Indigenous alcohol inquiry slams industry

Woolworths, Coles and the big independents’ management of responsible service of alcohol is a “joke”, West Australian Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan says.


The standing committee of indigenous affairs is holding public hearings in Perth, Broome, Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing for its inquiry into the harmful use of alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Mr O’Callaghan told hearings in Perth on Monday that suppliers had “no material interest” in fixing the problem.

He said companies were all about selling and only toed the line when they were engaged.

Detective Superintendent James Migro said alcohol restrictions worked best in predominantly indigenous communities where everyone acknowledged the problem.

In blended communities, however, people were more likely to feel they were being discriminated against and everyone blamed each other.

Mr O’Callaghan said alcohol restrictions had worked well in Fitzroy Crossing where there was a strong women’s group driving community change as well as an apparent increase in economic activity that provided people with opportunities when they abstained from drinking.

Committee chair and federal MP Sharman Stone said she was disappointed the Australian government had again failed to impose mandatory warning labels for pregnancy on alcohol.

Last week, the voluntary labelling system was continued for another three-years, despite a poor uptake by the alcohol industry during the previous two-year opt-in arrangement.

Dr Stone said the government was up against a powerful lobby group.

The hearings continue.