The for and against of selling wine in supermarkets

Sunday, 24 February, 2013
Wine in supermarkets - making alcohol too easily accessible, or an innovation for our state? Here's the for and against.
Against - Warren Lewis

THE debate over the proposal to allow the sale of bottled wine in supermarkets has largely been shaped by self-interest. As a former South Australian Deputy Liquor and Gambling Commissioner, I have had more than a passing interest in the issue.

According to a discussion paper recently released by the State Government, a separate category of liquor licence is to be established, skirting the "need" requirement - a fundamental eligibility criterion which guards against proliferation of packaged liquor outlets, but does not rule out competition.

This proposal must be concerning to the state's roughly 800 hotels and retail liquor merchants and any new entrant required to prove an unsatisfied public demand for liquor in the locality.

In my view, it has the potential to result in the proliferation of packaged liquor outlets in this state while creating an imbalance between packaged liquor licence categories.

The State Government has given industry groups and members of the public until March 1 to give their views through a process of public consultation, but I wonder just how informed South Australians are on the effect of this proposal.

I suspect it's not widely known that one of the primary objectives of the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 (the Act) is "to ensure that the liquor industry develops in a way that is consistent with the needs and aspirations of the community".

Indeed, in a review of the Act by T.R. Anderson QC, released in 1996, he warned that "allowing the sale of liquor in supermarkets and elsewhere, may not be in the best interests of the government's economic development strategy and tourism development and the wider needs and interests of the South Australian community".

In my view, the proposal is contrary to the review's findings, and may be contrary to the objects of the current Act.

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