THE massive increase in liquor licence applications and approvals in the past decade was only ever likely to have a detrimental impact on community social wellbeing.
As access to alcohol has increased, so has underage consumption. Late-night options have diversified.
Even invoking stricter regulation regarding licensing was not going to be enough in the face of such a significant expansion of licence holders.
Yesterday, Victoria’s acting auditor general Peter Frost made exactly that point. He says the licensing regime must be overhauled to tackle alcohol-related harm.
His comments follow stunning new figures regarding liquor expansion in our state. There are now more than 19,000 active liquor licences in Victoria, more than double the number of 14 years ago.
“Although there has been a recent shift towards better consideration of public health and community interests, the existing regime is still weighed in favour of the liquor and hospitality industry,” Mr Frost said in a report tabled in parliament yesterday.
“The liquor licensing regime is not effectively minimising alcohol-related harm due to a lack of transparency of decision making, guidance on regulatory processes and engagement from local councils.”
In Ballarat, the situation hasn’t exactly followed the state trends. We now have fewer late-night venues than in the past. And the council recently knocked back an application for another takeaway liquor outlet in the CBD.
The understanding of the harm caused by providing greater access to liquor is not new to our city’s agenda.
But the situation is improving as measures to put more police on the beat, improve CCTV surveillance in trouble spots and increase focus on operators have been initiated.
Evidence would suggest that, while crime on our streets has fallen, alcohol remains a major factor in violence in the home.
The latest police stats confirm that domestic violence reporting rates are growing, unmasking the real extent of this major problem.
The auditor general yesterday put the focus on councils to become proactive in determining liquor licences but says they are being restricted by failings in the planning permit and application processes.
Ensuring the public can better engage in decisions on these applications would be a good start in ensuring the interest of these communities are best served.