Australian Police Drove a Bulldozer Over 500 Litres of Illegal Booze

Smuggling booze into Western Australia's dry communities is big business. Now police want to send a message.

by Anne Johnston
07 July 2016, 12:00am

Forget stomping down your VB can under the heel of your sturdy Blundstone. Police in Western Australia have dramatically crushed more than 500 litres of confiscated beer, wine, and spirits at a rubbish tip in Broome—running over the stash with a bulldozer. "This is what happens to your alcohol when you are convicted of sly grogging," a post on the Kimberley District Facebook page explained.

Why a bulldozer? According to the Facebook post, bulldozers are the "most common and most efficient method of destroying large quantities" of alcohol. Police in WA have also previously used four-wheel drives and even front loader tractors to get the job done.

Sergeant Matthew Hartfield told reporters Tuesday that the relaxed sale of alcohol in Broome, Kununurra, and Derby had made it easy for people to buy in bulk and transport back to "dry communities" where the sale of alcohol is banned. These exist in across Queensland, the Territory, and WA.

Police estimate that the crushed booze would've been bought for $5000 and sold for roughly $13,000 in dry areas. This is because once the alcohol arrives in these communities, everything is marked up. Some spirits are being sold at prices as high as $500 a bottle.

Given that dry communities are largely populated by people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, there is a lot of debate on whether alcohol bans like these are discriminatory. Yet on paper, the effort to tackle intergenerational alcohol abuse seems reasonable. As Sergeant Hatfield explained, "Alcohol is the largest single contributing factor to anti-social behaviour and other crimes in the area, and police and local agencies work together to help make the communities safer places."

State and territory officials in Australia's north have long struggled with policies to tackle alcohol abuse. A 2010 study found 11.2 percent of men drank every day in WA, compared to an average of 9.6 percent around the rest of Australia.

Reports from the Northern Territory in 2009 found its residents drank more than people in any other country in the world—15 litres of pure alcohol a year, more than three times the global average. In 2014, the ABC reported that the NT topped the nation for deaths relating to alcohol, followed by WA.

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