ID scanning law a risk to night time economy and Brisbane’s growing international reputation

When I picked up the most recent issue of Monocle, I was pleased to see Brisbane in the list of the world’s top 25 cities, but I suspect Tyler Brule and his Monocle staff would be aghast at Queensland’s new ID scanning law, and they would reassess Brisbane’s status. The ID scanning law, which requires venues in the City and Valley trading after midnight to scan patrons’ IDs, has received some heavy criticism this week, in the Brisbane Times (see Winemakers turned away from top bar due to ID laws) and in the Courier-Mail by Paul Syvret, who considers it a nanny-state measure (For an allegedly modern capital city approach to party precincts is just plain dumb). The ID scanning law has become a risk to the night time economy and Brisbane’s growing reputation among international travelers.

The Queensland Government needs to urgently re-think the ID scanning policy. It was adopted as a compromise after the failure of the Government’s 1am lockout law which was repealed earlier this year. But it appears to have been hastily implemented without the benefit of a sound public policy process to ensure it delivers net benefits (i.e. it passes a cost-benefit analysis test) and that it is a proportionate response to the problem.

As reported in the Brisbane Times earlier this year, night time economy spokesman Nick Braban had hoped that the ID scanning law would only apply to the larger beer barn-type venues and not to “smaller, boutique venues”. But, given the law now applies at the sophisticated city bar the Gresham, it would appear it is not well calibrated and is a disproportionate response to the risk.

As an economist, I am disappointed that there does not appear to have been an economic study, including both a cost-benefit analysis and an economic impact analysis, performed on the ID scanning policy before it was adopted. A publicly available Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) would have been highly desirable given the significant costs the policy is is imposing on the industry, through ID scanners costing thousands of dollars and which each require a staff member to operate, and the risk the policy poses to the night time economy and our international reputation. Such a RIS, which could be subject to rigorous review by the Queensland Productivity Commission, would compare the ID scanning law with more nuanced and likely more cost-effective options, such as increasing the fines for venues which serve intoxicated patrons or which fail to provide sufficient security to manage their large crowds.

I do not deny Queensland has a problem with alcohol fueled violence, but we should find a proportionate and cost-effective response to it, and sound economic analysis is essential in developing that response.

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3 Responses to ID scanning law a risk to night time economy and Brisbane’s growing international reputation

  1. Rupert says:

    The ID scanning laws were brought in by Newman in 2014. The govt is now just enforcing them.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Thanks Rupert. Even if the previous government did bring in the legal power to do so, the current government should still assess the costs and benefits of enforcing it. I can’t see where they’ve done that.

  2. Fergal Sharkey says:

    Gene, a timely post. But do Queensland government departments/agencies conduct Regulatory Impact Statements (RISs) anymore? The only one I can see on the Queensland Productivity Commission website is one undertaken on sugar. But this RIS was actually written by the Queensland Productivity Commission (the oversight body)!

    The Queensland Productivity Commission’s 2015-16 Annual Report stated:

    “Between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016, there were 295 requests for exclusions, 104 Preliminary Impact Assessments and 7 Regulatory Impact Statements” p. 8

    So it seems there are very few RISs that actually get done under the RIS process. Most regulatory proposals seem to be excluded for one reason or another. This isn’t necessarily a problem because not every proposal necessitates RIS analysis (analysis should be commensurate with the size of the policy issue). But what is a problem is that the regulatory impact analysis that is undertaken is not open to public scrutiny. Where is the RIS repository in Queensland?

    Why can’t the Queensland Productivity Commission inform the community what level of regulatory review took place in the case of ID scanners. More generally, why doesn’t the Queensland Productivity Commission list the extent of regulatory review for each regulatory proposal in its annual report (or even better on its website)? Instead, it provides a highly aggregated table that provides little transparency (see Table 3 of its 2015-16 Annual Report). The community deserves more transparency and accountability.

    If government departments don’t do the policy analysis early in the piece regulatory overreach is always on the cards. Its sad that government ministers fear transparent RIS analysis.They can’t see that it actually can save them from having to make embarrassing policy backflips down the track when they get the policy design wrong. Lockout laws was a case in point, maybe ID scanners will be soon added to the list.

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