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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 995

Senator REID(3.54) —The annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Gaming and Liquor Authority deals with a considerable amount of money. It deals with the Australian Capital Territory Totalizator Agency Board operations, it deals with the poker machines, their licensing and turnover tax, and it deals with liquor licensing. The report indicates that the Authority turned off $557,895 for the year by way of distributions to Consolidated Revenue.

I want to deal particularly with aspects of liquor licensing. Under the constitution of the Authority it issues, renews, suspends and cancels liquor licences, issues and cancels liquor permits, issues directions to licensees in various circumstances and calculates and collects liquor fees. The report deals more substantially with the numbers of permits issued and the numbers of licences, et cetera. It also goes on to deal with the question of under-age drinking. It is in the supervision of drinking that this becomes relevant. It indicates that during the year 161 minors were detected consuming liquor either on licensed premises or in a public place. It goes on to deal with that and the fact that Authority inspectors do what they can to supervise drinking, and in particular the activities of minors. I do not think any senators or members of this Parliament would disagree with the fact that it is an important area of its activity and that the increase in teenage drinking in particular is something that needs to be monitored.

Police also take an interest in this problem, but the number of police available in the Australian Capital Territory is extremely limited. It is not an activity that they have the resources to pursue, so it is the inspectors of the Authority who are important in monitoring under-age drinking. The inspectors have increased the amount of after hours work over the year, which explains the increase in the number of people who have been apprehended. The report goes on to say:

The Authority is greatly concerned at the extent of the problem-

that is, under-age drinking-

and for this reason a large portion of its inspectorial resources were devoted to this particular area of responsibility.

One might say: `Why does it not increase the amount of inspection that goes on if that is its view?' But unfortunately it is not in a position to do that. It has other areas where the inspectors have duties in relation to the transfer of licences and the inspection of premises. It indicates that the principal reason for the lack of a schedule, in one area in particular, was the inability to keep pace with one, if it did exist, because of the time demands placed on inspectors by under-age drinking. So we get back to the same problem of a lack of resources in the area of inspectors for general inspections and supervision of under-age drinking. The problem arises because the Authority gets its inspectors from the Department of Territories and that Department's budget is restricted. It has, as it says in this report, only `relatively meagre overtime funding'. We have learnt just recently that the Department has to cut back $1m in the next few months of this financial year to meet its budget in relation to funding and, of course, it is in the area of overtime that cuts will be made. That has to happen.

The matter I specifically want to highlight is that Consolidated Revenue received $5,440,958 from liquor licensing fees, representing an increase of 9.5 per cent over the previous year. Why then can there not be a specific allocation of funding to the Gaming and Liquor Authority to ensure that its responsibilities in the inspection of licensed premises where minors might be drinking are carried out properly and adequately? It seems quite absurd on the one hand to talk about the problem of under-age drinking, to gobble up nearly $5.5m worth of licence fees into Consolidated Revenue and on the other hand to restrict the allocation, through the Department of Territories, of the resources which can be allocated to inspectors to supervise this very important problem. We have our priorities quite wrong and this must be redressed.