The Gunner Government has pledged to introduce urgent legislation to Parliament this week that would fast-track approval for a Dan Murphy’s liquor store in Darwin – four years after they passed laws to prohibit it.
The legislation would reportedly mean the Director of Liquor Licensing would need to make a decision on whether to permit a Dan Murphy’s within 30 days, which could see it approved before Christmas.
It’s part of the Gunner Government’s new policy to “make the Territory the easiest place in Australia to do business”, the government said in a statement.
But the government-imposed delays to a Darwin Dan Murphy’s began four years ago in December 2016, when the Gunner Government slipped through legislation banning booze shops larger than 400 sq/m, just as the liquor giant was ready to publicly announce its $40 million plans to build a store opposite the Bunnings on airport property.
That kicked off widespread community backlash and accusations of backroom deals with the Australia Hotels Association NT. The affair was heightened when it was revealed Mr Gunner’s then-chief of staff Alf Leonardi met with Dan Murphy’s reps apparently without the Chief Minister’s knowledge where he allegedly called the company “a Bunnings for drunks”.
At the time, Mr Gunner said Dan Murphy’s Darwin proposal contradicted the government’s election commitments to tackle alcohol-related crimes.
“We recognise that alcohol- related harm continues to be the biggest single social challenge in the NT,” he said, pointing to non-existent studies that he claimed showed the size of a liquor store directly resulted in more alcohol harm in a community.
However, an NT-centric alcohol review conducted by former chief justice Trevor Riley found the price of grog, not the size of the shop selling it, resulted in more alcohol-related harm.
Mr Gunner later backflipped on the ban and repealed the 400 sq/m legislation, kicking off four years of legal hurdles for Endeavour Drinks Group, which has now seen them back before the Director of Liquor Licensing seeking approval.
In a statement to the NT News, that went unquestioned, Small Business Minister Paul Kirby said the government wanted to see a decision made on the long, drawn-out matter soon, stating that the delay has been “unacceptable”.
“It is unacceptable that businesses and the community should have to wait this long for an answer … so we are moving urgent legislation to cut this decision making down to 30 days,” he said.
He added the legislation would also address a stalled application by the Pirlingimpi community to reinstate a takeaway liquor licence lodged in 2015.
Mr Kirby said the 30-day approval legislation was in keeping with the government’s new plan to make “the Territory the easiest place in Australia to do business”.
Details of the proposed legislation were not made available.