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ClubsACT Joins RiotACT, speaks on Food Safety

ClubsACT 3 July 2012 31

As a long time reader of RiotACT and given recent comments about food safety in the ACT, I thought it was time to join. RiotACT is a Canberra institution and is a tremendous forum for debate which is usually of a higher standard than what our politicians serve up from time to time.

I’m setting up this account in the name of ClubsACT – no psuedonyms – and anyone who is interested in my posts will know they come from me.

In relation to food safety, I wanted to say a couple of things. Recently, I convened a meeting of the four relevant industry groups (AHA, Chamber of Commerce, Canberra Business Council and ClubsACT) to discuss the issue. All of us support the temporary closure of food businesses that pose a risk to public health. None of us support the mistreatment of Health Protection Service Inspectors and we all want consistency and transparency in how the regulator does their job.

All four organisations signed a letter to the Chief Minister asking for a roundtable to discuss the issues. In the meantime, Chris Peters from the Chamber of Commerce, Gwyn Rees (ClubsACT Policy Manager) and myself met with ACT Health (Peggy Brown, Director General) and Health Protection Service. This was a very productive meeting and we got agreement to a range of measures which will go a long way to improving the levels of information in industry and the community.

There’s obviously more to come on food safety with the debate on Scores on Doors to come. All four industry groups restated their opposition to the introduction of any new regulation until ACT Health and HPS respond to the Auditor-General’s report into food safety which found serious shortcomings in how HPS do their job. We agree with the Auditor-General that HPS should take a more proactive role in educating the industry and working with venues to improve and enhance food safety as opposed to simply focussing on enforcement when standards do slip.

It is important to remember that everyone agrees only a very small proportion of Canberra’s food businesses aren’t making the grade. Compliance levels in the ACT are very very high (at least 87%) and the reputation of Canberra’s restaurant scene is a good one. None of us want that reputation damaged due to an unfortunate tabloid, crusade-like approach to covering food safety related stories.

Hopefully we are now at a point where industry can freely raise legitimate concerns whilst recognising that HPS have a very important job to do on behalf of the entire community and that the relationship between those who regulate and those who are regulated is a positive and constructive one.

Jeff House
CEO, ClubsACT


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ClubsACT Joins RiotACT, speaks on Food Safety
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Masquara 4:48 pm 11 Aug 12

I’m a -callin’ this already: Jeff House, Mully Nominee.

Masquara 4:39 pm 11 Aug 12

ClubsACT said :

Problem gambling is an incredibly complex issue and won’t be solved on this site. There are a range of comorbidities which are involved when people are addicted to gambling. However, I will state my view that I support measures which create an atmosphere where problem gamblers feel more confident in self-identifying. I also support more effective identification of problem gamblers so they can be excluded from all gambling venues and referred to counselling to overcome their addictions. I also believe the exponential growth of online gambling should receive more attention than it does.

JH

Rather than “creating an atmosphere”, how about practical steps? Reducing access to ATMs, and capping withdrawals. NOT moving machines to the areas where there are more likely to be vulnerable people. Capping bet amounts. The only difficult comorbidity in this issue is that the clubs and the Governments are addicted to gambling revenue. THAT’s the self-identification needed, JH.

Flossie 1:31 pm 11 Aug 12

Any reason not an reason

Flossie 11:24 am 11 Aug 12

I cannot see the rationale behind effectively saying that because gambling addiction is complex, and there are places other than clubs where people with addictions will gamble, and that clubs therefore aren’t the only factor, that that is an reason for clubs to fail to act.

Nor does it make sense to say that clubs cannot afford to take the drop in income from something that damages individuals, their children, their families and society. So you’ve been doing something nasty but that made you heaps of dough and now you kinda like the dough. Wow, it’s like you are addicted.

el 11:11 am 11 Aug 12

ClubsACT said :

However, I will state my view that I support measures which create an atmosphere where problem gamblers feel more confident in self-identifying.

You mean the ‘atmosphere’ created by row after endless row of poker machines packed into clubs around the region?

Also, patrick_keogh: Brilliantly said.

Comic_and_Gamer_Nerd 8:37 am 11 Aug 12

Nothing but spin from the clubs.

Jeff, can you agree that pore machines are pure evil and that also makes club evil for having them?
If not, can you tell me what benefit poker machines give to the community?

I am in the construction industry, we are given far more strict ohs rules and regulations than the food industry, mostly to protect ourselves. Food industry is dealing with the public and therefore should have even stricter standards. A 1% failure rate is unacceptable, yet you seem to think a 13% failure rate is fine???

Not really surprising that somebody that makes a living by destroying family’s, thinks food safety is trivial.

ClubsACT 8:35 am 11 Aug 12

Goddess said :

#3 Zan made a very good point….Food safety should not only cover the cleanliness of kitchens and proper handling of food. It should also cover the personal hygiene of all staff involved. There is no good making them clean their kitchens if they don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet, is there?

In addition to staff observing healthy practices I think some customers need to be reminded of safe food handling techniques, particularly in relation to salad bars. Letting a tissue fall out of your sleeve onto the food and returning tissue to same sleeve is not very hygenic.

I witnessed this happening at a club and reported it to staff who immediately replaced the bowl of food. The customer’s main concern was removing the beetroot stain from her white cardigan.

Couldn’t agree more. Food safety is about the preparation of food and the cleanliness of staff but we should also remember that food safety is not just about commercial kitchens but our homes and workplaces.

ClubsACT 8:33 am 11 Aug 12

BallOfMonkey said :

ClubsACT said :

Problem gambling is an incredibly complex issue…

JH

What an absolute load of cr@p. You put in place endless rows of machines which are designed to suck money out of people and then try to tell us that this is somehow mitigated by a pittance of that money going back to the community through the clubs. You’re feeding on the more succeptible members of society and try to hide it behind the benefit clubs can bring to the community.

On another note, I’d actually like to thank you for bringing up this issue. Aside from my rant above, you’ve caused me to think about this issue in a little more detail and I can now happily cancel my membership to the various clubs I’m a member of to avoid any form of tacit support to the organisations you represent.

You mean to tell me that it took my post in RiotACT for you to realise or remember that clubs have poker machines? Better cancel that membership quickly before you realise clubs also serve food and alcohol.

ClubsACT 8:27 am 11 Aug 12

Deref said :

patrick_keogh said :

Jeff, it is interesting that you have decided to open a RiotACT front in the PR offensive on behalf of clubs in the ACT. As I am sure you know there are many participants in this forum who have serious misgivings concerning the role of licensed clubs in our society. Yes every club does some good things but there are numerous problem areas as well.

The growth of very large clubs and their market power can be clearly seen in your message above. I don’t ever think about the dynamic of regulation as being about a “relationship”. I don’t have a relationship with the police or the courts. They make and enforce the regulatory environment, I just obey it. Go back to your text above and substitute “traffic safety” and “police” into your text and you will see that it is a complete nonsense. I understand that you get paid to put the best possible spin on what clubs do, and to get the best outcome for the clubs but maybe it is time to step back and think about the food safety issue from the perspective of the consumer and the health system not just you employers.

Post of the year.

And Jeff – please tell us why the issue of problem gambling is so complex. I can think of at least one simple solution: limit all poker machines to 5c bets. Gamblers can enjoy their stimulation, clubs can offer their members the entertainment of poker machines, but harm will be minimised.

I’m not against gambling – I consider it like speeding, a tax on stupidity. Both can be safe under the right circumstances, but when things go wrong they go very badly wrong.

I think it’s complex because there are a range of factors or comorbidities that are at play with anyone who has an addiction of any sort. I wouldn’t say drug addiction or alcohol addiction or nicotine addiction are simple or non-complex issues because I believe they are complex. So that’s why I say that problem gambling or people being addicted to gambling is complex just like every other addiction.

We have seen many times throughout history that abstinence or abolition simply doesn’t work.

We could make the maximum bet $1 or 5 cents as you propose but I do not believe that solves problem gambling. Problem gamblers are addicted to gambling and there are many forms of gambling available and accessible.

We need to treat the addiction and that means getting problem gamblers out of venues, away from gambling and into treatment and counselling.

Apologies for the delay in replying and thanks for your comment.

ClubsACT 7:43 am 11 Aug 12

p1 said :

Firstly, hi Jeff, thanks for outing yourself as a face of ClubsACT and engaging in this debate, I appreciate it (although personally – the subject of pokies makes me not that big a fan of clubs in Canberra).

On the subject of food safety, I have found clubs to be generally good (although I have spent little time in their kitchens). Mostly though I wanted to say to the people bashing clubs for trying to have their say in the regulation of their industry – it is hardly unusual, and not a bad thing. Billionaire mining bosses buying entire newspaper companies so they can whitewash debate is a bad thing. A representative of a organisation engaging in public debate and having a couple of meetings with the government to put their opinions forward is hardly the same thing. The onus is on the government to consider the input but make choices for the public good.

On the question of the rigorousness of regulation, I would like to draw a parallel to road vehicle safety. A couple of days ago reached my vehicle after work to find during the day a vehicle inspector had visited and left a defect notice, as he had deemed the rear tyre to be “worn” and in need of replacing (which is was, to be fair, I was planning on doing it this week anyway, but it is annoying having it pointed out). I was given 14 days to do this or the vehicle would no longer be able to be used. Now this is one minor safety concern. Nothing has happened yet. It, at most might cause an accident that could hurt a couple of people, most likely me. But it enforced quite strictly.

I fail to see why restaurants should not be judged as swiftly and certainly – since similar minor safety concerns have the potential to hurt a lot more people.

Hi pf. Apologies that I haven’t replied sooner. Thank you for the welcome. I too think it is important for me to engage in the constructive debate (I won’t be responding to purely negative comments). As a side issue, it is interesting to me that sections of the media, the Canberra Times in particular, seem to think that we should ‘stop whingeing’ and go along with the groupthink and stop raising legitimate issues. They have to sell papers I guess but I think they treat the community like mugs sometimes.

Anyway, in terms of food regulation, I completely agree that food outlets that are doing the wrong thing should be dealt with swiftly because as you say, the public’s health is at stake.

What we have been saying though is before an entirely and expensive ($15m) piece of regulation like scores on doors is introduced, we need to have a good look at what’s involved and whether it’s really needed. I think this is a necessary step before any regulation is introduced. In terms of food safety, in 2009/10 half of all prohibition (closure) notices were for Asian restaurants. In 2011, 86% of all closures were for Asian restaurants. Health Protection Service had also identified language issues as being a barrier to increased food safety standards. But it’s only been in the last few weeks that food safety information was translated into multiple languages. So HPS knew there were language problems behind almost all of the closure notices issued and it took them 2-3 years to translate information into different languages. That is unacceptable in my book.

Would we be having this debate now if HPS had been providing this info two or three years ago?

The other point is that last year there were 42 prohibition notices issued out of more than 2500 food licensees in Canberra. That’s about 1.68%. I don’t believe that in and of itself represents a justification for exepensive new regulation.

In terms of scores on doors specifically, I favor a pass or fail system similar to the heart foundation tick. I don’t support a grading system because I simply don’t believe venues that are compliant should suffer a penalty for getting 3 stars instead of 5. You are either compliant or not. Experience overseas shows that the venues that don’t get the highest score get fewer customers and earn less money even though they’re still compliant.

Bigger venues such as hotels etc will have an unfair advantage over small cafes in terms of their ability to achieve 5 stars so I don’t think that is fair either.

I’m ready to be convinced about scores on doors but before we get there, we need to have a good hard look at the current problem and identify whether that problem is best addressed by what is currently proposed.

Thanks again for your very constructive comment.

ClubsACT 7:12 am 11 Aug 12

Androyd said :

Hi Jeff, welcome.
Any thoughts on how WA survives without pokies in every drinking outlet, and yet still manages to have thriving social drinking venues, money for sporting and community groups, low levels of problem gambling etc? I must say I found the whole “It’s UnAustralian” anti-pokies reform campaign by the clubs the most cynical, disingenuous exercise this side of the tobacco industry. But maybe that’s just me.

Hi there…my apologies for not replying sooner. Your question is a good one and it gets asked many times. From my perspective, it is not so much about whether you have pokies or not but more the fact that once you do have pokies and have a business where they represent a large % of your revenue, what impacts there will be on the business when that revenue is taken away. I have no doubt that Canberra would still have a club industry if there were no pokies. But by the same token, I have no doubt that significant damage will be done to the industry here if revenue from pokies was slashed and clubs are forced to change their business model too quickly. Also, clubs are and have been working hard to become less reliant on pokies revenue but this takes time.

I acknowledge your view on the advertising campaign. It wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I guess it wasn’t supposed to be.

Thank you again for your question and for making a reasoned argument as opposed to simply hurling abuse or being totally one eyed.

p1 9:21 am 06 Jul 12

Firstly, hi Jeff, thanks for outing yourself as a face of ClubsACT and engaging in this debate, I appreciate it (although personally – the subject of pokies makes me not that big a fan of clubs in Canberra).

On the subject of food safety, I have found clubs to be generally good (although I have spent little time in their kitchens). Mostly though I wanted to say to the people bashing clubs for trying to have their say in the regulation of their industry – it is hardly unusual, and not a bad thing. Billionaire mining bosses buying entire newspaper companies so they can whitewash debate is a bad thing. A representative of a organisation engaging in public debate and having a couple of meetings with the government to put their opinions forward is hardly the same thing. The onus is on the government to consider the input but make choices for the public good.

On the question of the rigorousness of regulation, I would like to draw a parallel to road vehicle safety. A couple of days ago reached my vehicle after work to find during the day a vehicle inspector had visited and left a defect notice, as he had deemed the rear tyre to be “worn” and in need of replacing (which is was, to be fair, I was planning on doing it this week anyway, but it is annoying having it pointed out). I was given 14 days to do this or the vehicle would no longer be able to be used. Now this is one minor safety concern. Nothing has happened yet. It, at most might cause an accident that could hurt a couple of people, most likely me. But it enforced quite strictly.

I fail to see why restaurants should not be judged as swiftly and certainly – since similar minor safety concerns have the potential to hurt a lot more people.

Androyd 10:36 pm 05 Jul 12

Hi Jeff, welcome.
Any thoughts on how WA survives without pokies in every drinking outlet, and yet still manages to have thriving social drinking venues, money for sporting and community groups, low levels of problem gambling etc? I must say I found the whole “It’s UnAustralian” anti-pokies reform campaign by the clubs the most cynical, disingenuous exercise this side of the tobacco industry. But maybe that’s just me.

Deref 5:20 pm 04 Jul 12

patrick_keogh said :

Jeff, it is interesting that you have decided to open a RiotACT front in the PR offensive on behalf of clubs in the ACT. As I am sure you know there are many participants in this forum who have serious misgivings concerning the role of licensed clubs in our society. Yes every club does some good things but there are numerous problem areas as well.

The growth of very large clubs and their market power can be clearly seen in your message above. I don’t ever think about the dynamic of regulation as being about a “relationship”. I don’t have a relationship with the police or the courts. They make and enforce the regulatory environment, I just obey it. Go back to your text above and substitute “traffic safety” and “police” into your text and you will see that it is a complete nonsense. I understand that you get paid to put the best possible spin on what clubs do, and to get the best outcome for the clubs but maybe it is time to step back and think about the food safety issue from the perspective of the consumer and the health system not just you employers.

Post of the year.

And Jeff – please tell us why the issue of problem gambling is so complex. I can think of at least one simple solution: limit all poker machines to 5c bets. Gamblers can enjoy their stimulation, clubs can offer their members the entertainment of poker machines, but harm will be minimised.

I’m not against gambling – I consider it like speeding, a tax on stupidity. Both can be safe under the right circumstances, but when things go wrong they go very badly wrong.

patrick_keogh 4:54 pm 04 Jul 12

Saved in the nick of time. I was about to suggest that I would cancel my club memberships too. Not that the clubs would notice since I never put a cent into a poker machine.

But I am relieved. Jeff has been able to clear it all up for us. ACT clubs have a perfect record, have not contributed to problem gambling, have clean kitchens etc. etc. etc. so I can continue my membership.

I feel a little ashamed for ever believing anything different. Jeff, you have instructed me as to the true state of affairs and my “entrenched views” have been systematically refuted. Maybe I’ll join another club to celebrate.

ClubsACT 3:41 pm 04 Jul 12

aussielyn said :

Does ClubsACT have a problem with transparency?

And one other thought aussielyn about my views on transparency. My name is Jeff House and this is my account and I am using my real name.

Flippant 3:30 pm 04 Jul 12

@Maya… hear hear

It is refreshing to see someone on RiotACT who is willing to stand behind their identity and say… Hello Canberra… here are my views, my opinions and this is who I am.

Meanwhile I will quite happily make my comments (sometimes flippantly) behind my pseudonym.

I applaud Jeff for taking this step, a commendable form of transparent engagement and let us all wonder at how many other leaders in our community would be willing to engage in public debate in such a straight forward manner. Not everyone here will agree with the role of licensed clubs as patrick_keogh points out however you have gained a supporter here.

It is encouraging to see a position being taken against the punitive regulatory measures the largest industry in the ACT, continues to heap on business. The pending ‘Score on Doors’ is just another creep in regulation after a host of changes in a few short years. Too name a few… we have seen liquor fee increases, smoking bans, outdoor seating fee increases, trading hour restrictions, complex risk assessment plans, compiling alcohol data (unique to the ACT), a host of penalties from new regulation (to line the coffers) and then on top of that is the never ending paper-burden imposed by the bureaucratic machine turning service providers into administrators.

A ‘modus operandi’ that aims at a continuance of costly regulation on business will not serve to improve anything in the ACT. I am one Canberran who would like to see our City’s vibrancy bloom where regulators work proactively to encourage businesses to develop and to assist in detaching Canberra from its old stigmas.

Finally we call these people Public Servants the irony however is they forget their position exists to service this community and whilst these boring bureaucrats remain servicing their own interest… what hope does Canberra have?

ClubsACT 3:28 pm 04 Jul 12

aussielyn said :

The ACT Health Protection Service is understaffed and only do spot/random checks. Their job is also more difficult because of the lack of knowledge of food hygiene in the non-English speaking catering staff and high staff turnover. The healthies dread the multi-cultural festival because of the volunteers and because it is outdoors and risk prone. People who suffer from food poisoning symptoms should report them so they can act. The current campaign has been on the cards for years and will result in better standards of healthy food and improved food handling.
As most clubs contract out their catering, it is important; they monitor their standards as it could adversely affect their reputation. Club managers should possess thermometers, check fridges and bain-maries, and be aware of potential risks in food handling. Any catering business that is competent should welcome more inspections and compliance enforcement as it will get rid of the bad eggs in the industry.

Does ClubsACT have a problem with transparency?

Thank you for asking a good question. No we don’t. We have never said no to transparency. We are saying that in the interests of transparency, ACT Health should fully respond to the recommendations of the Auditor-General’s report of six months ago.

54-11 3:26 pm 04 Jul 12

maya said :

Well done to Jeff for posting openly in this forum, from what I read on this topic there could be a few insiders lurking around posting from within their cushy government offices in health. Some of these people seem to have quite a good inside knowledge of some of these things and post quite quickly after the articles, which makes me think it’s either spin doctors or staff of the ACT departments who like to remain anonymous. They would have to be very careful about not being caught as I would think this is unethical behaviour. Doesn’t the ACT government have a code of conduct or something.

Either way, I love to eat out and it makes me mad when government incompetence is covered up like this. ClubsACT are just asking for the government to action their own Auditor Generals recommendations, I don’t see anything wrong with this. As a family member owing a non-food business in the ACT I can attest to how deficient the ACT government agencies are in so many areas we have dealt with them, I wouldn’t regard the health department as any different judging by what the Auditor has said about them. Seems like some of the posters are not understanding what the debate is about but just posting attacks instead.

Wow, maya, you’ve introduced an unsupportable conspiracy theory, and attacked the man and not the ball.

Surely this is all about food safety, and the health and wellbeing of Canberra consumers? Not a general spray about the ACT government.

ClubsACT 3:23 pm 04 Jul 12

I agree 87% isn’t as high as it should be devils advocate. The figure only means something relative to other states or cities. I guess the point I was trying to make was that there needs to be perspective in the debate about food safety and what’s required to improve it and ensure the public has access to information about food safety. 87% certainly isn’t 100% but it’s also not the 22% that existed in New York or roughly the 50% that existed in Toronto (two cities cited in the KPMG report on food safety). The vast majority of food outlets in Canberra do the right thing. There are a small group that clearly do not and they should feel the full force of the regulator.

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