Drink change a hard drop to swallow

THERE are renewed concerns over cuts to liquor inspections.

A liquor licensing inspector once based in Bendigo is now working from Melbourne.

Bendigo Liquor Accord chairwoman Julie Gardner last year told the Bendigo Advertiser removing local inspectors would lead to compliance issues and cause problems for publicans.

The Age reported on Monday that venue audits in country Victoria – including Bendigo – have significantly declined with complaints left unchecked for months.

Night audits and inspections have become even rarer because the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation does not want to pay overtime, the paper reported.

Ms Gardner said the local inspector had regularly attended liquor accord meetings, which was now rare. 

She said venues risked fines for non-compliance, which became more likely due to the lack of face-to-face contact.

“The amount of information that comes into venues regarding price rises, sales representatives, wage increases and liquor licensing increases can be quite daunting,” Ms Gardner.  

“It’s hard to keep abreast of everything. By having that local contact you can keep up with changes.”

Ms Gardner said there were delays when scheduling meetings with the liquor inspector.

“It’s difficult for him to be released to come up to attend,” she said.

“We were going to have a licensee and gaming venues meeting last week and he could not attend.

“It’s having an impact on that program which is a good information sharing opportunity.”

But Member for Northern Victoria Damian Drum said he was confident the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation was adequately staffed.

“It needs to be stressed that they are an independent body,” he said.

“We’re totally confident that we are supplying them with all the resources they need and have requested to do their work.

“The commission has informed us that they are approached this task on a risk-based model, which means that whilst there may be fewer inspections, they are certainly more targeted.”

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