Alcohol industry vs. public health presentations at judicial reviews of liquor license applications in Australia Academic Article uri icon


  • Greater densities of alcohol outlets are associated with greater incidence of alcohol-related harms. In Australia, public health advocates aiming to limit alcohol availability expend significant energy objecting to new outlets in licensing and planning hearings. This study identifies and reviews the key scientific arguments put forward by industry and public health representatives in liquor and planning hearings to determine the factors that contribute to decisions by the presiding authority and to identify ways forward for researchers wishing to facilitate harm minimisation through these regulatory forums. Scientific evidence presented in 23 cases from Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia between 2010 and 2018 were assessed using directed content analysis. Cases were identified through the AustLii and Westlaw online databases. The full transcripts of two cases that were identified as representative of the scientific arguments presented in other included cases were also reviewed. Four main arguments that industry used during hearings were identified-causal inference, non-linearities, differentiation and risk mitigation. These arguments were used across many included hearings and raised fundamental questions that public health evidence was often ill-equipped to respond to. The overall success of industry arguments in liquor and planning hearings highlighted the challenges of applying epidemiological evidence to individual case studies. These findings have particular implications and will be of use for researchers and public health experts participating in future licensing hearings, especially those wishing to prevent alcohol-related harm through regulatory mechanisms such as state licensing authorities (i.e. courts).

publication date

  • 2020