The first ever evaluation of risk-based licensing (RBL) in an Australian jurisdiction makes a strong case for the continuation and wider application of the licensing model.
Using Australian Federal Police Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Policing data, the study found that the introduction of risk based licensing in the ACT coincided with a 25 per cent reduction in alcohol-related offences in the two years since its introduction.
Risk-based licensing, where by annual liquor licensing fees are calculated according to venue type, occupancy and trading hours, was introduced into the ACT in December 2010, amid growing concerns about increased alcohol related violence and hospitalisations in the Territory.
The study by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and Centre for Excellence in Policing and Security is the first of its kind to evaluate the impact of risk based licensing on alcohol-related offences and to also interview key stakeholders to obtain an assessment of how the model has worked in practice in the ACT.
The study comes as the ACT Government conducts its two year review of the Liquor Act 2010. FARE Chief Executive, Michael Thorn says the findings are a significant endorsement of risk based licensing. “Risk-based licensing is a fairer licencing regime that makes liquor licensees more accountable for the alcohol harms they cause and helps to promote earlier intervention with alcohol harms. Implemented correctly, it is effective both in ensuring licensees pay according to the risks they contribute to, but also in providing an incentive to licensees to take ownership of the issue and work actively to better manage the safety of their patrons and their venues,” Mr Thorn said. The study involved the analysis of data from the ACT Police Real Time Offence Monitoring Information System (PROMIS) between May and December from 2010 to 2012 together with interviews with police, licensees and regulators to assist in the interpretation of the data.
Data analysis found that risk-based licensing had coincided with declines in alcohol-related offences throughout the ACT, while almost all of those interviewed felt that the introduction of RBL had benefited the ACT, with many citing additional police resources now available for prevention.
Significantly, the additional licencing fee has had no detrimental impact on the liquor licensing market with license regulators stating that there had been no significant change to the number of liquor licences in the ACT since its introduction.
The importance of implementing policies and programs in addition to risk based licensing were highlighted in the study with many of those interviewed expressing concern that risk based licensing does not take into account the number and density of licenses in particular areas of the ACT which are dis-proportionality impacted by alcohol-related incidents.
The current risk-based licencing fee structure does not adequately acknowledge the contribution to alcohol harms from off licence premises, and the study recommends that this is reviewed and strengthened. Mr Thorn says the ACT Government’s past willingness to implement effective alcohol policies is now paying dividends, but warns risk-based licensing is not, by itself a complete solution to reduce alcohol harms, and says the findings simply reinforce the need for complete evidence-based solutions.
“The Government must use the Liquor ACT review to further strengthen the legislation. The government must reduce trading hours to 3am for those venues currently trading beyond that time, improve the collection of data on alcohol-related consumption and harms and toughen the regulation of harmful discounting and promotions of alcohol, if it is to continue the positive work that it has begun,” Mr Thorn said.