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Pilbara liquor restrictions, BDR overlap sparks concerns

Alicia PereraPilbara News
Pilbara liquor restrictions and the banned drinkers register trial will run almost entirely concurrently before becoming subject to review.
Camera IconPilbara liquor restrictions and the banned drinkers register trial will run almost entirely concurrently before becoming subject to review. Credit: WA News, Michael Wilson

Tougher region-wide liquor restrictions and the Pilbara banned drinkers’ register trial will run almost entirely concurrently before being reviewed, new information suggests, prompting concerns about the independence of final data.

The Director of Liquor Licensing last month revealed the upcoming Pilbara liquor restrictions, set to come into effect on March 31, would be reviewed two years after the implementation date, in response to a request from the WA Nationals.

It came a week after Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan told Parliament a trial of a Northern Territory-style banned drinkers’ register was expected to begin in the first half of this year and would be assessed by the University of WA’s Public Policy Institute after about 24 months.

West Pilbara Liquor Accord chairman Bart Parsons said news the two approaches would run concurrently raised questions about the independence of any data collected.

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“I always thought we should do a banned drinker register test pilot without the restrictions to give it a clean slate and see if it works, because I haven’t seen any literature to suggest restrictions have worked,” he said.

“It muddies the waters.”

“My direct concern is in two years, if the banned drinkers’ register is not working, it will be because of the restrictions.

“So there’s going to be a level of scrutiny that can be applied because there’s two (measures) running at the same time.”

WA Nationals deputy leader and Mining and Pastoral Region MLC Jacqui Boydell, who is based in Karratha, said while she hoped securing a liquor restrictions review date would provide some clarity for affected business owners, news they would run almost entirely simultaneously with the banned drinkers’ register trial was concerning.

“At my meeting with the Director of Liquor Licensing delegate in January, I outlined my concerns around how the effectiveness of the new bans would be monitored given the (register) was due to run concurrently,” she said.

“I have asked the director to provide clarity on that matter and I await his response.”

Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel previously raised concerns about the strategies running concurrently in a letter sent to some City of Karratha properties in February.

“I request that the restrictions be delayed until the trial of the banned drinkers’ register has completed and the effectiveness of that policy has been assessed,” he wrote.

“The imposition of restrictions will adversely affect the data that will be collected during the banned drinkers’ register trial, as the evidence collected could be attributed to either the trial or the restrictions.”

Last week, Mr Michel said he was a “strong advocate” for the register and was confident the register’s trial would “provide a robust avenue for evaluation ... so that government will know whether it is effective”.

A State Government spokeswoman said the evaluation of the banned drinkers’ register would not be complicated by the simultaneous implementation of liquor restrictions because the restrictions would form a “standard baseline” across the region.

“They are unlikely to cause disruption for the introduction of the trial as they are uniform in each town,” she said.

“One of the objectives of the trial, however, is to determine at some point whether restrictions can taper off and restrictive measures only target people with alcohol problems.”

The spokeswoman said the length of the trial had been suggested by independent evaluator UWA.

The Pilbara-wide liquor restrictions, proposed by WA Police to combat high levels of alcohol-related harm in the region, will include a ban on the purchase of takeaway alcohol on Sunday, no promotion of full-strength beer and introduce daily takeaway limits of one bottle of spirits or a combination of a carton of beer and three bottles of wine during the week.

A Northern-Territory style banned drinkers register, considered by many to be an alternative to restrictions, would see problem drinkers denied the ability to purchase alcohol using an in-store photo identification scanning machine.

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