PM Tony Abbott has warned against forcing shopkeepers in remote indigenous communities to monitor sales of Vegemite, which is being used to home-brew alcohol.
In some dry or alcohol-restricted communities, the savoury spread is mixed with fruit juice and left to ferment in the sun until it becomes a potent, and dangerous, alcoholic concoction.
Sarah Elks reports from Brisbane for the Australian
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion yesterday suggested business owners had a responsibility to report suspicious Vegemite purchases, but said the condiment would not be banned from those communities. “Addiction of any type is a concern, but communities, especially where alcohol is banned, must work to ensure home brewing of this type does not occur,” Senator Scullion said.
However, Mr Abbott said he led a deregulatory government.
“The last thing I want to do is have a Vegemite watch,” Mr Abbott said. “Vegemite, quite properly, is for most people a reasonably nutritious spread on your morning toast or on your sandwiches.
“What’s important is we ensure remote communities, all communities, are being properly policed.”
He said the federal government was trialling a Centrelink debit card in some communities, to tackle substance abuse problems by restricting goods that could be purchased with welfare money.
“We are determined … to address these issues because if we are going to see real progress for the Aboriginal people … we need the kids in school, the adults in work, and the communities safe. That’s what this Centrelink debit card is all about.”
Last year, The Australian reported that Vegemite was being used to make home-brew on Mornington Island, in the Gulf of Carpentaria in far north Queensland.
The community was declared dry in 2003.
In 2010, a man in his 40s from Mornington Island died after drinking a home brew concoction based on Vegemite.