The Evolution of NSW Liquor Laws and Responsible Service of Alcohol – Part II

Responsible Service of AlcoholThis blog continues a discussion on the evolution of liquor laws and RSA in NSW.

Perhaps the most significant changes occurred in 1996 when both Acts were changed to introduce “harm minimisation” (i.e. minimising the harm associated with the misuse and abuse of liquor) as a primary object of both Acts. The move to harm minimisation approach in the liquor laws followed increasing concern about the extent of alcohol-related crime and violence – particularly in and around licensed venues.

In 2008, new liquor laws commenced, further strengthening harm minimisation controls over the way liquor is sold and consumed and consolidated the regulation of liquor in all premises, including registered clubs, into one Act – the Liquor Act 2007.

In 2012, a new disciplinary scheme, known as the ‘Three Strikes’ scheme, commenced that enables strikes to be imposed when a licensee or approved manager is convicted of one of a range of the most serious offences under the Liquor Act 2007.

The Act places obligations on the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, the Director General, Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services, the Commissioner of Police, licensees, and others in regard to responsible practices in the sale, supply, service and promotion of liquor, and the prevention of activities that encourage misuse or abuse of alcohol.

These laws also place greater responsibility on patrons to drink responsibly to minimise alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour in and around licensed venues.

The harm minimisation approach – with emphasis on responsible service and consumption of alcohol, and the responsible operation of licensed venues – is justified on public health and safety grounds. When considering reforms to liquor licensing, a balance must be struck between achieving a fairer, simpler regulatory system and consideration of the impact of irresponsible liquor consumption can have on local communities, road safety and public health.

The protection of local amenity and the probity of industry participants have been identified as important considerations associated with the sale and supply of liquor. For example, alcohol-related nuisance, violence, crime and noise disturbances could erode the quality of life for people living or working in the vicinity of venues serving alcohol.

The liquor laws therefore seek to protect the interests of local communities by protecting and improving local amenity. As a result, the laws include various public interest provisions that allow local communities, local councils, police and other stakeholders to have a say about the conduct of licensed venues.

Today, RSA training is mandatory in NSW for everyone involved in the sale and supply of liquor to the public. This includes licensees, club secretaries, serving staff and security staff working at licensed venues. There are no exemptions from undertaking the course.

This mandatory training regime also includes volunteers, promotional staff and contract employees as well as directors of registered clubs who have liquor service responsibilities.

Sanctions apply to licensees and staff in cases where RSA training has not been undertaken.