Today's long awaited Bill to reform Victoria's Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 (Liquor Act) will fail to reduce family violence and alcohol-related harms. This is despite Victoria's Royal Commission into Family Violence recommending that the review of the Act focus on these issues and that the Government consult with family violence advocates and community organisations over five years ago.
The Bill will amend the Liquor Act to include a definition of harm that refers to family violence. However, merely adding these words will not do enough to prevent alcohol-fuelled family violence and other harms.
Alcohol Change Vic spokesperson and CEO of the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Dr Erin Lalor, said it was disappointing that these reforms, following the first review of the Liquor Act in more than two decades, will fail to keep Victorian children and families safe.
“We know that alcohol contributes to more frequent and severe family violence by perpetrators, with more than a quarter of family violence incidents reported to police in Victoria involving alcohol,” said Dr Lalor. “Concerningly, this Bill does not include adequate measures to prevent family violence and other alcohol-related harms in the community.”
Alcohol Change Vic has been calling on the Government to introduce measures to curb the dramatic proliferation of alcohol supply in the state, which now has nearly 24,000 liquor licences. Since the Liquor Act was last reviewed in 1997, Victorian communities have been saturated with new alcohol businesses, including big-box stores pushing sales of cheap alcohol, and delivery businesses supplying alcohol to people’s homes in as little as 10 minutes.
Further, during the first COVID-19 outbreak, alcohol retail turnover in Victoria soared by 33 per cent from $2.6 billion in 2019 to $3.4 billion in 2020, i and the rate of family violence incidents attended by police went up by 9 per cent. ii
Alcohol Change Vic spokesperson, Senior Social Justice Advocate, Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Mark Zirnsak, said the Bill comes at a time when more alcohol then ever is being supplied into Victorian homes and more families are experiencing violence.
“This Bill is a missed opportunity to introduce urgently-needed changes to Victorian liquor laws,” said Mr Zirnsak. “Although the Bill includes some measures to ensure alcohol delivery companies meet basic standards, like prohibiting delivery of alcohol to a person who is already intoxicated, the Bill does not do enough to prevent harm from these companies. We are calling on the Government to introduce measures, such as a two hour delay between ordering alcohol and delivery, to help prevent the rapid supply of alcohol into people’s homes.”
"Rapid delivery businesses are enabling people to keep drinking at home late at night,” Mr Zirnsak said. “Inevitably these businesses drive high-risk drinking and result in serious harms, including fuelling family violence.”
Alcohol Change Vic will request an urgent meeting with the government to discuss ways to strengthen the Liquor Control Reform Amendment Bill, by:
- Introducing a delay of two hours for delivery of alcohol orders.
- Limiting alcohol deliveries to between 10am and 10pm.
- Ensure the age of people ordering alcohol online is verified, to prevent alcohol being supplied to children.
- Ensuring alcohol is delivered to the person who ordered it, on presentation of photo ID as proof of age and identity, in all cases.
- Limiting targeted online advertising by rapid alcohol delivery companies.
- Giving local communities a greater say in new liquor licences.
- Limiting new liquor licences in areas with high levels of alcohol-related harm.
- ENDS -
i. Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, 2021. ‘Australia records highest month in history for alcohol retail turnover.’ Available from: https://fare.org.au/australia-records-highest-month-in-history-for-alcohol-retailer-turnover-in-december/
ii. Crime Statistics Agency, 2020, Crime statistics, year ending 31 December 2020. Available from: https://www.crimestatistics.vic.gov.au/index.php/crime-statistics/latest-victorian-crime-data