Drink Tank

Maylands’ David and Goliath battle against the liquor giants

Woolworth’s owned Dan Murphy’s taking a community to court to force their cheap booze upon the people has become an all-too-familiar headline these days.

As the nation’s booze and pokies king, Woolworths profits off the back of the suffering of too many Australians.

And they’re not above dirty play either.

Earlier this year, the ‘Fresh Food People’ admitted to spying on their customers and plying them with free booze to have people gambling beyond their means.  

Slapping a court case on communities and sending in lawyers to do their dirty work seems to be all in a day’s work for Woolies.

Meanwhile, community members, councils, emergency workers are forced to give time and resources they don’t have to fight lopsided battles, were the health impacts of development applications are too often overlooked.

In recent times Woolworths have forced liquor outlets upon communities at Coogee in Sydney where the court failed to find the link between alcohol and violence, and in City of Casey in Victoria, which has one of the highest rates of family violence in the state. Darwin, a city that suffers a disproportionate amount of alcohol harm is the next community being targeted by Australia’s biggest retailer of harmful commodities, Woolworths.

However, in a David and Goliath moment, the Maylands community in Western Australia successfully fought off the alcohol and gambling and giant, and sent Woolworths packing.

This is the story of their fight.

The Maylands community has had a win against liquor giant Woolworths after the WA Liquor Commission refused their application for a second time this month.

In April this year, the Commission held a hearing into a liquor license application for a Dan Murphy’s booze barn and small tavern at the Peninsula Tavern site.

City of Bayswater, Maylands’ residents and Ratepayers Association, McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth, WA Police and many residents had all objected to the license for more than five years.

The Commission previously rejected the application in 2016, a decision overturned by the WA Supreme Court last year.

The location of the proposed Dan Murphy’s posed a risk to vulnerable people in the community, would add to issues with antisocial behaviour in the town centre and place another alcohol store in an area with an oversupply of bottle shops.

It is a residential area. It is the heart of Maylands – it is not where you put 1200sqm of cheap grog.

Commission chairman Seamus Rafferty voted in favour of the application but was out-voted by his fellow commission members.

According to the findings of the Commission: “the introduction of a Dan Murphy’s store is likely to lead to an increase in the consumption of alcohol within the locality and an increase in the levels of harm and ill-health over and above that currently experienced.”

I would like to thank the community of Maylands for their passion during a hard-fought battle over five years.

I hope the community members can get a better use on the lot, something that fitted with the residential and heritage nature of that part of Maylands.

The McGowan Government had recently passed liquor reforms to give a more balanced view to the placement of huge takeaway liquor stores.

The amendments would allow the Liquor Commission to refuse a licence application if the proposed store was bigger than a prescribed size and located within a set distance from another large outlet.

The reforms would also prevent an application for a liquor licence to be granted if market demands could be met by an existing business locally.

The City of Bayswater separately also waged a war against this type of development in residential areas.

After a Joint Development Assessment Panel ignored their advice and approved the Peninsula Tavern development, they passed a town planning scheme amendment with the intention of stopping similar developments occurring in residential areas.

It is understood Woolworths can still appeal the Commission’s decision.

Lisa Baker

Lisa Baker is the Labor Member for Maylands, Deputy Speaker of the WA Legislative Assembly and former chief executive of WA Council of Social Service (WACOSS). On behalf of the community, Ms Baker has led two campaigns to stop major liquor outlets from opening in the Maylands town centre.

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