1. Liquor licence fees for occasional licences have been raised from $15 across the board to between $25 and $2000. This represents an increase of between a 66% and 13233%.
2. The Committee acknowledges that the previous $15 fee could not be expected to cover the costs to the Office of Racing Gaming and Liquor in processing and issuing occasional licences. The Committee accepts that fee increases could be justified on cost recovery principles.
3. The range of increases are based on an additional fee of 10 cents per person attending the licensed area above the base figure of 100 persons. This has resulted in fee increases which appear to reflect the increased time and resources allocated by the Office of Racing, Gaming and Liquor to licensed functions involving larger numbers of people.
4. Based on the costings provided by the Office of Racing, Gaming and Liquor, the Committee is satisfied that the Office of Racing, Gaming and Liquor is not raising more fees from liquor licensing than the actual cost of operating the liquor licensing division.
5. The Committee is unable to establish with any certainty what indirect costs are incorporated into each of the occasional liquor licence fee increases. However, the evidence of the Executive Director is that the least expensive occasional licences, those for up to 100 persons, do not incorporate any indirect costs component.
6. The Executive Director has informed the Committee that the Minister for Racing and Gaming has approved the drafting of an amendment to Schedule 3 of the Principal Regulations to extend the benefit of the lowest occasional licence fee of $25 to those functions at which up to 250 persons attend the licensed premises. The Committee welcomes this amendment. It will ensure that the vast majority of occasional licence applications made by non-profit sporting and charitable organisations will only be subject to a $10 increase. The Minister has also agreed to amend regulation 26(4) of the Principal Regulations to clarify the meaning of “number of persons attending”.
7. Despite the significant increases in occasional liquor licence fees, the Committee is of the view that by reason of section 45A of the Interpretation Act 1984, none of the increased fees appear to be taxes. However, the Committee draws the Parliament’s attention to the fact that section 45A would appear to authorise government departments and agencies to raise fees and charges which may otherwise bear the legal character of taxes at common law.