Alcohol laws of Australia

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Alcohol laws of Australia regulate the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages (in Australia also referred to as liquor). The laws vary between the states and territories of Australia.


The retail and wholesale sale of alcohol in Australia requires a licence that is obtained from the liquor licensing authority of the State or Territory in which the sale takes place. It also regulates the location of outlets through planning laws, and other restrictions. Local government may have an input into these outcomes.

The federal government controls the importation of alcohol beverages into Australia, and has a strong impact on the market for liquor through the imposition of excise taxes on the manufacture of liquor within Australia and importation into Australia. In 1972, a law prohibiting homebrewing of all but the weakest beers and wines was repealed.[1] No excise is payable if a homebrewed drink is not distilled and the product is for own use. A licence is required to operate a still, and excise is payable on distilled beverages.[2] The federal government also controls advertising of alcoholic beverages on television.

It is illegal for a person under 18 years to buy, drink or possess alcohol on licensed premises except in the company of their guardian (or spouse) when ordering a meal,[3] but some states, such as Victoria and Western Australia, allow drinking or possessing alcohol on private premises for people under 18 years (under the supervision of at least one adult).[4] By 1974, all Australian states and territories had a drinking age of 18, reduced in some cases from 21.[citation needed]

Some states, such as Victoria, permit drinking in vehicles once a full licence is obtained. Drivers cannot drive a motor vehicle when they have a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) level higher than 0.05 when they hold a full driver licence. Provisional and learner drivers must not drive with any detectable blood-alcohol present. (see Driver's licence in Australia) Commercial drivers have a limit of 0.02 whilst working.

In May 2008, three submissions to the Senate Community Affairs Committee Inquiry into Ready-to-drink alcohol beverages recommended that the drinking age be raised to 21, with Drug Awareness suggesting that after 21 "the brain is better protected from this toxin".[5][6] The proposal was not adopted.

Dry zones[edit]

Many towns and communities ban outdoor consumption of alcohol. Dry zones are often established by local councils after certain areas, such as local city parks, become favourite locations for problem drinking, violence, and anti-social behavior. Some local councils further restrict consuming alcohol in outdoor public areas, such as local streets, footpaths, and hiking trails.

Alcohol drinking age[edit]

State Current legal
drinking age
Year adopted Previous legal drinking age
New South Wales 18 1905[7] Not amended
Queensland 18 1974[7] 21
South Australia 18 1971[7] 21 to 20 in 1968
Tasmania 18 1974[7] 21 to 20 in 1967
Victoria 18 1906[7] Not amended
Western Australia 18 1970[7] 21
Australian Capital Territory 18 1928[7] Not amended
Northern Territory 18 1929[7] Not amended

Alcohol laws by state[edit]

South Australia[edit]

In South Australia, the major legislation which controls the sale and consumption of alcohol is the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 (SA). The principal aim of the Act is to minimise the harm associated with the consumption of alcohol in the community of South Australia. The drinking age was lowered from 21 to 20 in 1968 and by 1971 South Australia had a drinking age of 18.[8][9] Between 1836 and 1839, liquor licences were granted by the Governor.

On 21 February 1839, Act No. 1 of 1839 became the first liquor licensing legislation in the Province, including three licenses:

  • General Publican's Licence
  • Wine, Ale, Beer and other Malt Liquors Licence
  • Storekeeper's Licence

In 1869, a Storekeeper's Colonial Wine Licence was introduced.[10]


Alcohol may not be sold in Victoria without a licence or permit being obtained from the State government. Licences and permits are issued by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation,[11] under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998.[12]

In Victoria, alcohol may not be sold to a person who is under 18 years of age unless accompanied by a guardian (or spouse) and for consumption during a meal,[13] and minors must not be on licensed premises (i.e. premises on which alcohol may be sold or consumed) unless accompanied by an adult or other limited circumstances.[14]

There are several categories of licences available.[15] The most common are:

  • packaged liquor licence, which permit the sale of liquor to customers to take away from retail liquor stores and supermarkets.
  • general licence, which permit the sale of liquor to customers for drinking on the premises, and to take away. These are used by pubs, hotels and taverns.
  • BYO permit, which allow customers to bring their own liquor and drink it on the premises. These are obtained by restaurants and clubs that do not intend to hold a liquor licence.

Other specialised licences are: full club licence, renewable limited club licence, temporary limited licence, renewable limited licence, restricted club licence, pre-retail licence (for wholesalers, producers, brewers and liquor importers), and vigneron’s licence.

There are several areas in Melbourne which retain the status of "dry-areas", where a vote is required before a liquor licence is granted within the area.

Some local government councils have passed by-laws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol on streets within their areas.[citation needed]

In Victoria, if a minor is caught with alcohol in public it can be confiscated and guardians notified of the offense, and a fine may occur.[16]

Previously, minors were allowed to drink alcohol if it is given to them by anyone on private property for example a party. New laws which came into effect late 2011, require parental permission to be given to any adult serving alcohol to minors, under a penalty of $7,000.[17]

In Victoria, fully licensed drivers of motor vehicles must have a Blood alcohol content (BAC) below 0.05%. Learner and probationary licensed drivers must not consume any alcohol before driving (i.e. the BAC must be zero).

Western Australia[edit]

State legislation governs the sale and supply of alcohol in Western Australia. The Liquor Control Act 1988 and the Liquor Control Regulations 1989 is administered by the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor. The purpose of the Liquor Act is primarily to regulate the sale, supply, and consumption of alcohol. Before 1970, Western Australia drinking age was 21. It is illegal for any person under the age of 18 years to purchase, supply, or drink alcohol on licensed or regulated premises, even if they are with their parents or guardian. The maximum penalty for a minor to consume alcohol on licensed premises is an $2,000AUD fine. It is an offence in Western Australia for persons of any age to drink in public, such as on the street, park, or beach without first having obtained a permit from the appropriate local government authority. Such permits are at the discretion of the local council - some public events have a total ban on alcohol consumption and no permits will be issued.

Western Australian alcohol laws only allow the following identification as legally accepted proof-of-age in licensed premises:[18][19][20]

  • Current Australian Driver License
  • Current Australian Learner Driver Permit Card
  • Current passport (Australian or foreign)
  • Current Western Australian Proof-of-Age Card

Australian Capital Territory[edit]

Alcohol was originally banned in Canberra; see King O'Malley. Alcohol was made legal again following a plebiscite in 1928.[21][22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Adelaide Times Online". Archived from the original on 2006-08-20. Retrieved 2006-10-10. 
  2. ^ ATO - Distillation Equipment
  3. ^ "Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 - SECT 119". 
  4. ^ "Alcohol & other drugs services in Victoria". 
  5. ^ "Submission to the Community Affairs Committee of the Australian Senate, on the Inquiry into Ready-to-drink alcohol beverages". 
  6. ^ "Ready-to-drink alcohol beverages". Senate Community Affairs Committee.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Underage Drinking: develop policy options to reverse the present trend facing Australia". Retrieved 4 February 2014. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "History of Liquor Licensing in South Australia". Retrieved 2010-07-22. 
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ "LIQUOR CONTROL REFORM ACT 1998". 2010-04-01. Retrieved 2010-07-22. 
  13. ^ "Liquor Control Reform Act 1998, sec 119". Retrieved 2010-07-22. 
  14. ^ "Liquor Control Reform Act 1998, sec 120". Retrieved 2010-07-22. 
  15. ^ [2][dead link]
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Liquor Act 2007". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  21. ^
  22. ^