Australia: Crisis Averted: 24 Hour Room Service Saved!

Last Updated: 3 November 2009

Article by Tom Young and Graham Murphy

Some of Queensland's special tourist facilities very nearly bid farewell to 24 hour room service and mini-bars, champagne breakfasts and early morning weddings!

On 4 August 2009 the State Parliament passed the Resorts and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2009 (Amending Act) as a measure to 'modernise the governance and development' of the six integrated development resorts1 in Queensland.2

Speaking in Parliament, the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning Stirling Hinchliffe said that the Amending Act:

aims to introduce the resorts communities to the concepts underlying the broad reform program, address a range of pressing equity issues for resort residents and facilitate improved planning and development outcomes in the short term.3

In doing so, the Amending Act sought to align the body corporate and planning regimes at these resorts with the rest of Queensland.4

However, from 11 August 2009, the Amending Act also amended the Liquor Act 1992 (Liquor Act) generally by purporting to:

  • allow greater flexibility for trading for industrial canteens
  • remove early trading hours for commercial special facility licences, other than airports and casinos, and
  • adjust the regulatory requirements for certain low risk premises.5

Whilst the amendments to the Liquor Act in respect of industrial canteens and 'low risk premises' provided welcome relief for mining companies, retirement village operators, limousine drivers, hairdressers and barbers and their customers, they gave some of Queensland's major tourist operators a serious headache.

From the parliamentary debates, it is clear the recent harm minimisation push has achieved bipartisan support, however, this attempt to bring the trading hours of commercial special facility licences (Liquor Act) into line with the other types of commercial licences such as hotels6 had an unfortunate side effect.

As is so often the case, the devil is in the detail. The amendments meant that some of Queensland's most iconic resorts could no longer legally offer room service or mini-bars to their international and domestic residents and guests between the hours of 5am and 9am.7 In fact, it seemed that installing electronic, remote locking devices was the only customer friendly way of shutting off mini-bars during this 4 hour window.

Additionally, it appeared some licensees would have to urgently apply for extended hours permits or approvals8 to enable them to honour future bookings for any champagne breakfasts or early morning weddings occurring before 10am. Then came the news of the moratorium on extended hours applications!

Worse still for an industry so ravaged by swine flu and the global financial crisis, the Amending Act included a provision which stated that no compensation would be payable to these operators as a result of them losing the ability to trade between 5am and 10am.9

Whilst a stated aim of the Amending Act was to make licensing conditions more consistent across Queensland, the amendments actually placed Special Facilities at a competitive disadvantage. This was because the holders of hotel licences or accommodation licences were still able to serve liquor to their residents and guests "at any time", subject to certain conditions.10 This relaxation was not afforded to any other type of liquor licence.

However, Parliament has now saved these Special Facilities from this particularly unfortunate and unintended result. To its credit, the Government has listened to industry concerns and acted with urgency to rectify the situation for these resorts - the very resorts that make a significant contribution to the tourism development of the State.11

On 8 October 2009 Parliament passed the Gambling and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2009 to remedy the issue, at least in respect of 24 hour room service and mini-bars. Unfortunately, the position for early morning breakfasts is not clear cut, especially given the recent moratorium on extended hours approvals. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the weeks and months to come.

As of 15 October 200912 the Liquor Act now specifically mentions how and when residents and guests may consume liquor at Special Facilities.13 These provisions largely mirror those applicable to hotel licences and accommodation licences.14 This represents a significant win for the tourism industry and should see the Government get a pat on the back for reacting so quickly and decisively to this unintended result.

For the industry itself, this situation serves as a warning that they must remain vigilant in the face of these increasingly regular amendments to the Liquor Act.


1 Being: Sanctuary Cove Resort, Royal Pines Resort, Hope Island Resort, Kingfisher Bay Resort, Laguna Whitsundays Resort and the Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas Resort.
2 Queensland, Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Assembly, 4 August 2009, 1372-1373 (Peta-Kaye Croft, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Services and Member for Broadwater).
3 Queensland, Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Assembly, 19 May 2009, 303 (Stirling Hinchliffe, Minister for Infrastructure and Planning and Member for Stafford).
4 Refer: Integrated Planning Act 1997 for planning and development and the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 for regulating bodies corporate management.
5 Explanatory Notes, Resorts and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2009 (Qld) 2.
6 Queensland, Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Assembly, 4 August 2009, 1376 (Jan Jarratt, Parliamentary Secretary for Employment and Economic Development and Member for Whitsunday).
7 On the assumption that licensees will receive extended trading hours approval between 12 midnight and 5am and between 9am and 10am under Division 7, Part 3 of the Liquor Act 1992.
8 Under Division 7, Part 3 of the Liquor Act 1992.
9 Resorts and Other Acts Amendment Act 2009, s53.
10 Liquor Act 1992, ss62 & 67B.
11 Liquor Act 1992, s63.
12 The date of assent for the Gambling and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2009.
13 Liquor Act 1992, ss64(1)(b), 64(1)(c) & 65A.
14 Liquor Act 1992, ss62 & 67B.

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