Rational social impact assessment of alcohol outlets: slip sliding away

Alison Ziller, Tony Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In 2004 legislators in New South Wales relied on Australia’s National Competition Policy to change the reason for determining alcohol outlet approvals from a “needs” to a “harm minimisation” basis. This was predicated on the application of a rational social impact assessment (SIA) process. Within a short time, however, the volume of liquor licence applications began to erode that intention and the delays that applicants encountered placed politicians under pressure to fast-track the process. Subsequent liquor legislation retained the statutory obligation on decision-makers to ensure no overall detrimental social impact associated with the approval of an alcohol outlet licence. However, legislative amendments to the approval process reduced the number and kinds of licences and authorisations to which the social impact test applied and encouraged other shortcuts which undermine the validity of these assessments. The resulting statutory approval system in practice relegates SIA to an exception rather than the rule and has revealed the relative weakness of SIA as a public health safeguard.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)786-799
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Law and Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • public health
  • alcohol regulation
  • social impact assessment


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