Woolies snubs grog register

Woolworths has refused to back a proposed ID scanning system developed by police and independent retailers to monitor takeaway alcohol sales in the Kimberley, citing concerns about cost, privacy and liability for those who fail to comply.

All Kununurra and Wyndham liquor outlets – currently banned from selling full-strength alcohol for all but three hours a day, six days a week – have voted to test self-regulation in a bid to have strict alcohol restrictions relaxed without causing widespread harm.

Liquor outlets in Derby and Broome, which currently have no restrictions, are also considering following suit.

Seven Broome liquor outlets in the local accord, including Woolworths and BWS, are set to vote on the proposal today.

Under the Scantek system, customers will have to produce ID before being allowed to buy alcohol from liquor stores.

In Wyndham and Kununurra, purchases would be limited to two cartons of full-strength beer and six bottles of wine or a bottle of spirits between noon and closing time, Monday to Saturday. Data would be stored and shared between stores for up to 48 hours to stop people buying excessive amounts of alcohol at different stores.

Data about people flagged as "problem drinkers" by police or liquor outlets could be stored for as long as restrictions last so that they would not be served.

Most of Broome’s liquor outlets also support the proposed system, which must be approved by the director of liquor licensing, Barry Sargeant.

Woolworths Liquor Group national licensing manager Shane Tremble cited a "number of concerns", saying it was expensive and had the potential for "intermittent failure".

"Without a legislative framework, liability issues and penalties that could be incurred if staff failed to ask for ID were not clear and neither was what constituted a ‘breach’ by a banned person, staff or licensees," he said.

"It imposes an additional expectation on our service staff to verify the identity of every customer for every transaction which is over and above the significant responsibility they already have to identify underage persons and intoxicated persons."

Woolworths was also concerned the system may breach Federal privacy, discrimination and trade practices laws, he said.

A spokesman for Coles, which operates Liquorland, said the company was in discussions to produce "workable improvements" to the proposed system. Kimberley police district Supt Mick Sutherland said he would be disappointed if all liquor outlets did not agree to try the system because it would not work if individual retailers opted out.


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