I rise to make a couple of brief comments on the Liquor Licensing (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2011. At the outset, can I congratulate my colleague the Hon. Michelle Lensink for articulating our position quite clearly. I am quite proud to support that particular position.
I would just like to make a couple of comments about the hotel industry and, in fact, the Casino. Members may be aware that in my maiden speech some nine years ago I unashamedly said that I would always try to look after the interests of the hotel industry. It is an industry that is often much maligned but is a massive employer in this state. I have always been of the opinion that the hotel industry is a great conduit for social intercourse. Certainly in the part of the world I come from, I cannot imagine growing up and not having the opportunity to catch up with friends in a great environment. Fortunately, hotels provide generally a very good environment. I make no apology for the fact that many years ago I did say that I would support the hotel industry.
I see this bill as another unbridled attack on the hotel industry, and I do wonder where this government is ultimately heading with regard to hotels. Does it want to get rid of the family publican? Does it want to get rid of individuals owning hotels? I constantly see more and more impediments being put in front of decent, honest, law-abiding business people, making it more difficult for them to run their business.
I see policing in an extraordinary way of licensing rules. I am sure that inadvertently at times I have broken licensing laws with regard to standing up and greeting a friend, colleague or, dare I say it, even a member of the government of the day at a hotel and breaking a licensing covenant where you are not supposed to stand on a footpath with a glass in your hand!
Now, those sorts of extraordinary penalties and the overzealous policing of those things make me wonder where we are all heading as a society. As I said at the start, hotels are a great place where social intercourse takes place. They are the very fabric of our society and I think they are incredibly important. I fear for the industry when we are constantly putting impediments in the way of publicans.
With four o’clock closing, I take my advice not only from the hotels association, which has been very kind to me with regards to briefings; I have certainly spoken to the Casino and had in-depth briefings from the government relations people from the Casino, who have all given me their time quite willingly. I also take my advice from my adult children and their many friends, who I come into contact with regularly.
At different times, I have done the Sunday morning run. Usually, my wife does it. As you know, Mr President, she, being a teetotaller, is always in good condition to go and perform those sorts of duties, but there have been times when I have been quite capable of taking my turn.
I have certainly been to Hindley Street collecting my children, at that time of the morning. It is not something I really enjoy but it is the sort of thing you do as a father. Usually, I have had to do it because they have, in frustration, rung and said, ‘Look, we can’t get a taxi. It’s impossible to get a cab at this time of night.’ Could we come and help? Certainly, my wife and I have done that on many occasions.
On almost every occasion, they have had enough money to get a taxi. There would be no issue with them jumping in a cab and getting home, but the brutal reality is that, at three or four in the morning, to try to get a cab is incredibly difficult. Much less these days than in days gone by, I have also, at various times, been out in the early hours. I have been on the end of the queue outside the Casino trying to get a cab. It is incredibly difficult, and I have got to tell you that, in the middle of winter, it is not all that much fun.
The thought that we are going to push people out onto the streets at 4am when, at the moment, they can leave at a voluntary time and still find it difficult to get transport, I think, is incredibly challenging. I have seen nothing from this government that has given me any confidence that they are going to address that particular problem. I am fearful because, if this legislation gets through, how the hell are we going to ensure the safety of young people?
I would love to think that all those young people were home in bed at 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock or 2 o’clock, but the reality is that they are not going to be, and we have to deal with that. We want a state that is progressive, we want a state that goes forward and we do not want to push our kids interstate and overseas because we have got this wowser mentality.
I would love to see a much greater police presence. I think that this situation can be resolved with a stronger, more visible police presence, in particular, in that Hindley Street area. I know that, from time to time, when we have a special task force or whatever to stamp out either, when violence or bad behaviour, when there is a greater police presence all of a sudden all the issues seem to be calmed down in quite a reasonable way. This government constantly boasts that we have more police now than we have ever had in this state; well, I think they need to be deployed in a way that keeps us all safe and keeps the entertainment precincts open.
I do not believe that South Australia in any way, shape or form should be closed for business. That is not the message we want to send out. When I come into Parliament House in the mornings, I often catch the bus and wander across from Grenfell Street, stopping at the intersection of King William and North Terrace. It distresses me, looking down to the left, when I see a banner at the Strathmore Hotel which asks ‘Why us minister?’
I have adult children who work at the Casino—they have done for a couple of years now—and I know that quite often after work they go across to the Strathmore at three or four in the morning, because they are not really allowed to socialise in the Casino. They go across to the Strathmore, and in a good, safe environment they can have a couple of knock-off drinks before they head home with their friends.
I remind honourable members that there are more than 1,000 people employed by the Adelaide Casino, and at different times they avail themselves of the opportunity to pop across to the Strathmore.
I thank the Hon. Tammy Franks, who reminded me during the break that I said that staff at the Casino could not socialise within the Casino, which is not quite correct. The Casino operates in a very strict fashion and, whilst staff can, I believe, have a drink, they have to be very careful about which areas they frequent. They certainly are not allowed to gamble. It is just another range in which the Casino operates in a very strict fashion. They are very careful about trying to ensure that they monitor problem gambling and that sort of stuff.
The staff like to avail themselves of the opportunity for what they call a knock-off drink, and the Basheers at the Strathmore do a great job in making sure that they can do that in a safe and friendly environment. I know that the Casino staff appreciate the lengths that the people at the Strathmore go to. It does sadden me a bit to see a hardworking family wondering why a government is imposing restrictions on them and trying to almost make them feel like criminals.
I am very pleased that the government has finally decided to head down a path where I have always believed that people should take some responsibility for their own actions. I complained earlier about how difficult it would be to run a family hotel. This business about how somebody behind a bar has to go to great lengths to ascertain the level of intoxication of a patron: I understand we have to be responsible, but ultimately there has to be some responsibility put back on the patron.
This measure of the on-the-spot fines is so that you are not going to take up a lot of police time, but I am looking forward to seeing some of these idiots who spoil it for the vast majority waking up with a nasty fine in their top pocket. I think this is a measure that is long overdue and, with its implementation, I am hoping that some of the angst around people being out, especially in Hindley Street, late at night will disappear.
We have criminal intelligence provisions which allow licensees of hotels to be monitored in the same way as organised crime. Licensees must already pass rigorous character checks in order to obtain their licence in the first place. I think the police resources could be much better used. Constantly trying to find the most minor of faults really does disturb me and, quite frankly, I am hoping that this parliament has had enough of that and I am hoping they will not support these particular measures.
Sir, I have touched on a number of areas that are close to my heart, and I know that you have had the occasional shandy on a hot day in a licensed establishment. I know you share many of my concerns. I am hoping that this bill dies the death that it should.
We know that the hotel industry provides the social intercourse that our state needs. It is a bonding place. We need to support publicans and we really have to get away from this nanny state attitude. We have to make people take responsibility for their own actions. I am very keen to make sure that this bill does no damage whatsoever to the people I respect.
In closing, there was an amendment moved by the Hon. Tammy Franks with regard to trying to ensure that the Casino closed, too. I know that the Hon. Tammy Franks has no axe to grind with the Casino. To me, it is an incredibly important part of the attractions of this state, and it sends out a message to other people in Australia that we are open for business.
I applaud the initiatives of the Casino with regard to entertainment. You can go and have a drink there late at night, even though they are sometimes overzealous in the way they police patrons who are trying to pop in there after they have been somewhere else. I guess it is absolutely for the better, but I know myself that I have popped in a couple of times and had to make sure I put on a very sensible face to get past the scrutiny of the security people. I think they do a terrific job in that regard and I think they do a terrific job providing a safe environment for people to go late at night to have a quiet drink.
I can remember that a couple of times when we have sat here very late in the evening—I think we have had nearly a 20-hour day—I think a couple of us went and had a couple of beers late at night at the Casino in a pretty good, safe environment. I applaud what they do. I do not support imposing any further restrictions on the Casino. I do not support imposing any further restrictions on the hotel industry, and I hope that this bill heads in the direction that I have indicated.