Foundation of the Liquor Commission

In May 2007, the State Government introduced reforms to the State's liquor licensing legislation. One of the major changes to the Liquor Control Act 1988 was the replacement of the Liquor Licensing Court with a Liquor Commission to primarily provide a flexible system with as little formality and technicality as practicable.

Parties will not be able to consider their opportunity before the Director of Liquor Licensing a trial run, or a free hit in order to gain a favourable outcome at the hands of a higher authority. The Commission, on conducting a review of the Director's decision, may only consider the material that was before the Director when making the decision.

Parties may appeal the Liquor Commission's decision to the Supreme Court on a question of law, but any appeal will only be heard on a question of law by a single judge and not the full bench of the superior court.

They will be unable to refine or amend the presentation of their case in order to address the areas that proved unsuccessful in front of the Director.


Background to Change

In September 2004, the former Minister for Racing and Gaming, Hon Nick Griffiths LLB MLC, appointed an independent review committee to conduct a review of Western Australia’s liquor licensing legislation.

One of the key objectives of the committee was to consider the effectiveness of the operations of the State’s liquor licensing authority.

The scope of the review provided for consideration to be given to the process of disciplinary hearings.

In delivering its findings to the Minister, the committee outlined the reasoning behind a recommendation for replacing the Liquor Licensing Court with the Liquor Commission.

The following is an extract from pages 50-51 of the Report of the Independent Review Committee.

"In considering what is the most appropriate structure for the licensing authority and one which best serves the interests of the public of Western Australia, the committee considered the written submissions, views expressed in various stakeholder interviews and broad observations of other liquor licensing jurisdictions throughout Australia.
Widespread criticism of the cost and legalistic nature of having matters determined under the Act has been made for over 15 years. Attempts to address this problem have met with limited success.
The 1990 review observed: 'The present system is unsuitable. It is too rigid, time consuming and costly. People who benefit from these deficiencies are those in the industry who want to prevent competition, and the legal profession. Significantly, several members of the legal profession itself have pointed to these problems even though they are resulting in a great deal of work for solicitors.'
Similar criticism was again presented to this committee. Of particular concern was the appeal process where the Court hears matters de novo. The existing system is considered by many to be too legalistic and not conducive to providing a 'flexible system with as little formality or technicality as may be practicable'.
The community generally feels disenfranchised by the existing practices and procedures. Effectively, applicants and objectors, especially those who can afford legal representation, are using hearings before the Director as a 'practice run' and if dissatisfied with the outcome then appeal to the Court for a review, often introducing new evidence.
The 1998 amendments to the Act sought to make the appeal process simpler. However, because of the adopted practice of de novo hearings, this has proven not to be the case. The current system supports those who have considerable financial backing to the disadvantage of the community and small operators.
The 1990 review flagged the idea of a Liquor Licensing Commission and the 1994 Mattingley review stated: 'From its inquiries interstate and elsewhere the committee has no doubt that liquor licensing is becoming more administrative and less legalistic, which is reducing costs for both licence applicants and objectors, hence it considers that industry and the community would be better served by a commission than a court...'

Last Updated: 25/02/2015 13:52:22 PM