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Aldi blasts arcane laws that block it from selling liquor at Queensland stores

Adrian Lowe
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Aldi says Queensland’s liquor retail laws are overly restrictive and have pushed up prices in the State.
Aldi says Queensland’s liquor retail laws are overly restrictive and have pushed up prices in the State. Credit: News Corp Australia

Discount supermarket Aldi has taken aim at Queensland’s restrictive liquor retail laws, which block it selling alcohol in its supermarkets in the Sunshine State.

The Queensland Parliament is holding an inquiry into supermarket prices in that State, with similar terms of reference to the Senate inquiry that wrapped this week ahead of a final report next month. The SA Parliament is also holding an inquiry on the same issue.

Hearings in Queensland begin on Monday in the regional city of Bundaberg and are expected to run into the middle of next month ahead of a final report on May 31.

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While many of the big companies and groups have covered much of the same ground in their submission to the Queensland inquiry as the Senate, Aldi told the Queenslanders it was being held back by restrictive planning rules and regulations.

Queensland law requires liquor to be sold from a hotel or a detached bottle shop nearby and owners must have a commercial liquor licence. It also bans drive-through bottle shops and shops larger than 150sqm and requires the detached bottle shop to be no more than 10km from the main licensed premises.

Aldi, which sells alcohol at its supermarkets in NSW, Victoria, the ACT and WA, but not Queensland or SA, says these laws have contributed to higher alcohol prices for consumers.

“Although initially intended to support independent hoteliers, these laws now effectively safeguard a duopoly of supermarkets that control a majority of hotel licenses and liquor sales in the State,” Aldi told the Queensland inquiry in its submission.

“It’s estimated that major grocery retailers have heavily invested in these licenses, with two prominent brands collectively overseeing over 750 retail liquor stores in Queensland.

“This consolidation unnecessarily restricts consumer choice, convenience, and pricing competition.”

Dan Murphy’s and BWS are owned by Endeavour Group, which was hived out of Woolworths in 2021. The supermarket chain retains a 9 per cent interest in Endeavour and is its fourth-largest shareholder.

Coles owns Liquorland, Vintage Cellars and First Choice Liquor Mart and has a 50-50 venture with Australian Venue Co for 76 Queensland hotels to operate those liquor stores in the State.

Aldi said the “unique regulatory landscape in Queensland . . . grants a select few supermarket chains significant dominance in liquor sales”.

“This dominance, we believe, directly affects pricing for consumers at the checkout,” it said.

Elsewhere the Business Council of Australia told the Queensland inquiry it needed to bear in mind State laws that could reduce barriers to entry and expansion for businesses, in turn improving competition.

It cited Productivity Commission and competition policy reviews that found planning and zoning requirements were often excessively prescriptive and often anti-competitive, as well as trading hours rules that prohibit stores from opening beyond certain times.

The Queensland, SA and WA Governments maintain labyrinthine trading hour regulations — at their most extreme, major supermarkets in Perth can only open on Sundays from 11am to 5pm but liquor stores, even in the same shopping centre, can open from 10am to 6pm.

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