Labour MP wants to change law around public holiday alcohol restrictions

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 6 Apr 2021, 7:21PM
Labour MP Kieran McAnulty. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Labour MP Kieran McAnulty. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Labour MP wants to change law around public holiday alcohol restrictions

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 6 Apr 2021, 7:21PM

Labour MP Kieran McAnulty has put up a member's bill to remove restrictions on alcohol sales over Easter, Christmas and Anzac Day, saying if someone wanted a pint on those days they should be able to have one without getting a full meal.

Another MP, Act's Chris Baillie, has also prepared a bill to remove the shop trading hours and alcohol restrictions over the Easter holiday – but not Christmas or Anzac Day.

McAnulty's bill would remove the current laws which require restaurants and pubs to sell alcohol only to people who are dining on Easter Friday and Sunday or Christmas Day, and not to sell alcohol before 1pm on Anzac Day.

"It doesn't quite sit right with me that on Easter Sunday, you can go to the pub and order a plate of chips and that doesn't get you a beer – but if you chuck in a bit of fish, you can get a pint.

"I went to Easter Sunday Mass and if I wanted to get a pint afterwards, I should be able to."

McAnulty said the bill would not affect the Shop Trading Hours Act, because it only applied to businesses already permitted to open on the public holidays in question.

The requirement for pubs to close at midnight on the day before Easter Friday and Sunday has caused problems in some areas such as Queenstown as all the customers leave at the same time.

The last time the law relating to alcohol sales on the holidays was changed was in 2016, when former MP Paul Foster-Bell's member's bill to allow RSAs to offer alcohol after dawn services on Anzac Day was fast-tracked through Parliament. It meant RSAs no longer had to apply for a special license.

McAnulty is hoping to be the first to succeed in using a new process to bypass the usual ballot process for member's bills.

That required getting support from 61 MPs for the bill to go straight on to the Order Paper, rather than hope it would be drawn from a ballot.

The 61 MPs cannot be ministers, so McAnulty would need the votes of all other Labour MPs and at least 20 MPs from other parties to hit that mark.

McAnulty said he would formally approach other parties in the near future. That could involve a bit of horse-trading, given other MPs are also keen to use the 61 MP process for their own bills.

Act leader David Seymour said Act would consider McAnulty's request – "but we might respond in kind by asking him to support Act's bill on shop trading hours".

Baillie had "a much better bill" that would repeal both the shop trading hours laws and the sale of alcohol laws for the Easter period. That bill would not change the laws for Christmas or Anzac Day, days Seymour said merited the protection.

National Party justice spokesman Simon Bridges said he would have to take the bill to caucus to consider "but if Labour is serious about this, they have a majority in Parliament to pass it as a government measure".

McAnulty had caucus approval to put up his member's bill, but alcohol laws are usually treated as conscience issues rather than voted on party lines.

McAnulty said the restrictions applied over what should be some of the busiest days of the year for hospitality, which was particularly important for those struggling to recover from the Covid-19 restrictions.

The current law put pub staff into a difficult position of having to police what people were eating, and the rule alcohol could only be consumed for up to an hour before and after a meal encouraged binge drinking, he said.