Sunday, August 14, 2022

Industry opposes proposed WA liquor restrictions

Liquor restrictions proposed by the Western Australia state government have been criticised as anti-competitive and likely to stifle employment.

The state government has proposed restricting liquor stores to less than 400sqm and restricting developments based on the proximity of other stores.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) claims to understand the government’s sentiment to reduce the harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption, but believes these proposed restrictions on liquor outlets will do more harm than good.

“Research states that, nationally, total alcohol consumption per capita has declined during the same period that liquor licenses have been increasing,” ARA Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said.

“Therefore, it would be a mistake to push through these reforms without substantial evidence, as these proposed restrictions will significantly affect the WA economy.”

Mr Zimmerman says proposed restrictions will reduce consumer choice and convenience, affecting the retailer’s bottom line and, in turn, employment.

“The government needs to support business growth and work with local retailers to find a steady transition in promoting a healthy lifestyle without harming Australian retailers,” he said.

“With retail trade in WA declining over 2017, due to economic struggles, the state government should be helping to build, not block, business development and retail employment.”

Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA CEO Chris Rodwell says the government’s proposed restrictions are anti-competitive – supporting existing footprints instead of encouraging competition that will boost economic prosperity.

Woolworths’ liquor retail arm Endeavour Drinks Group, which runs Dan Murphy’s and BWS outlets, has threatened to shelve $85 million of investment in new stores in WA if the reforms go ahead.

“This is investment in WA’s retail sector and our economy that the government should be encouraging, not stifling,” Mr Rodwell said.

National Retail Association Manager of Industry Policy David Stout has also questioned whether some of the proposals (including proximity limits, store-size limits and reintroducing a Needs Test) would achieve the goals of reducing liquor sales and alcohol abuse in the community.

“The digital economy has not only changed the game for retailers – it’s also changed the way governments need to think when they are setting policy,” he said.

“It doesn’t make much sense to formulate policy that applies only to bricks and mortar retailers when customers can use their smartphones to access hundreds of competitive liquor offers with an almost endless range of products.

“We look forward to working with all stakeholders to find a solution that truly achieves the policy goals and delivers the best result for consumers, businesses, workers and vulnerable members of the community.”

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