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WA to trial bottleshop ban

30 July 2018

Problem drinkers banned from buying alcohol

REPEAT drink-drivers and alcohol-fuelled domestic violence thugs will be placed on a list of banned drinkers and stopped from buying takeaway grog, under a proposal by Racing and Gaming Minister Paul Papalia.

Mr Papalia believes blanket restrictions on bottle shop sales — suggested for parts of the Pilbara in WA’s far north — unfairly penalise everyone.

Instead, he wants to introduce a new Banned Drinkers Register, which prohibits problem drinkers from buying booze and directs them to rehabilitation services.

A trial of the register is proposed for the Pilbara communities of Port Hedland, Karratha, Onslow, Tom Price, Newman and Paraburdoo before the end of this year. The Sunday Times can reveal details include:

POLICE and the Director of Liquor Licensing putting the names of problem drinkers on a digital database known as the Banned Drinkers Register, which would be managed by the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor.

REPEAT mid-range and high-range drink-drivers, as well as alcohol-fuelled domestic violence offenders, among likely candidates for register.

ANYONE buying takeaway booze will need to produce ID — driver’s licences, passports and even gun licences — which will be scanned at liquor stores by new desktop units that read the details and scour the database for any listing of that person.

IF the scan produces a red light, the retailer will know an individual is on the register. For privacy reasons, no other information is made available to the retailer. There is simply a red or green light.

ANYONE who is placed on the register can only get off it if they agree to get help from professional health services.

Mr Papalia said he would travel to the Pilbara this week to meet community groups, police, local governments, liquor outlets and hoteliers to get feedback.

He hoped that after a 12-month trial, which would be independently reviewed, the scheme would be rolled out in other parts of WA. Community leaders in the Goldfields and Kimberley have previously said they want the register in their towns.

The cost of the pilot is $400,000, with the Government in talks with a private organisation about assisting with funding.

“This is an opportunity to trial something in the Pilbara which is completely new. If it works, there is nothing to stop us rolling this out across the State,” Mr Papalia said.

“The Liquor Stores Association and the Australian Hotels Association are very enthusiastic about removing the patchwork quilt of restrictions we have and potentially having a far more targeted process that looks at people with alcohol problems and targets resources to help them.

“This isn’t just about banning people (from buying takeaway alcohol). It is about drawing the attention of agencies to them, and helping them.

“What I want, through this system, is to automatically trigger an intervention by government departments like Mental Health and the Health Department to intervene to change the behaviour of the individual.

“My aim is that the day a person is put on that register, an agency will get in contact with them.”

A Banned Drinkers Register was introduced in the Northern Territory in 2011. It was scrapped a year later but re-introduced last year. From January this year, 2565 Territorians have been banned from buying liquor, but the number of alcohol-related assaults in the NT has gone up despite the re-introduction of the scheme.

WA’s Director of Liquor Licensing is considering whether to restrict alcohol supply in the Pilbara after police called for a booze crackdown in 2016.

Licensees have received a show cause letter compelling them to demonstrate why liquor restrictions are not required.

Licensees have argued their businesses could be adversely affected when the community is restricted to a limited amount of alcohol per day, rather than targeting problem drinkers.

Police, in a submission to the Director of Liquor Licensing, argued full-strength beer be banned across the Pilbara and further restrictions be placed on venue opening hours and the quantity of alcohol able to be bought.

A spokeswoman for Mr Papalia said the Director of Liquor Licensing had been involved in the development of the Banned Drinkers Register trial and was “keen to see this initiative work”. She said the director would consider the trial when determining what other restrictions were required.

The AHA and LSAWA, police, health and representatives across government, have been part of a working group to develop the register.

The LSAWA has worked with WA company Scantek to develop the desktop scanning unit.

LSAWA chairman Lou Spagnolo said: “We have had more than 10 years of blanket restrictions that inconvenience the vast majority of responsible consumers and tarnish the reputation of whole communities.

“These restrictions are anti-competitive and largely ineffective, so it’s time to take a different approach. Our system will ensure individuals are forced to take responsibility for their own behaviour rather than the whole community having to change for their sake.”

AHA chief executive Bradley Woods said his members “would prefer a system that targets problem drinkers, rather than the whole community”. “With this system, a problem drinker is put on a register and forced into rehabilitation as a path towards recovery,” he said.

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