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Cape York alcohol bans begin amid legal threats

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 14 April 2004


Controversial alcohol restrictions take effect today in seven more Cape York Peninsula Indigenous communities in far north Queensland.

But the Mapoon Aboriginal Justice Group is taking court action against the alcohol limits.

The group also says some residents are already planning to breach them.

Premier Peter Beattie has vowed to vigorously defend the restrictions.

He says he never assumed the fight against alcohol was going to be easy.

"Am I anticipating more problems? Yes I am. Do I expect this to be an ongoing source of political problems for the Government? Yes I do," he said.

"I expected that right at the beginning. I never expected this to be a walk in the park, but I am not going to walk away from it."

Mr Beattie says he will not give up.

"I will make no apology for tackling this issue of grog head on because the social consequences are not only devastating for those Indigenous communities, they're costing Australians billions," Mr Beattie said.

The restrictions in Mapoon and six other Cape York communities took effect from midnight AEST last night.

People in the communities are now limited to carrying one carton of light or mid-strength beer and two litres of wine.

Seventeen Queensland communities now have alcohol management plans in place.

Yesterday, the Mapoon Aboriginal Justice Group launched a legal challenge to the limits.

Justice Group leader Ricky Guivarra says he understands the community's frustration, but he does not want foolish behaviour to hinder a legitimate court action.

"I would suggest to them that they... gosh it's a hard one... ride with the limit at the moment until we test it in court," he said.

"I know that's not going to be the case, but I mean if they're prepared to cop the fine then they will take the chance, but that's all I can advise."


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