Pilbara liquor restrictions quashed

01 July, 2019 by Andy Young

Western Australia’s Liquor Commission has rejected the majority of a proposal to place blanket bans on liquor sales throughout WA’s Pilbara region.

The decision has been welcomed by the Liquor Stores Association of Western Australia (LSA WA) and the Australian Hotels Association of WA (AHA WA), which have both been consistently opposing the decision.

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The restrictions, which were due to be imposed on 31 March, would have seen a total ban on the sale of packaged liquor on Sundays as well as a ban on the sale of cask and fortified wine and beer in glass bottles bigger than 750ml.

The changes would also restrict people to buying one carton of full-strength beer, three bottles of wine or one litre of spirits per day. A person may be able to purchase a combination of beer and wine within the restricted amount.

LSA WA CEO, Peter Peck, said the fact that most of the restrictions proposed in the section 64 application were quashed was a big win for common sense.

“This was a sensible decision by the Liquor Commissioners, particularly in light of the fact that our members, the industry and the State Government are actively working towards a new harm minimisation approach to the issue of problem drinking through a banned drinkers register trial (BDR). This is a very welcome move that should send a clear message.

“Unfortunately, pursuing bad ideas like this uses up a lot of taxpayers’ money for no good reason. The efforts of police and some state government agencies would be better used to focus on targeted initiatives such as the BDR trial and provisions to combat sly grogging.

“LSA WA and the AHA are working with the Minister’s office on establishing a BDR trial and we are currently in discussions regarding funding support to facilitate its rollout.

“This is something that will make a real difference on harm minimisation by attacking the problem from a different and more effective way and supporting local communities.

“This plan has the support of Aboriginal groups, local governments and the State Government, which has been extremely encouraging.

“Old-fashioned approaches like blanket bans just don’t work in any long-term way and often cause more problems.”

AHA WA CEO Bradley Woods also welcomed the Liquor Commission’s decision to reject the Director of Liquor Licensing’s original proposal but said the tactics employed by WA Police have resulted in an unnecessary waste of time, money and resources.

“The AHA WA and LSA WA have worked closely together for over two years to achieve a positive outcome and yesterday’s decision is a significant step in the right direction,” Woods said.

“The practical outcome of [this] decision is that those venues who could afford to challenge the restrictions and were a party to the appeal will now not face these archaic and ineffective restrictions.

“The Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor is now faced with the prospect of imposing additional restrictions on some venues while others will be able to trade as per usual.

“This is an absurd situation that is clearly unworkable, impractical and difficult to enforce. Moreover, such restrictions will simply not achieve their original stated objective – to reduce alcohol related harm.”

He added: “If the same energy, money and resources had been directed towards a targeted approach to reduce alcohol abuse, such as the Banned Drinkers Register trial, by now we would have made meaningful progress towards reducing harm amongst those most at risk.”

“The State Government, including Premier McGowan and Minister Papalia, have backed the trial of a Banned Drinkers Register, which is fully supported by industry and the community. It is now time for the Police and authorities to stop pursuing blanket liquor restrictions and work with industry to implement effective, targeted measures.”

When implemented the BDR trial will be the culmination of more than eight years of work by the industry and will be a credit to the McGowan Government.