A Pilbara-wide trial of the banned drinkers register could begin as soon as the end of this year, as concerns have been raised at the plan’s slow rate of progress.
Racing and Gaming Minister Paul Papalia has advised he hopes the trial of a Northern Territory-style banned drinkers register, which he proposed for the Pilbara in August 2018, will begin by the end of this year or a short time afterwards.
It comes after the trial — which when implemented will be a first for WA — has overshot three estimated start times, most recently in July.
Mr Papalia said the implementation process had been delayed for a period in which the WA Liquor Commission had been considering appeals to further liquor restrictions for the Pilbara, but was now back on track.
“There are still some issues to work through with restrictions in place in some parts of the Pilbara and not others, but work is progressing well to establish this industry-led BDR trial,” he said.
“We need to make sure we get the balance right and now that the Liquor Commission has delivered its decision we can progress on introducing this.”
In Parliament last month Mr Papalia faced questions from WA Nationals deputy leader Jacqui Boydell over how much progress had been made on the trial so far.
Ms Boydell said Pilbara residents had been left in the dark over the register’s implementation, creating uncertainty for retailers and community groups.
“The register was supposed to be in place in Port Hedland, Karratha, Onslow, Tom Price, Newman and Paraburdoo before the end of 2018 but we’ve not seen anything yet,” she said.
“We need the minister to stop dragging his heels and show some leadership by implementing the banned drinkers register, together with the comprehensive wrap-around services needed to support those with alcohol misuse issues.”
The banned drinkers register is seen by many as an alternative to stricter Pilbara-wide liquor restrictions for addressing alcohol-related harm, and has taken on greater importance after a Director of Liquor Licensing decision for further restrictions was stopped for all areas except Port Hedland after a successful licensees’ appeal in June.
Speaking on behalf of licensees, West Pilbara Liquor Accord chairman Bart Parsons said the lack of obvious progress on the trial was frustrating.
“It’s been a full year since this has been announced, so Jacqui’s well within her rights to be asking these questions and finding out if there’s any meaningful answers to these questions we’ve got because even (WA Police) Licensing Enforcement agree restrictions are only a short-term fix,” he said.
Mr Papalia said government and industry had been consulting with stakeholders including local governments, health professionals, police, Aboriginal elders and community organisations to develop the right model.