Here in the Nanny State of Western Australia, good, decent, honest, hardworking ordinary citizens bear the brunt of nonsensical laws about alcohol. The following stories are true; I know because I was there.
The first occurred at a supermarket liquor store, owned by a large supermarket chain, in a town in the Pilbara in the state’s north, pictured here:
The liquor store entrance is at the far left of the picture. At the far right of the picture, between the two small trees and some 50 metres away, is a park bench with a shade cover, also pictured here:
Now, at just after 8pm one evening, which is after dark, a couple of people go into the liquor store and buy some booze. Unbeknowns to anyone, they go over to the park bench identified and start drinking there in the dark. A short while later the cops drive around the place on a patrol and shine a light on the drinkers, telling them that they’re not supposed to be drinking there. The drinkers up and leave, without incurring any penalty it must be added, presumably to continue their drinking who knows where. Anyway, the cops then go into the liquor store and give the girl behind the counter an official written warning for allowing people to consume alcohol on the premises in contravention of the store’s license, and warn her that she risks a very large fine if any further breach occurs.
How does this add up? Well apparently the fact that the park bench on the edge of the car park is on the supermarket property means that it is legally considered to be on the premises of the liquor store for all licensing purposes. It seems that most people’s common sense definition, which would limit it to the store’s interior and perhaps the immediate visible vicinity of the store entrance, isn’t applied. It doesn’t seem to matter that the offenders were not even in the line of sight of the store entrance, nor that they were in pitch darkness and couldn’t be seen anyway, nor that the store attendant was busy inside the store with her back to a brick wall serving customers. What could be done to comply with such an interpretation of this law? Well, perhaps the supermarket could employ someone to patrol the car park at night to ensure people aren’t hanging around after buying grog, but what does that have to do with the young lady behind the counter?
The second story; same liquor store, different night, different attendant, very different customers, no cops involved this time. A woman and her adult daughter walk into the store and each one selects a couple of items for themselves and head to the counter. Each woman holds cash to pay for their respective purchases. The attendant asks the younger woman for ID:
Young woman: “I haven’t got any with me. Anyway I’m twenty four next month.”
Attendant: “Yeah, but I have to ask for ID if you look like you’re under twenty five, that’s the rule.”
So the young woman hands her money to her mother and stands aside for her to pay.
The attendant says: “Now I’m not allowed to serve either of you.”
So then both the daughter AND the mother, both working, tax paying, law abiding, sober and well behaved adults, were unable to purchase anything just because one had passed money to the other in the store! And apparently that’s how it is!
A few more in brief:
- The tavern five minutes down the road is not allowed to serve double shots of spirits, nor single shots without a mix. There’s no tequila behind the bar.
- At the town five minutes in the other direction, motel patrons are limited to six beers per night.
- In Onslow WA, they write your name down on a piece of paper whenever you buy alcohol at the shop.
And something from the media about life in Perth, perhaps a little more sensible but not much. On Christmas Day perthnow had a piece about a few people enjoying the festive season with a quiet glass of champers at the beach:
Christmas Revellers Hit the Beach
HUNDREDS of Perth families celebrated Christmas in style on Cottesloe and Scarborough beaches this morning. Families from across Perth flocked to the coast for a day of sun, surf and sand.
Ag and Sam Willis and their friend Lane Dorvil began their day with a champagne breakfast and swim at Cottesloe beach. “This is the best way to start the day with a glass of champagne on the beach,’’ Ms Willis said. Ms Willis said they were expecting about 20 of their friends and family to join them at the beach.
AUSSIE TRADITION: Christmas at Cottesloe Beach.
The article made no mention about the fact that alcohol consumption in public places is actually illegal, and that seems odd considering that storys about transgressions of this law is fairly standard fare for the media in this state. This point wasn’t missed, however, by the readers who posted comments about the story:
“It is an offence to consume alcohol at beaches, in parks, on the street, on the road and pretty much anywhere else in public in WA. It is a total blanket ban, not just for teenagers or party goers, but everyone – nice people included.”
“Just shows theres one rule for some, and another rule for others. If that was 20 year old drinking that champagne it would of been confiscated and the patron having a $100 fine slapped on them. But because their a bit older they *assume* that they aren’t going to be unruly…”
It seems Joe Public is awake to the discriminatiory way in which this law is enforced.
“I’m sure I heard supacop Karl say on TV that the cops are allowed to ignore dinking by ‘responsible’ people.”
I might make an effort to find the occasion on which WA Police Commissioner Karl O’Callahan said this on TV, as Steve of Gosnells commented. It might be worth quoting by the bloke who next gets ticketed for having a beer in his hand when he crosses his own residential area street to go to his mate’s house across the road; or the guy with a beer moving his front lawn sprinkler who then decides to go down to check his mailbox and in doing so takes two steps off his property into a “public place”.