Free to serve drunks

In­spec­tors knock off early

Sunday Herald Sun - - News - TOM MINEAR STATE PO­LIT­I­CAL RE­PORTER tom.minear@news.com.au @tmin­ear

PUBS and clubs are get­ting away with serv­ing drunks and mi­nors be­cause lazy liquor li­cens­ing in­spec­tors aren’t work­ing late into the night, a scathing re­port has found.

The Au­di­tor-Gen­eral has found al­most 90 per cent of venue checks last year were car­ried out be­fore 10pm.

It meant Vic­to­rian Com­mis­sion for Gam­bling and Liquor Reg­u­la­tion in­spec­tors dis­cov­ered just 15 cases where bar­tenders were serv­ing in­tox­i­cated pa­trons, which can cost li­censees more than $17,000 in fines.

In­spec­tors handed out only 17 breach no­tices for serv­ing drinks to mi­nors and 25 no­tices for sell­ing al­co­hol with­out proper li­cences.

The Au­di­tor-Gen­eral crit­i­cised the VCGLR for try­ing to meet its tar­gets with “a large num­ber of short and largely su­per­fi­cial in­spec­tions”.

“Liquor com­pli­ance in­spec­tion ac­tiv­i­ties are not cur­rently based on ev­i­dence of po­ten­tial harms and risk,” the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral’s re­port found.

The VCGLR car­ried out 12,474 in­spec­tions last year, de­tect­ing 5483 breaches.

But only 1 per cent of those were high-risk breaches, while the re­main­der in­volved of­fences such as fail­ure to dis­play li­cences and no­tices, and fail­ure to pro­duce venue plans for in­spec­tion.

Op­po­si­tion liquor reg­u­la­tion spokesman Tim McCurdy said the State Gov­ern­ment needed “to toughen up and make sure the law is prop­erly en­forced”.

Liquor Reg­u­la­tion Min­is­ter Mar­lene Kairouz said the VCGLR had made “sig­nif­i­cant progress” but there was “still work to be done” to im­prove its in­spec­tion reg­i­men.

The re­port found 12 per cent of in­spec­tions last year hap­pened be­tween 10pm and 7am, but that the VCGLR’s tar­get for this year was still just 12 per cent.

The Au­di­tor-Gen­eral dis­cov­ered that of the lim­ited late-night in­spec­tions, VCGLR staff spent an av­er­age of less than 15 min­utes in each venue, giv­ing them lim­ited time to iden­tify high-risk breaches.

Al­co­hol Pol­icy Coali­tion spokesman Dr Mark Zirn­sak, from the Unit­ing Church, said the short in­spec­tions were “just a joke”.

He said the VCGLR’s in­spec­tion reg­i­men needed to be over­hauled so it wasn’t fo­cused on “tick­ing the box about how many they’ve done”.

“They need to adopt tar­gets that are di­rectly re­lated to re­duc­ing harm,” Dr Zirn­sak said.

Last year, the VCGLR started to col­lect in­tel­li­gence to bet­ter tar­get its in­spec­tions, pro­duc­ing maps for staff which linked li­censed venues with data on as­saults and am­bu­lance call-outs.

A VCGLR spokes­woman said: “There is a wide pro­gram of work cur­rently un­der­way across the or­gan­i­sa­tion to im­prove our reg­u­la­tory ap­proach and en­sure in­spec­tions are as ef­fec­tive as pos­si­ble.”

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