Government Vendetta Against Hospitality Industry Continues - Nightclub Owners
Written by Peter Iwaniuk
Thursday, 10 November 2011 13:34
GOVERNMENT VENDETTA AGAINST HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY CONTINUES
Proposed legislative changes by the Baillieu Government have been labelled as short sighted and a serious threat to the viability of the hospitality industry by prominent nightclub owner Peter Iwaniuk.
"Instead of focusing on the streets where the real problems are, the Baillieu Government and Victoria Police are making the same mistake as the Brumby Government - by blindly pursuing a vendetta against the hospitality industry.
"The Nightclub Owners Forum successfully campaigned against the Brumby Government at the last State election and, unfortunately, it now appears we will have to run a similar campaign against the Baillieu Government.
On top of exorbitant fee increases and other harsh regulations, the Baillieu Government has recently announced it is introducing a demerit points system against licensed venues and amending the Liquor Control Act 1998 so that even "using profane, indecent or obscene language" inside a venue can be deemed to be disturbing the amenity and grounds for prosecution of a licensee (see Attachment 1).
"One can imagine our secret police squad, Victoria Police's RAZON Task Force, for example, covertly filming and recording patrons inside public bars where swearing is commonplace, or charging licensees when entertainers are caught swearing. Comedians, in particular, are renowned for using profane language. Interestingly profane, indecent or obscene language is quite common in films and on TV watched in many homes. A licensee could however now be charged if such a TV program was being shown inside a licensed venue.
"We already have ample evidence that the RAZON Task Force and other police enforcement units will use any technicality at their disposal to persecute and prosecute responsible licensees - now they can add swearing and demerit points to their armoury" said Mr Iwaniuk.
Mr Iwaniuk also claimed that the demerit points scheme is also heavily biased against the larger and more popular venues. "According to the law of averages, the more patrons that a venue turns over, the more likely it is that incidents will occur, regardless of fault. There is also a much greater likelihood that such venues will attract a heavy police presence."
"The scheme also does not take into account the problems with current policing methods identified in the Dillon Report, has no rights of appeal, and makes no provision for the social and cultural factors influencing patron behaviour (lack of transport, preloading, street gangs, very high rates of mental illness in young people - around 1 in 4, etc) which are caused by failures in Government social and justice policies. As such the scheme is a blatant breach of the principles of natural justice" said Mr Iwaniuk.
Mr Iwaniuk was particularly critical of the RAZON Task Force for being unaccountable and unethical in its attempts to entrap patrons and responsible small business owners which has been exposed recently in the media.
"I am aware of many licensees and patrons who were outraged by the conduct of the RAZON Task Force but were too afraid to make their concerns public".
According to Mr Iwaniuk "I find it amazing that RAZON Task Force members are allowed to consume alcohol whilst on duty. This is scandalous and even worse given that this is done apparently with the Chief Commissioner's approval.
"There is absolutely no justification for covert police officers to be drinking alcohol on licensed premises at taxpayer's expense.
"Many people drink water or soft drinks at licensed premises and for covert officers to do the same would not in any way compromise their cover. But even more serious arguably is the affect that the consumption of alcohol would have on their ability to objectively carry out their duties and even drive safely from venue to venue.
"Quite clearly, RAZON Task Force Officers are not subject to the same standards as other Victoria Police officers, including random drug and alcohol testing.
"The covert presence of RAZON Task Force Officers for long periods of time drinking on licensed premises suggests that they are more interested in entrapment of licensees or patrons rather than proactive and ethical policing.
"Unlike other police units, the RAZON Task Force is largely unaccountable. It reports only to a Deputy Commissioner of Police. Local Police Superintendents and Licensing Inspectors have no knowledge of, or jurisdiction over, their activities.
"I am well aware, anecdotally, that there is considerable unrest within the ranks of local divisional senior officers over the actions of the RAZON Task Force in undermining their efforts to develop positive relationships with responsible licensees and cooperative arrangements such as Licensee Accords.
"It is a fact that many venue owners and managers are suffering considerable stress and are living in constant fear for their business or jobs, not as a consequence of patron behaviour, but as a result of inconsistent, inequitable, vindictive and excessive police attention. No other business has to contend with this level of regulation and harassment. This could well become a serious OHS issue in the near future.
"I am also concerned that police officers are seeking to entrap responsible patrons for relative minor offences, which will now include swearing - when serious assaults are occurring on the streets on a regular basis with little or no police presence. For example, on busy Chapel Street on Friday nights, there are no police patrols whatsoever.
"The RAZON Task Force should be disbanded immediately and the police officers reassigned to patrolling the streets where the real problems are. Police are a scarce resource and should be deployed where they are most needed. Assaults associated with licensed premises are minor compared to the rest of the community and are on the decline.
"The 2010/2011 official police statistics released by the Police Commissioner dated 30 August 2011, reported 1,484 assaults with the location 'Licensed Premises' from a total of 36,962, which represents 4% of total assaults. Although overall assaults increased 5.3% from 2009/2010 to 2010/2011, assaults in Licensed Premises fell 10.2% for the same period.
"Assaults in licensed premises since 2004/2005 have been at similar levels. In 2004/2005 they were 1,487, 1,423 in 2005/2006, 1,538 in 2006/2007, 1,587 in 2007/2008 and 1,601 in 2008/09.
Total assaults however, have risen from 28,147 in 2004/2005 to 36,962 2010/2011, an increase of 31.3%. During this period assaults in licensed premises fell marginally from 1,484 in 2010/2011 from 1,487 in 2004/05 .
"As I have said before many times, the emphasis of the Government and Police must be on tackling the culture of violence within elements of our society, including gangs that now walk with impunity on our streets.
"Individuals must be made responsible and accountable for their own actions.
"It is ludicrous to continue to lay the blame on alcohol and licensed venues. I have just returned from visiting the 2011 Oktoberfest in Germany which attracted around 9 million visitors over 2 weeks.
"This is a major tourist attraction and boost for the economy which the German Government actively promotes.
"I saw little evidence of any problems but those who did muck up were severely dealt with. Security within the Oktoberfest boundaries was handled solely by private security whilst police maintained a strong presence on the streets.
"Our Government and Victoria Police could learn a great deal from how the Oktoberfest is managed. The Baillieu Government should be actively promoting our hospitality industry and not attempting to cripple it with heavy handed enforcement, even harsher regulation and artificial restrictions on demand" concluded Mr Iwaniuk.
"The hospitality industry is a major employee of staff, a great contributor to tourism, the economy and social enjoyment generally - and licensed venues and the entertainment it provides exist because the public wants it" concluded Mr Iwaniuk.
For further Information contact:
Nightclub Owners Forum
Peter Iwaniuk 0411 75 11 99
David Butten 0414 251 474
Extract - Proposed amendments to Liquor Control Reform Act 1998
After section 3A of the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 insert--
"3AA Evidence constituting detraction from or detriment to amenity of area
For the purposes of this Act, evidence of any of the following factors, which may occur inside, or a place outside a licensed premises that is sufficiently proximate to, that premises, are taken to constitute evidence of detraction from, or detriment to, the amenity of the area in which the licensed premises is situated--
(a) violent behaviour;
(d) using profane, indecent or obscene language;
(e) using threatening, abusive or insulting language;
(f) behaving in a riotous, indecent, offensive or insulting manner;
(g) disorderly behaviour;
(h) causing nuisance;
(i) noise disturbance to occupiers of other premises;
(j) obstructing a footpath, street or road;
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