24 Aug 2010

Minister defends licence exemption for police bars

10:25 pm on 24 August 2010

Police Minister Judith Collins is defending the continued liquor licence exemption for police bars.

The Cabinet has decided that outlets selling liquor at Parliament are to lose their licence exemption under alcohol law reforms.

But that will not be the case for canteens run by police, the Fire Service and the Defence Force, as well as permanent charter clubs, which include a number of cosmopolitan and workingmen's clubs.

Labour leader Phil Goff says a clear case needs to be made to continue licence exemptions and wants to see what arguments were put forward. He says it appears the law is not being applied consistently.

However, Ms Collins says the exemption is fair and although it means police bars are not required to have a trained manager, police have a very responsible attitude to the way things are run.

In its submissions to the Law Commission, police did not oppose the licence exemption being removed, but the union representing police officers, the Police Association, argued against it.

The union says exemptions should stay in place for police bars because officers need to be able to socialise without harassment or confronted by people they may have locked up.

It says police bars have much stricter rules than general drinking laws and anyone breaching them is dealt with harshly.

Casinos have no restrictions on their trading hours, and that exemption will also remain in place.

Prime Minister John Key says people at casinos are primarily there to gamble, not to drink, and are highly supervised. He says unrestricted trading hours keeps New Zealand in line with casinos overseas, most of which operate 24/7.

The exemptions will be debated when the new legislation goes before a select committee.