Licensing levy lags behind other alcohol-fuelled violence reforms

As Sydney drinkers face tough new restrictions in the city from Monday, a new licensing system for pub owners will not start until next year, information from the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing has revealed.

Risk-based licensing, which will levy an annual fee for pubs and clubs depending on location, capacity, trading hours, offences and compliance, is strongly opposed by the Australian Hotels Association.

Hotels face a significant increase in licence costs under the scheme, but health and police groups have argued the revenue raised can be used to cover the societal costs of alcohol-fuelled violence.

Premier Barry O'Farrell said in January that risk-based licensing would be introduced in NSW as part of the government's reforms.

It was expected the scheme would start within months, with pubs to share the burden of reforms designed to reduce violence, as drinkers faced tough new mandatory prison sentences and lockouts.

But a fact sheet released on Thursday on the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing website listed the licensing scheme as not starting until next year. This would potentially give a start date for the unpopular new fees after the March 2015 election.

After inquiries, the website was changed on Friday, and the licensing scheme is now listed under ''Rules to commence later''. No start date is given.

A government source said the licensing scheme was on the cabinet's agenda to be considered, and it ''could'' start this year. Mr O'Farrell's office declined to comment.

The Premier has previously been accused of sitting on an earlier plan to introduce risk-based licensing, approved by the cabinet in 2012, for 16 months because of opposition from the liquor industry.

Introducing annual liquor licence fees was a key recommendation of the Foggo review of the Liquor Act last year. Queensland, Victoria and the ACT operate such schemes.

The hotels' association submission to the review warned: ''Any move towards probationary, trial or annual or renewable permits or an additional financial levy on licensed premises will be exceptionally detrimental to business certainty, would change the character of the industry for the worse and strip away investor confidence.''

The story Licensing levy lags behind other alcohol-fuelled violence reforms first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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