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ClubsACT Joins RiotACT, speaks on Food Safety

By 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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31 Responses to
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.

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