Part A: Understanding s295(b)
Section 295 of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (the Act) requires Police, Licensing Inspectors, and Medical Officers of Health within each territorial authority to “establish and maintain arrangements with each other to ensure the ongoing monitoring of licences and the enforcement of this Act” (s295(a)), and to “work together to develop and implement strategies for the reduction of alcohol-related harm” (s295(b)).
Many regions operate effective systems for collaboration. However, collaborative activities predominantly focus on s295(a), with joint work oriented to monitoring compliance and enforcing the provisions of the Act.
A broader perspective on s295 sees the ‘duty to collaborate’ extend beyond work related to alcohol licensing.
It is about regulatory agencies developing joint goals and strategies that reflect the region’s specific issues and needs in relation to alcohol-related harm, and implementing actions in line with these goals and strategies.
This approach recognises that alcohol-related harm is a complex, system problem with multiple inter-related causes. Managing such open-ended and socially complex issues rarely sits within the responsibility of one single organisation.
Ideally, all relevant stakeholders, including regulatory agencies and other members of their wider organisations, work together to frame a common understanding of the system underpinning alcohol-related harm and to develop and implement the multifaceted approach required in response. Responses will very likely involve personnel within DHBs, territorial authorities and the Police beyond those specifically focused on licensed premises.
Section 295(b) of the Act is interpreted in different ways.
Some regulatory agency personnel perceive collaborative obligations as applying to activities that strictly relate to licensed alcohol supply. Others interpret the requirement as a need to work more broadly to reduce alcohol-related harm.
This lack of clarity regarding the roles of regulatory agencies in relation to s295(b) has been a significant barrier to promoting broader strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm.
A broad interpretation holds that s295(b) specifically refers to collaborative actions that extend beyond areas of monitoring of licences and the enforcement of the Act.
This approach aligns with the object of the Act to minimise the harm caused by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol. The object effectively applies a public health rather than a legal procedure lens to the Act.
The challenge for regulatory agency personnel is to find or develop the capacity and capability to manage the obligation related to licensing and to take action to reduce alcohol-related harm within their communities.
 Australian Public Service Commission. (2007). Tackling wicked problems: A public policy perspective. Canberra: Australian Public Service Commission.