THE NSW Upper House will ask the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority to extend its snap review of Newcastle’s liquor laws and take public submissions until the end of February.
Government and opposition MPs backed a motion by Greens MP Justin Field on Thursday to extend the deadline from December 13 after strong criticism of the four-week review by academics, emergency workers and members of the public, and indications that Newcastle’s most senior police officer would ask for even tighter drinking conditions.
Mr Field moved the motion on Thursday morning after groups including the Last Drinks Coalition, representing police, ambulance, doctors and nurses argued strongly for Premier Gladys Berejiklian to intervene and stop the review, which was announced on Tuesday.
The Upper House vote followed several days of sometimes furious responses from Newcastle groups and individuals who accused the government of bowing to the “booze lobby”.
The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority was criticised for not holding a public hearing after more than nine years of the landmark “Newcastle solution” laws being in place. The authority was also criticised for failing to consult with police or health authorities before announcing the snap review, despite the Australian Hotels Association applying for the review in June.
Criticism increased after confirmation reviewer Jonathan Horton, QC, was scheduled to hear from the final “stakeholder” by next Wednesday, with his final report expected on December 22.
The Upper House has called on the Liquor and Gaming Authority to extend its deadline for public submissions to February 22.
Mr Field said while the Government or the Upper House could not direct the authority to extend the deadline or hold a public hearing, Thursday’s vote asking for a February deadline was “a strong moral indication from the Upper House to the authority that they should give the community adequate time to respond”.
“The community went through a long and deliberate process in 2008 to bring about laws that have contributed to the Newcastle we see today. A three week consultation period right before Christmas is just inappropriate,” Mr Field said.
“The Greens have always strongly supported community participation.”
Mr Field criticised the authority’s processes, which do not make public any submissions until after decisions are made.
“We have called on the authority to make submissions public during the deliberation process so that individuals and groups have an opportunity to respond to material being considered.”
Mr Field said he was glad to see the Upper House support his motion.
“It’s made a statement to the authority about how the Upper House wants to see this go.”