All eyes will be upon the state government in upcoming parliamentary sittings as the Member for Traeger, Rob Katter, cautions that the twice-endorsed Liquor (Rural Hotels Concessions) Amendment Bill isn’t over the line yet.
Mr Katter’s Private Members Bill, which would see liquor licence fees slashed by 90 per cent from $3750 to around $375, was recommended by the Legal Affairs and Community Safety committee at the start of October.
If passed, some 111 pub owners in remote Queensland whose foot traffic is significantly lower than their urban counterparts, will receive much-needed financial relief in the face of escalating electricity bills and ongoing drought.
Gregory MP, Lachlan Millar, hailed the parliamentary committee’s decision to recommend the bill be passed as a win for all rural Queenslanders, saying he was proud to announce the committee’s decision.
Mr Katter said he appreciated any support for the bill, one which he began when the LNP was in government five years ago.
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“I met with the Newman government’s Attorney-General’s office circa 2013 to address this, when the Einasleigh Pub started the process, and I’ve been trying to find a way since,” he said.
The same committee recommended the bill be passed last year, when there was a hung parliament, but it lapsed when the 2017 Queensland election was called and could not proceed.
“The only thing that would stop it now is if the government or opposition have a brain snap on the floor of parliament and decide to vote against it,” Mr Katter said.
“In this time of drought, it’s one of the few things government can do to help one of the most central businesses in the bush.
“It would show an extraordinary lack of compassion if the government didn’t fast track the debate.”
To have the bill discussed in this week’s sitting would require the government and opposition to support an urgency motion to bring on the vote.
Mr Katter said its passing would be a $600,000 cost to the government in lost revenue, which he described as not a great impost.
“This point of this bill is to recognise that pubs in remote Queensland operate in vastly different commercial environments than hotels in larger centres,” he said.
“For a long time we have needed to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach and recognise the small operators in remote Queensland and the service they provide to small communities.
“These venues are more than just money-making enterprises; they are part of the social fabric of isolated areas.
“These small venues shouldn’t be burdened with the same licence cost as a large Brisbane pub which has huge revenues – I am pleased the committee has recognised the importance of this.”
The bill applies only to licensees operating in “very remote” areas, as is determined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ “remoteness” mapping.