Last week the NSW State Government announced a new chair and board for the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA). ILGA is a statutory decision-maker, regulating licensing and disciplinary matters for pubs, clubs, and casinos.
Its new chair will be lawyer Philip Crawford, who acts as a director to community advocacy groups the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation* and Bravehearts*.
“People appointed to the ILGA board must be of the highest integrity and promote fair, transparent and efficient decision-making, and Mr Crawford fits that bill,” said Deputy Premier and Minister for Justice and Police, Troy Grant.
Crawford will be supported by Deputy Chair David Armati, and four new members appointed since March: Craig Sahlin, former NSW Government senior executive on regulatory reform, policy development and implementation; Stephen Parbery, registered liquidator and former chairman of PPB Advisory; Nicky McWilliam, law PhD and director of dispute resolution firm Sydney Mediation; Murray Smith, restructuring and insolvency specialist and member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
The new line-up appears poised to bring some heavy-hitting expertise to the turbulent regulatory environment in NSW licensing, but falls somewhat short of being the industry-integrated maverick some would like to have seen.
“There is some indication that the NSW government is keen to move forward with a more balanced approach, but it’s anyone’s guess really,” said Tyson Koh, head of activist group Keep Sydney Open.
The legal-heavy board effectively shuts out the inclusion of cultural, planning and industry representatives, but may nonetheless prove effective in the fair arbitration of liquor and gaming licensing matters for the State mediator.
“So long as long as they perform their duties without bias, NCAT will have a much easier time,” suggest Koh.
“Unfortunately, I don’t see much engagement between regulators and the businesses being affected, or an awareness of culture within inner-city areas. All the attention has been on closing times, when the real focus should be on operator integrity and community values.
“If ILGA can recognise the potential for venues to be a positive force within their precincts and work closer with businesses to ensure this, we’ll end up with a better result for everyone.”
*The Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation promotes behavioural change in young people, with the aim to create a responsible drinking culture. Bravehearts advocates child protection from sexual and physical abuse.