Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Australian Government Tackles Petrol Sniffing In Remote WA

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Minister for Health and Ageing
    Hon Warren Snowdon MP, Minister for Indigenous Health Rural and Regional Health and Regional Services Delivery

The Australian Government is providing an additional $2.3 million dollars to rollout Opal fuel in the Goldfields region of Western Australia to help curb petrol sniffing in the region’s Indigenous communities.

The funding will help establish a bulk storage facility for Opal fuel in Kalgoorlie, pay for bowser upgrades and Opal fuel subsidy over four years.

This will ensure that there is a regular and reliable supply of Opal fuel available to service stations and roadhouses in the Goldfields region.

An additional nine retail outlets in six communities in the Western Goldfields are expected to start supplying Opal fuel from the Kalgoorlie storage facility in mid-2010.

The Department of Health and Ageing is negotiating with BP Australia to establish the facility in the next three months.

Opal is unleaded petrol which has extremely low levels of aromatics, removing the ‘high’ petrol sniffers get when they sniff normal unleaded fuel. Opal is much less likely to be inhaled by people in search of a high.

Regular outbreaks of petrol sniffing by youths have occurred in the region over the past 12 months putting sniffers at risk of long term brain damage or early death.

The rollout of Opal fuel in the Goldfields region will help reduce the prevalence of petrol sniffing in local communities.

It will also reduce the flow of regular unleaded petrol to communities on the Ngaanyatjarra Lands of Western Australia, creating a 500 kilometre “blanket” of Opal fuel access prior to entry to the Lands.

Where Opal has been introduced around Australia, including to communities in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands and Central Desert region, there has been a significant decrease in petrol sniffing.

There are 122 sites receiving or registered to receive Opal fuel across regional and remote Australia.

Tests on Opal fuel have been undertaken by BP Australia, and independently, showing the product to be reliable and safe for motor vehicle engines.

The Australian Government is committed to the continued rollout of Opal.

Reducing substance abuse in Indigenous communities is a key element of the Government’s commitment to closing the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

In its report on the efficacy of efforts to reduce petrol sniffing in 2009, the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs recommended that the Australian Government should investigate legislation to mandate the supply of Opal in regions affected by petrol sniffing.

A Report on the Cost Benefit Analysis of Legislation on Supply of Opal Fuel has been undertaken by the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies.

The Centre examined the roll out of Opal fuel in three different analysis areas, and considered the long and short term outcomes costs of the program, balanced against benefits to individuals, communities and governments.

A broad range of stakeholders were consulted and the findings of the study will be one element in the Australian Government’s consideration of the future rollout of Opal fuel in affected regions.

Technical information about the Opal fuel product can be obtained from the BP Australia lubricants and fuels Technical helpline on 1300 139 700.

The report is available on the Department of Health and Ageing website.