Land Rights News Central Australia: Land Rights News (August 2012)
Rogue roadhouses refuse Opal
The federal government is under pressure to force roadhouses to stop selling ‘sniffable’ petrol in areas affected by petrol sniffing.
A Senate Inquiry held in Alice Springs last month heard that the roll-out of Opal fuel in Central Australia has led to a big drop in the amount of petrol sniffing in the past few years.
But some roadhouse owners are still refusing to stock Opal, claiming that it damages engines.
There have also been reports of problems with sniffing at the Lake Nash community, where young people have been going across the border to get sniffable petrol, and also in Western Australia.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert introduced a bill which would enable the Government to force roadhouses to sell only Opal fuel in endangered areas.
Federal member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon said the law would provoke legal challenges and it would be better for states to introduce their own separate laws.
But Senator Siewert said it would be confusing to states to introduce their own legislation particularly in the tri-state area of South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
“To have a hotch-potch of laws would be very difficult,” she told ABC radio.
She said people were concerned about how long it would take for the states to introduce legislation, and would prefer one law made by the Federal Government.
“The overwhelming message is could you please get on with it,” she said.
Senator Siewert said the claims that Opal could damage engines had been proved to be “absolute nonsense” and accused some roadhouse managers of “pigheadedness” in refusing to change to Opal.
Tristan Ray from the Central Australian Youth Link Up Service in Alice Springs said that up until recently as many as 60 children had been sniffing around Warburton, WA, where for five years one roadhouse owner had refused to stock Opal.
He said the owner eventually left and after the new owner brought in Opal and stopped selling ordinary unleaded fuel there was a dramatic reduction in the number of petrol sniffers.
“If legislation had existed, we would be five years further forward in a community like Warburton,” Mr Ray told ABC Radio.
“We've known for years that Opal works very well.
“Unnecessarily, these kids have been allowed to keep melting their brains for five years because the Commonwealth Government doesn't have the teeth to make sure this essential public health measure could be implemented