The concept of 'public interest' has become relevant to liquor licensing applications for the grant of a new liquor licence not only in Queensland (since 2001), but also in Western Australia as a result of changes to the Liquor Control Act (WA) (WA Act) which came into force during 2006. It is now necessary for certain applicants in both states to satisfy the licensing authority that it is in the public interest for the application to be granted.
For the purpose of satisfying the licensing authorities that the grant of the application is in public interest, applicants in each state are required to provide a range of information which addresses various matters relevant to the application. This information is to be included in submissions lodged with the application and are known in both states as "Public Interest Assessment" (PIA) submissions.
Under changes to the Queensland Liquor Act 1992, PIAs will be replaced by Community Impact Statements from 1 January 2009. Community Impact Statements are currently required for gaming machine licence applications and require a similar level of detail to a Full PIA. The information below is based on the current requirements. All applications lodged before 1 January 2009 will be assessed under the current requirements, so applications for new licences should be prepared and lodged as soon as possible if you wish to have the application assessed for the changes commence.
The existing Queensland legislation makes a distinction between a "Standard PIA" and a "Full PIA". The PIA is required to be provided to the licensing authority depending on the type of application that is being made.
Every applicant for a licence (other than a club licence), a detached bottle shop or an extended hours permit on a regular basis, is required to submit at least a Standard PIA.
A Standard PIA must address a number of issues, including the following:
- the number and condition of licensed premises already existing in the locality;
- the distribution of licensed premises already existing throughout the locality;
- the extent and quality of services provided by the licensed premises in the locality;
- the nature and type of facilities to be provided and in particular any facilities that distinguish the venue from others in the area;
- the positive and negative impacts on the local community as a whole and residents and business within 200 metres of the venue;
- details of any sensitive facilities within 200 metres of the
site, such as:
- hostels for people with mental illness;
- short term accommodation or refuges;
- educational institutions; and
- premises used by welfare groups for treatment of alcoholism,
substance abuse or gambling problems.
A Full PIA is required for applications for general licences, on-premises (cabaret) licences, any other category where entertainment is to be provided after 8 p.m. where the noise level generated will exceed 90dBA, and extended hours permits for trading on a regular basis after 2 a.m. The Chief Executive of Liquor Licensing in Queensland may also request a Full PIA in other circumstances.
A Full PIA must contain:
- a delineation of the Local Community Area (LCA);
- a social profile of the LCA;
- an assessment of community risk;
- the likely health and social impacts if the application was granted (both positive and negative);
- consultation with residents and businesses within 200 metres of the site;
- consultation via a survey with residents in the LCA (a minimum of 100 local residents if in Brisbane and 50 in other areas);
- consultation with a minimum of 8 key advisers;
Further information in relation to the requirements of PIA submissions and general liquor licensing in Queensland is available at www.olgr.qld.gov.au/. Reference should be made to the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing's Guideline 38, in particular, when preparing PIA submissions.
The type of information required for a Community Impact Statement as listed in the amendments to the Liquor Act (for example, demographic information and likely social and health impacts on the community) are similar to what is required for a PIA. However, the regulations and guidelines that will accompany the changes to the Liquor Act have not yet been released. It is not known therefore whether the depth of information required will be significant – the devil will be in the detail, and will not be known until the regulations and guidelines are released.
The WA Act does not distinguish between different types of PIA submissions.
In WA, PIA submissions must be lodged as part of an application for the grant or removal of a licence, some prescribed types of applications (including some types of extended trading permits) and any other application that the Director of Liquor Licensing deems appropriate.
In considering whether the approval of the application is in the public interest, the licensing authority will take into account both the primary objects and the secondary objects of the WA Act.
The primary objects of the WA Act are:
- to regulate the sale, supply and consumption of liquor;
- to minimise harm or ill-health caused to people, or any group of people, due to the use of liquor; and
- to cater for the requirements of consumers for liquor and related services, with regard to the proper development of the liquor industry, the tourism industry and other hospitality industries in the State.
The secondary objects of the WA Act are:
- to facilitate the use and development of licensed facilities, including their use and development for the performance of live original music, reflecting the diversity of the requirements of consumers in the State; and
- to provide adequate controls over, and over the persons directly or indirectly involved in, the sale, disposal and consumption of liquor; and
- to provide a flexible system, with as little formality or technicality as may be practicable, for the administration of this Act.
The content of the PIA submissions will need to address the following matters in seeking to satisfy the licensing authority that the grant of the application is in the public interest:
- the harm or ill-health that might be caused to people, or any group of people, due to the use of liquor. Apart from identifying these issues, the PIA submissions should outline how the applicant intends to address any harm or ill-health that may be caused if the application is successful including any steps or measures in place, or which will be introduced, to minimise any harm or ill health which may be caused;
- the impact on the amenity of the locality in which the licensed
premises, or proposed licensed premises are, or are to be,
situated. The PIA submissions may be required to address a variety
of matters including amongst others:
- an assessment or profile of the locality, including the demographics of the locality;
- whether the applicant has consulted with the local government about the premises and their impact on the amenity;
- the location of all other licensed premises in the locality and the nature of existing services provided by other licensed premises within the locality;
- the nature and type of facilities to be provided at the premises, and particularly whether they are unique or distinguishable from other premises in the locality;
- the positive and negative amenity issues in respect of the premises which are relevant to the application; and
- whether there are any other positive recreational, cultural,
employment or tourism benefits to the community;
- whether offence, annoyance, disturbance or inconvenience might be caused to people who reside or work in the vicinity of the licensed premises or proposed licensed premises. In addition to identifying these issues, the PIA submissions should address what measures are, or will be in place, to minimise any potential offence, annoyance, disturbance or inconvenience. The applicant may also be required to provide a business management plan containing details of the strategies to be implemented which will address high risk factors and potential harms which may be caused; and
- any other prescribed matter.
The level of detail to be included in PIA submissions will depend on the type of application and the complexity of the public interest issues associated with that application. The licensing authority may also request additional information if it considers that the detail provided by an applicant in their PIA submissions is insufficient.
As with Queensland requirements, 'locality' means the area most likely to be affected by the grant of the application and can range from a 2 to 200 kilometre radius depending on the location of the licensed premises and the type of licence sought.
Further information in relation to the requirements of PIA submissions and general liquor licensing in Western Australia is available at www.rgl.wa.gov.au/. Reference should be made to the relevant policies when preparing PIA submissions.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.