Frank Wust, owner of the Walkabout Creek Hotel, celebrates with McKinlay locals. Picture: Lachie Millard
Frank Wust, owner of the Walkabout Creek Hotel, celebrates with McKinlay locals. Picture: Lachie Millard

Bush pubs thrown a lifeline by Palaszczuk government

QUEENSLAND'S iconic remote pubs and clubs, struggling to keep their doors open amid dwindling populations, exorbitant costs and extreme weather, will soon be thrown a lifeline with their liquor licence fees to be slashed by 90 per cent.

The Sunday Mail can reveal the Palaszczuk Government is poised to throw its support behind a Katter's Australian Party Bill to reduce fees for remote pubs so they are no longer paying the same as their city slicker counterparts. The Government will extend it to clubs as well in a move that will see the fees for 112 pubs and 42 clubs reduced from $3757 a year to just $376.

The move would kick in from July 1, costing the Government about $395,855 in lost fees each year.

KAP State leader Robbie Katter first introduced the legislation last term, arguing that small-town pubs "hold a different place in the community than the massive pubs in Brisbane, however they pay the same fee, which I don't think is an accurate reflection of how important these venues are for small communities."

Mr Katter reintroduced it following the 2017 election. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Labor would use its numbers to expand the legislation and ensure it will pass to protect venues.

"It's especially important, in this Year of Outback Tourism, that we support the viability of these hotels and clubs, as they are a critical part of the social fabric in our remote towns," Ms Palaszczuk said. "They often provide a diverse range of services such as accommodation, meals, petrol, general stores and postal services.

"They face very real financial pressures from small and declining local populations, difficult access during wet months, the small amounts of liquor some sell and the cost of freight. I have visited towns where the pub is one of the few commercial businesses left."

Publican Frank Wust, the owner of Walkabout Creek Hotel in McKinlay, said the change was needed as the high fees and exorbitant costs remote pubs also copped were behind the closure of many. He said, for example, just one carton cost him $4.50 for freight.

"That's why businesses are collapsing, because they can't afford the overheads - and this bloody licensing fee is one of them," Mr Wust said. "The bush is dying. Any relief we could get would be good."

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said she would brief the KAP on the Government's decision to back their Bill and include clubs too - including RSLs, bowls clubs, golf clubs, social and recreational clubs that range in size from 20 to over 1000 members. The majority, if not all, the clubs in very remote areas of Queensland have less than 2,000 members."

"It's essential we reduce unnecessary non-operational costs for very remote licenced venues to reflect their unique circumstances," Ms D'Ath said.

The proposed concessional fee scheme uses the location of a commercial hotel or club in "very remote Australia" as designated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.