Rural liquor inspectors abolished
In an overhaul of the state’s alcohol and gaming authorities, Victoria’s regions will have no dedicated liquor inspectors, a move that has enraged police and others trying to curb alcohol abuse in the country.
Last year liquor and gambling regulation was merged into the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation. Its inspectors were briefed on Tuesday about the plan for 56 inspectors to cover both activities. Inspectors now work solely in one area. They will have to apply for the new jobs.
All staff will be based in Richmond but will travel to the country.
From 2009 there were up to 12 dedicated regional inspectors in Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, Wangaratta, Morwell and Mildura – now there are just five.
Last year a damning Auditor-General’s report found alcohol-related violence and health problems cost the state $4.3 billion each year. Over a decade assaults rose by 49 per cent, ambulance callouts tripled and there was an 87 per cent jump in drunk people being treated at hospitals.
Insiders say abolishing regional inspectors will allow venues to ”run rampant” because local knowledge and relationships with police and local councils will be lost. Staff say relationships with key groups, such as sports clubs, in rural areas were critical in combating underage drinking. One said there was a clear difference between metro and rural venues with ”a country approach” needed to deal with regional publicans.
Police Association Victoria secretary Greg Davies said the changes were of great concern to police and public, with police likely to pick up the slack.
”Our members barely have the time now to do what is expected,” Mr Davies said.
Inspectors were invaluable in tackling alcohol-related problems such as assaults, car accidents and domestic violence, he said.
Sam Biondo, executive officer of the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association, said the move would not contribute to building up understanding of local circumstance. ”This social problem has huge impact on the Victorian community and given there is no shortage of taxation revenue, that there should be a shortfall in the regulation of it does not make sense,” he said.
The commission said it would work with police and local authorities to carry out inspections in line with the commission’s risk-based and intelligence-led strategy.
”The proposed structure provides a statewide service delivery model in which positions are Melbourne-based, and will allow for greater flexibility in allocating resources determined by risk assessment,” it said.
Parliamentary secretary to the shadow minister for police and emergency services Jane Garrett said it was clear the Napthine government had ”botched the amalgamation and abandoned regional Victoria in the process”.
”This government should be attacking alcohol-fuelled issues … instead of putting up the white flag and pocketing the change,” Ms Garrett said.