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Liquor Licensing Regulatory Systems

Western Australian Liquor Regulatory system

Licensing courts: February 1911 - August 1923

The liquor licensing laws of WA were consolidated by the Licensing Act 1911, which established licensing districts, licensing courts and their membership. Licensing districts conformed with existing electoral districts, with the provision they could amalgamate or divide electoral districts into one or more licensing districts as required, as follows:

  • Perth Licensing Court (which amalgamated the Perth, East Perth, West Perth and North Perth electoral districts into one licensing district);
  • Fremantle Licensing Court;
  • Subiaco Licensing Court;
  • Guildford Licensing Court;
  • Claremont Licensing Court;
  • Canning Licensing Court;
  • York Licensing Court;
  • Yalgoo Licensing Court;
  • Albany Licensing Court;
  • Cue Licensing Court; and
  • Laverton Licensing Court.

A licensing court was established in every licensing district and consisted of three persons appointed by the Governor. All were ex-officio Justices of the Peace and the Chairman had to be a Police or Resident Magistrate and were appointed for a three year term. All classes of liquor licences were granted for the duration of one calendar year and licence fees were based on the annual rental value of the property in the case of a publicans' general licence, while fixed fees were levied for all other classes. The Licensing Act 1911 established a system of 15 licences as follows:

  • Publican's general;
  • Hotel;
  • Wayside-house;
  • Australian Wine and Beer;
  • Australian Wine;
  • Australian Wine Bottle;
  • Packet;
  • Railway Refreshment Room;
  • Spirit Merchants;
  • Gallon;
  • Brewers;
  • Eating-house, Boarding-house or Lodging-house;
  • Billiard table;
  • Temporary; and
  • Occasional license.

This system operated between 21 February 1911 and 15 August 1923.

State Licensing Court: August 1923 - 30 June 1970

The Liquor Act Amendment Act 1922 abolished all existing Licensing Courts and established two administrative bodies, a single State Licensing Court and the Licences Reduction Board. The State Licensing Court had exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine all applications regarding licensing and to set the conditions for the granting of licences and permits on a Statewide basis.

The Liquor Licensing Court operated as a branch of the Chief Secretary's Department until 1970 when, under the terms of the Liquor Act of 1970, it became a statutory authority empowered to grant licences on a state wide basis with exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine all applications regarding licensing and to set the conditions for the granting of licences and permits. The Court was abolished in 1970 and replaced by the Licensing Court of Western Australia.

This system operated between 16 August 1923 and 30 June 1970.

Licensing Court of WA: July 1970 - January 1987

The Liquor Act 1970 repealed the Licensing Act 1911 and established the Licensing Court of WA (LCWA) which had exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine all applications regarding licensing and to set the conditions for the granting of licences and permits on a state wide basis. In February 1984 the Office of Racing and Gaming assumed administrative responsibility for the Court.

This system operated between 1 July 1970 and 31 January 1987.

Liquor Licensing Court: February 1987 - May 2007

The LCWA was renamed the Liquor Licensing Court (LLC) and resulted in the establishment of a two tier system of where the Court had judicial oversight of major liquor licensing matters, with the processing and assessment of applications in effect devolved as administrative functions to the Office of Racing Gaming and Liquor (ORGL).

The LLC comprised a Judge who heard and determined contested applications for the grant or removal of Category A licenses (ie hotels, taverns, cabarets and liquor stores). All other applications were heard by the Director of Liquor Licensing (Office of Racing Gaming & Liquor). The LLC’s determinations had the same weight as those handed down by the District Court. The court and its functions were created by the Liquor Amendment Act (No 2) 1986 and Liquor Licensing Act 1988.

This system operated between 1 February 1987 and 6 May 2007.

Liquor Commission: May 2007 - present

The Liquor Commission was established under Section 8 of the Liquor Control Act 1988 & came into effect on 7 May, 2007 and replaced the LLC established in 1987.

This reform, which triggered by the appointment of an independent committee in September 2004 to review the State’s liquor licensing arrangements, is described as being to “provide a flexible system with as little formality and technicality as practicable", in effect shifting matters that had previously been dealt with in a court context to being treated as administrative matters overseen by the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor.

Office of Racing & Gaming: December 1984 - June 2001

The Office of Racing and Gaming (ORGL) was created to bring together into one organisation responsibility for racing, gaming and liquor matters and to achieve improved efficiency and effectiveness in how these functions were administered. The Office provided policy advice to the Minister and was responsible for the administration of all racing, gaming and liquor legislation.

The ORGL operated from 14 December 1984 to 30 June 2001.

Department of Racing, Gaming & Liqour: July 2001 - present

The Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor (DRGL) was established on 1 July 2001 & performs similar functions as previously performed by the ORGL.

Official inquiries - Western Australia

Since the early 1920s there have been a number of official inquiries in Western Australia (WA) which have examined aspects of the operation of the State's liquor licensing laws, including:

  • Royal Commission on Licensing (1922) - Henry Mann MLA Chairman
  • Parliamentary Committee Into the Licensing Act 1911-1956 (1958) - Eric Heenan MLC Chairman
  • Inquiry Into the Licensing Act 1911 (1969) - Phillip Adams QC Chairman
  • Royal Commission into Liquor Laws in Western Australia (1984) - John Syme Chairman
  • Review of Western Australian Liquor Act 1970 (1987) - Office of Racing & Gaming
  • Independent Review of Liquor Licensing Act 1988 (1994) - KV Mattingley Chairman
  • Independent Review of Liquor Licensing Act 1988 (2005) - Jim Freemantle Chairman
  • Assessment of Impacts of Liquor Licensing Reforms (2005) - Allen Consulting

Click here to view a list of the names & dates of the political parties which have held government in WA from December 1890 (when the state obtained responsible government from being British colony) to identify the context when each inquiry was held.

Royal Commission on Licensing (1922)

Click here to view or download a PDF (1.2Mb) copy of the report of the Mann Royal Commission.

Parliamentary Committee Into the Liquor Licensing Act 1911-1956 (1958)

Click here to view or download a PDF (2.1Mb) copy of the report of the Heenan Parliamentary Inquiry.

Inquiry Into the Licensing Act 1911 (1969)

Click here to view or download a PDF (3.2Mb) copy of the report of the Adams Inquiry.

Royal Commission Into Liquor Laws (1984)

Click here to view or download a PDF version (2.6Mb) of the report of the Syme Royal Commission.

Other inquiries in WA

In the first few decades of the WA Parliament there were a number of members of parliament (MPs) who strongly advocated temperance measures with the objective of achieving some of the goals of alcohol prohibition. These measures included establishing State run hotels, reductions in the number of liquor licenses through establishing License Reduction Boards, restricting opening hours by six o'clock closing of hotels & legislation to hold local option & prohibition polls. The advocates of alcohol prohibition policies to drastically curtail the availability & consumption of alcohol in the State drew support & validation for their cause from similar measures that had been introduced elsewhere.

Reports from investigations undertaken of other jurisdictions were tabled in the WA Parliament in 1909 & 1923:

Report on the operation of the liquor laws of New South Wales, Victoria & New Zealand

This 14 page report was tabled in 1909, as a result of an investigation undertaken by Alfred Carson at the instigation of the Premier of the time, James Moore. As suggested in the report's concluding paragraph, there was a sense of parochial satisfaction with the State's alcohol policies at that time:

I cannot conclude this report without saying that, whatever the demerits of the liquor traffic in our own State, the average character of our licensed premises is incomparably higher than those which came under my notice in any one of the States I visited, and this notwithstanding that in Victoria, New South Wales, and New Zealand the process of eliminating redundant licenses, by one means or another, has been in progress for years. (page 15)

Click here to view or download a PDF (1.8Mb) copy of the report.

Prohibition in North America

This 40 page report, which was conducted by Thomas Walker MLA, who had been the Attorney General in the Mitchell government, which held office between May 1919 & April 1924. The report presented a substantial amount of information obtained through interviews, from statistical materials & various written materials garnered from a tour of a number of 16 American States & 6 Canadian Provinces between February & June 1923.

The author of the report was a passionate supporter for the adoption of the principles of prohibitlon in WA:

In the public schools of America scientific facts regarding alcohol are now being generally taught. The coming generations will know the truth, and after all perhaps the strongest foundation for a prohibition edifice is scientific education. There are those who believe that that is the only way of attaining ultimate National sobriety, but as the PremIer of a great State you will recognise, I think, that if science demonstrates that alcohol, however moderately consumed, is a menace to the longevity of the citizens of the State, and to the continuance of a virile race, it is the duty of the law-makers of the Nation, without waiting until all the ignorance of the people has been removed, to take action. A wise statesman would not wait until all the people had been educated to the evil effects and the dangers of the plague, or any lesser epidemic, before he placed laws upon the statute book prescribing regulations limiting the “personal liberty” of the subjects of the State so as to prevent the spread of any malady productive of fatality or the permanent injury to the victims of the disease. (page 39)

Click here to view or download a PDF (4.1Mb) copy of the report.

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