RETAILERS will be banned from selling regular unleaded fuel if nearby indigenous communities are affected by petrol sniffing under a law passed in federal parliament last night.
The legislation, introduced by the Greens and originally opposed by the Gillard government, strengthens the federal rollout of Opal fuel that had been voluntary.
Under the law, the government has the power to designate a location as a petrol control area, where normal unleaded fuel - which has fumes that provide a high when inhaled - cannot be sold.
Indigenous Health Minister Warren Snowdon said the legislation gave him the power to stop the sale of sniffable fuel if state and territory governments failed to have unsniffable Opal supplied to particular regions. "The success of the program depends on restricting access to regular unleaded petrol on a regional basis," he said. "There are some sites that have refused to take part in the voluntary program, and their refusal undermines the efforts and impact of participating sites in nearby regions."
The passage of the legislation came after The Australian last year exposed gaps in the rollout of Opal fuel that had left communities such as the Northern Territory's Alpurrurulam (also known as Lake Nash after the cattle station that surrounds it) struggling with a sniffing problem.