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Moves to overturn alcohol bans in the Kimberl -

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Moves to overturn alcohol bans in the Kimberley

The World Today - Thursday, 18 June , 2009 12:34:00

Reporter: David Weber

PETER CAVE: There's a move to have alcohol bans in the Kimberley overturned on the grounds that
they're racist.

The bans on full-strength takeaway alcohol were introduced in an attempt to reduce domestic
violence and public drunkenness in Aboriginal communities. They were also designed to reduce high
rates of foetal alcohol syndrome.

The bans were welcomed by the Federal Government, the West Australian Government, child health
expert Dr Fiona Stanley and Aboriginal elders. But the president of the Central Kimberley Chamber
of Commerce wants to take the issue to the Human Rights Commission.

David Weber reports.

DAVID WEBER: The Liquor Commissioner brought in the Halls Creek ban last month, saying it would
minimise alcohol-related harm.

Senior Sergeant Tim Norish says the restrictions have already improved life in the community.

TIM NORISH: The number of people charged was effectively halved. School attendances are looking
better. The admissions to the hospital and the demands on them are less. There is not people
sitting around drinking from cartons on the outskirts of town; substantially less antisocial
behaviour, rowdiness. To sit at home you don't hear that screaming and shouting and racket that was
going up until the restrictions came in.

DAVID WEBER: But the president of the Central Kimberley Chamber of Commerce wants the Human Rights
Commission to overturn the ban.

Gerard Willett says he believes the town has been subject to unfair discrimination.

GERARD WILLETT: The Government has got it wrong. We need to basically put them back in their place.
Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing have been discriminated against because unlike other towns and
cities throughout Western Australia and also throughout Australia, we two are the only towns that
have been discriminated against and are no longer able to buy full-strength alcohol from a
takeaway, licensed takeaway outlets in our towns.

DAVID WEBER: Mr Willett says he would support some other form of alcohol restriction but he says
the ban is hurting local businesses and annoying the residents.

GERARD WILLETT: Well, you know, the information from the police and I will go on the record as
saying, is dodgy. Their statistics are always mooted and changed to suit their own requirements.

DAVID WEBER: They say that their workload has dropped by a half.

GERARD WILLETT: Yeah, well that is fine. I mean if that is a fact well, why don't they pack up half
of their police force here in Halls Creek and head off to places like North Beach who have got much
more serious issues with alcohol abuse than Halls Creek would ever have.

DAVID WEBER: You don't think that the restriction on takeaway full-strength alcohol has had a
positive impact at all?

GERARD WILLETT: No, absolutely negative. I mean the problem with the Government and also
governments prior to the Western Australian Government we have at the moment, is they actually
haven't bothered to listen to Halls Creek people. They have just come in, made the decisions
without proper consultation.

DAVID WEBER: What about the children who were surveyed and they were asked 'what would you like in
Halls Creek' and the thing that they overwhelmingly called for was a liquor ban?

GERARD WILLETT: Yeah, well if they are schooled the way they are schooled particularly by some of
our school teachers within the teaching fraternity, I am not saying all but some, it is like a
child. You can tell a child to say anything.

DAVID WEBER: You think that that was driven by the teachers?

GERARD WILLETT: Absolutely, without any stretch of the imagination.

DAVID WEBER: Is it the case that less people are turning up to the hospital with alcohol-related
injuries?

GERARD WILLETT: Yeah, that is neither here nor there. That is a social aspect the Government have
to take care of.

DAVID WEBER: You don't think it is better that less people are turning up to hospital with injuries
caused by alcohol-related violence?

GERARD WILLETT: It is society.

DAVID WEBER: But that is caused by too much drinking.

GERARD WILLETT: They turn up at Royal Perth Hospital with exactly the same issues so why is it any
different in Halls Creek? There is no difference at all.

DAVID WEBER: Because it was considered endemic.

GERARD WILLETT: Well, no that is where you get the statistics that come from health and police
departments. The beauty of statistics, they can be changed and altered to suit your own needs and
wants.

DAVID WEBER: Mr Willett says a public meeting to discuss the issue is being held on Tuesday.

PETER CAVE: And that was David Weber reporting.