Concerns grow over Kimberley alcohol ban

23 January, 2020 by Andy Young

Western Australia’s Commissioner of Police, Chris Dawson, has submitted plans to restrict the sale of some types of alcohol by bottleshops in the Kimberley region, which are now being considered by the Director of Liquor Licensing.

Dawson told WA Radio station 6PR earlier this month that he has submitted the proposal and that they were now being put out for consultation.

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“I put a submission [to the Director of Liquor Licensing] in May of last year and that is consistent with my role as Police Commissioner,” Dawson said.

“The result of that is yet to be determined because the Director of Liquor Licensing has a role under his act to go through the process of community consultation and that is where that is presently at, in that consultation phase.

“There are lots of interested parties, but the application is based on what I consider is a proper application and that is, is it about excessive community harms, and that is what our application is about.”

The Liquor Stores Association Western Australia (LSAWA) has written to Dawson expressing concerns regarding some of the reported levels of alcohol related harm in the region.

LSAWA CEO, Peter Peck said to the Commissioner: “I am asking you to provide a time suitable to meet and discuss this issue further, so we can work with WA Police to try to come up with some workable and tangible solutions and contingencies.”

An alternative being looked at by both the LSAWA and Australian Hotels Association WA is a Banned Drinkers Register (BDR), with the LSA and AHA trial is scheduled to begin early this year, and that there was a two-year timeframe for further discussions of a potential state-wide rollout on its success.

LSA WA President Lou Spagnolo told National Liquor News: “On BDR we are rolling out the hardware to the Pilbara this quarter. We are confident it will have a significant impact on the targeted people. Moving forward it is hoped the BDR will reduce the need for blanket restrictions. We anticipate the implementation of a BDR will eliminate any prospect of a Minimum Unit Pricing across Western Australia.”

The WA State Government told the ABC it understands this is a “challenging issue” and issues like sly grogging are also a concern.

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan told ABC: “We do understand the complexity of this. But at the same time we are mindful that tourism is a very big part of the economy of the Kimberley, so whatever steps are taken need to be compatible with a thriving tourism industry.

“Whatever we do, it’s got be done in a sufficiently smart way, so that it doesn’t drive a massive trade in sly grog, big social problems, and the organised crime problems that can come with that.”

LSA WA’s Peck continued: “Moves like these by police are always of great concern. It’s a well-known fact that blanket restrictions do not work and in fact can harm a local economy which is the last thing small communities need right now.

“As each day goes by, we are approached by more and more regional community leaders on the tangible benefits of a BDR. As an industry all we want is a fair go for all stakeholders: mums and dads, business owners and other service providers who work and live in these communities.

“Industry associations like the LSA WA and AHA WA have been on the front foot for the past decade championing projects like the BDR trying to bring about a balanced approach towards liquor regulations. The last thing anyone wants to see is a repeat of the Northern Territory approach with an oversized sledgehammer.”