Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm has voiced his support for the sale of packaged alcohol in the convenience sector, following last week’s release of an Interim report into Red Tape legislation.
Speaking at a media event on 31 March, Senator David Leyonhjelm outlined the Red Tape Committee’s recommendations for the taxation, supply and sales of alcohol. One of the recommendations is to allow packaged alcohol to be sold in convenience stores, petrol stations and supermarkets.
The media event took place in Sydney pub Grasshopper Eating House and Bar, where Senator Leyonhjelm said alcohol had history of temperance and disapproval.
“We have many, many legacies of that kind of thinking that don’t bear any relation to the genuine risks involved and we need to change the way we regulate the industry based on actual risk and not disapproval,” he said.
Responding directly to questions regarding how the reduction in red tape would benefit the convenience sector, the Senator told C&I Week it would be an additional source of business.
“A broader range of products for consumers; my view is that it’s not the government’s business to tell consumers you can only buy something from a bottle shop. Unless they’re selling alcohol to children, which is illegal and so, therefore, there’s a reason to not allow a particular type of business to trade, there’s no reason why they should try to play favourites.
“The hotel association hate that idea; they want to keep a monopoly on it, but ultimately it’s their business to outcompete the other potential retailers of alcohol. I can’t see why the government needs to get involved in an issue like that.
“In many countries in the world, convenience stores sell alcohol and there’s no reason why that can’t occur in Australia.”
The senator spoke of a personal distaste of fees and taxes, when discussing a licence and licencing fee for convenience stores to be able to sell alcohol.
“There probably is an argument for a licence and a licence fee for selling alcohol because if they are totally irresponsible then you’ve got something, a leaver, you can say well we’re going to take the licence fee away from you so don’t sell alcohol to children or don’t sell alcohol to people who are totally drunk and misbehaving in public.”
Senator Leyonhjelm was also questioned as to whether there would be any restrictions regarding the sale of alcohol in the convenience sector, or any separation of alcohol from other goods on sale.
“It makes no sense at all,” he said.
“You go to Canberra and they don’t have that rule, the grog is sitting there next to the fruit and veggies and some of its cold, what’s the difference? Are Canberra people more sober than NSW people? That’s irrational.”
“They’re based on the assumption that if you make it too available, people will misuse it. How [do] those sort of restrictions make it less likely that you’re going to drink too much? You’re going to go and buy a case of wine from a bottle shop and get drunk as a skunk and make an idiot of yourself if that’s your thing.”
The Australian Hotels Association CEO Stephen Ferguson said that it agreed with some aspects of the report, but that many of the issues were state/territory concerns.
The final Red Tape report will be released later on in the year and the full interim report can be found on the Parliament of Australia Website.