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Aldi joins new push to stock alcohol in supermarkets

Business

The debate to stock alcohol in supermarkets has started to bubble again as Aldi joins the push to sell liquor in its soon-to-be-opened South Australian stores.

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Alcohol could soon be sold from South Australian supermarket shelves if a push by new retail entry Aldi is successful.

The move from the German mega grocery chain comes as the State Government is one day away from closing submissions to the first review of SA liquor laws in 20 years.

An Aldi spokeswoman told InDaily it would make a submission to the wide-ranging review of the Liquor Licensing Act to have laws changed to allow alcohol to be sold in supermarkets – a service already provided by the chain in several eastern states.

The question of whether liquor should be sold in South Australian supermarkets is among 32 points related to alcohol and alcohol-related behaviour that are now under consideration by the State Government.

The spokeswoman said the company, which opens its first SA store at Parafield Gardens on February 3, would support a change to the law to allow their stores to sell alcohol in SA.

“Current South Australian liquor licensing prevents Aldi from offering alcohol in its South Australian stores, however, Aldi will be making a submission to the Attorney General’s Liquor Licensing Discussion Paper recommending changes to this legislation.”

The change in the state law would bring SA stores in line with the company’s eastern border businesses.

Home-brand and international wine, beer, cider, spirits, champagne and sparkling wines are already sold at some Aldi stores in New South Wales, Victoria and ACT.

State liquor laws prevent alcohol being sold in Queensland stores.

“In Aldi stores where liquor is sold, the range is confined to a delineated area, which is separate from everyday grocery lines.

“In addition … stores do not carry any chilled alcohol product for immediate consumption.

She added the chain was actively involved in programs to address community concerns raised by the sale and consumption of alcohol.

“Aldi shares concerns about the effect of alcohol consumption in the community and as such, is committed to organisations such as DrinkWise and Local Liquor Accords.

“We were the first Australian retailer to partner with DrinkWise Australia as part of our social responsibility stance in relation to alcohol.”

Submissions to the Liquor Licensing Discussion Paper are due to close at 5pm tomorrow.

Former Supreme Court Judge, Timothy Anderson, is overseeing the review and told InDaily some extensions had been granted.

“Some respondents have been granted an extension until 5 February 2016 to allow for the collation and inclusion of critical research data,” he said.

Anderson could not say how many submissions had been received to date but he said they would be published, unless stated confidential, as part of the consultation process.

He will provide his findings on the liquor review to the government on June 30.

Aldi's pitch for its liquor range.

Aldi’s pitch for its liquor range.

Attorney-General John Rau refused to comment, telling InDaily he did want to pre-empt the review.

The comprehensive public review of the state’s liquor licensing regime is the first in nearly 20 years.

The paper, released by the Attorney-General’s Department in October last year, calls for “bold and brave ideas” for reform, “balancing safety, while reducing red tape and fostering vibrancy in our community”.

“We need to reduce the red tape surrounding our liquor licensing framework with an overall goal of creating vibrancy and competition,” the paper states.

Part of the paper’s objective is to encourage entrepreneurship and ensure the state keeps pace with consumer and cultural expectations concerning its valuable and popular wine industry.

“The regulation of liquor should be modernised, promote greater flexibility and encourage entrepreneurs to emerge with new business models,” the paper says.

“Greater flexibility and simplicity will make it easier and more efficient for entrepreneurs to establish small licensed businesses such as small bars or food-focussed venues like tapas bars, strengthening the state’s economy and enabling South Australia to nurture its diverse food and wine industry.”

SA’s food and wine industry is valued at more than $17 billion and accounts for 40 per cent of the state’s total merchandise exports.

National December figures from Wine Australia Export Report released last week reached their highest in nearly 10 years by jumping 14 per cent to $2.1 billion in 2015.

The strongest growth was measured in China, which grew 66 per cent to $370 million.

Attorney-General John Rau abandoned a previous proposal to allow liquor sales in supermarkets. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

Attorney-General John Rau abandoned a previous proposal to allow liquor sales in supermarkets. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

Bread, milk … wine. Doomed to fail?

It’s not the first time a push has been made to stock alcohol on SA supermarket shelves.

Almost three years ago to the day, Rau asked the public and industry whether supermarkets should be given a limited licence to sell bottled wine.

The proposal, available to supermarkets with a maximum of 400 square metres of floorspace, was designed to benefit SA wine producers, regions and independent stores.

“Many of our local wineries are unable to complete or meet with the demands placed upon them by some liquor retails,” Rau said at the proposal’s launch on January 27, 2014.

“Creating the opportunity for South Australian owned and operated supermarkets to sell bottled wine produced by the local wineries is a wine for both industries.”

However, after months of consultation and despite the government support, proposed laws were dropped after legal hurdles, strong opposition from wine sellers and concern independents would be squeezed out of that market.

Coles and Woolworths’ liquor outlets and hotels hold 58 per cent of alcohol sold in SA.

“After considering all submissions and seeking legal advice, I am now of the view that we can not achieve the desired outcome without hurting independent bottle shops, our local wine industry and helping Coles and Woolworths,” Rau said on August 26, 2013.

 

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