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THERE’S a long-running argument that Australia is over-governed. Three tiers of government for 20 million people are, to many, over the top. I can see the role of each of these bodies, but there are times when I question the need for them. A good example is in the area of liquor licensing, where numerous local governments have filled the nanny void left by the state, which has relaxed its attitude to alcohol to join the 21st century. A number of metropolitan councils have taken it upon themselves to protect the public from itself by making it difficult for cafes and bars to operate the way consumers would like them to. You really have to wonder if some of the councillors involved are more interested in protecting the interests of existing pubs and clubs than offering opportunities to their residents or other small business. It really is exasperating, though time will tell in this field. The benefit of relaxed state laws is that different jurisdictions will adopt different approaches and the public, that is, voters, will come to see the benefits of each approach. Anyway, there is also the relief that comes from finding other parts of Australia have similar problems. I was in Sydney over Christmas, our nation’s great global metropolis. I ended up in Cronulla and sought to have a meal with alcohol at a cafe-style restaurant in the mall back from the beach. The Sutherland Shire, which encompasses Cronulla, has had its problems, as we all know, but I was stunned to find that I couldn’t have liquor served to me at an outside table; only inside where the music was blaring (no doubt for the benefit of the staff). There’s a difference between backward and quaint, and I reckon this is another example of the former – alive and well in Sydney, and now Perth

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