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Rau slams Law Society on small bars

Thursday, 14 February 2013
Author: David Washington, Indaily

ATTORNEY-General John Rau has launched a withering attack on the Law Society over its opposition to two State Government Bills seeking to reform South Australia's liquor licensing laws.

Indaily has obtained a letter from Rau to Law Society President John White, and apparently copied to some members, in which he accuses the Society of representing "the viewpoints of a particular group of clients of the Law Society's membership, as opposed to the views of the Law Society as a whole".

"Similar intervention in the future may cause considerable damage to the close working relationship that this Office has with the Society," Rau writes.

Rau says the Society's views are "remarkably similar to those previously made by industry groups".

The highly unusual spat comes after the Law Society gave the Opposition an extensive negative opinion on the State Government's small bars legislation and a related Bill, the Liquor Licensing (Entertainment) Amendment Bill.

The Society's opinion has been informed by the views of a lawyer with apparent links to the Australian Hotels Association (AHA).

The document, signed by Law Society President John White and available on the Law Society website, contains an outright rejection of the legislation which was debated in the Lower House last week.

In the letter to Shadow Attorney-General Stephen Wade, White says "we received detailed comments from Ben Allen, Partner at Wallman's Lawyers, and we acknowledge his contribution in preparing this submission".

Allen is a leading liquor licensing lawyer in Adelaide and his firm, of which he is a partner, lists the Australian Hotels Association as an "industry partner". Wallman's is also a "silver sponsor" of Clubs SA, according to the Clubs SA website.

The Law Society's argument is similar to that of the AHA, which is opposed to the proposed new liquor licence category for small bars with a maximum capacity of 120 patrons.

The Society's 11-page letter comprehensively argues against the proposals for reforming South Australia's liquor laws, which critics say are preventing the growth of small bars and music venues.

Ben Allen refused to detail his firm's connection with the AHA and said he could not answer when questioned about whether the AHA was his client.

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