store, hundreds more during construction and many more indirectly.

Shane Tremble, General Manager, Corporate Services EDG, said: “We appreciate the Government has a genuine desire to reduce the harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption, but blocking new liquor licences based on arbitrary size and location restrictions won’t help achieve this.

“Instead, it will only serve to reduce choice and convenience for responsible consumers and block investment in new store developments set to create more than 600 local jobs.

“The stakes for the Western Australian economy are significant, and it would be a mistake to rush reform through without proper scrutiny. We call on the Government to engage with industry so we can work together on the development of sensible evidence-based reform that benefits all Western Australians.”

Rodwell added: “This is investment in WA’s retail sector and our economy that the Government should be encouraging, not stifling.

“CCI has welcomed proposed reforms of WA’s liquor licencing laws that will give small businesses the flexibility they need to create jobs and meet consumer demand, and encourage Perth’s small bar scene to flourish.

“We also welcomed the Government’s announcement that Tourism Western Australia’s Chief Executive Officer will be given equal consideration to assessing liquor licensing applications.

“These are positive steps forward which will go a long way toward resetting WA’s tourism agenda which has been lagging behind other states.

“It is incomprehensible that at the same time the Government is progressing WA’s liquor reform agenda, the same Bill seeks to squash competition with no industry consultation.

“CCI encourages the State Government to show good faith by engaging with industry to develop reform measures that will benefit our state, not put us further behind.”