Dom Post on Rugby World Cup bars

The Dom Post editorial:

Changing the rules, however, proved much more tortured than it needed to be. The ACT MP David Seymour saw an opportunity to throw off the yoke of licensing laws, and introduced a bill to let pubs open for all cup games. Yet the at first scuppered the effort, concerned, they said, about drunks spilling out of bars as parents dropped children off at school.

So Prime Minister John Key said he would consider urgent legislation, and levelled that the Greens were eternally “opposed to anything that’s sort of vaguely good fun”.

It’s true that the political rituals of this are wearying – the male politicians bragging about how much they enjoy beer, the charge that all those concerned about alcohol harm are wowsers.

Yet the Greens’ complaints were too precious by half. This wasn’t the issue on which to make a heroic stand about the perils of drink. Relatively few people will race to a pub to see the All Blacks stomp on Namibia at 7am on a Friday – and only a handful will drink too much as they do so.

Judging by past Football World Cup games screened at dawn in Courtenay Place, more fans are likely to eat a pub breakfast on their way to work. In any case, several All Blacks games start at 8am, when pubs can be open anyway.

The Greens pointed out that pubs can already apply for special licences to show cup games. But those require outlets to jump through silly hoops, like imposing a fancy-dress requirement or holding a quiz. No-one needs such frippery at 4am.

By yesterday afternoon, the Greens seemed to have realised this – they withdrew their opposition to Seymour’s bill, apparently after assurances that it would be tweaked.

The bill was always open to amendment at select committee. Nothing has changed there.

The real story is that on Tuesday night, after they refused leave for the bill to be introduced, was the annual function of Saunders Unsworth. This is one of those events where half of Parliament attends, along with scores of business and community leaders, plus media.

It is a great networking event. You have around 50+ conversations with different people, normally on very different topics.

I understand from multiple sources that James Shaw and Julie-Anne Genter had dozens of conversations with people there. But there was only one topic. Why the hell did you stop the bill to allow bars to be open for the rugby. As the night wore on, I think they realised how badly they had stuffed up. This was summed up by this tweet from their supporter, Danyl:

The next day the Greens changed their stance 100%.

The opposition to the bill was obviously led by Kevin Hague who denounced the idea of bars being open as appalling – drunken revellers spilling out of pubs as schools open. I wonder if the new co-leader effectively pulled rank and just told his caucus that they need to back down on this, or be tainted with it for years to come?

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