Life Travel The proposed law that could stop Australians going to Bali

The proposed law that could stop Australians going to Bali

alcohol ban bali
The Bali Bintang binge could soon be a thing of the past. Photo: Getty
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The head of the Australia Indonesia Business Council (AIBC) has warned a proposed ban on alcohol in Indonesia would be a “huge blow” to its tourism industry.

The bill, introduced by the United Development Party and the Prosperous Justice Party, proposes banning the production, sale and consumption of alcohol across the island archipelago – including Bali.

But Debnath Guharoy, who heads up the AIBC and spent 13 years as the director of Roy Morgan Asia, told The New Daily the ban would be a “major step back” for the highly popular tourist destination.

“This is nothing more than two Islamist parties putting their agendas forward.”

Balinese tourism threatened

More than one million Australians visit Bali every year, contributing $1.8 billion to the economy.

Viewed by Australians as a cheap island paradise, Bali is also a hot spot for booze-filled blowouts and bucks parties.

Mr Guharoy said a booze ban would not only kill tourism to Bali, but also affect the likelihood of people doing business in Bali.

alcohol ban bali
Bali is a popular destination for Australian ‘schoolies’. Photo: Getty

If the ban is successful, it’s possible tourist areas will be exempt, but Mr Guharoy said the Indonesian government would send a “conflicting message” by banning alcohol at the same time they were pushing an aggressive new tourism strategy.

“You’ve got the government trying to promote ’10 new Balis’ and wanting to promote the economy using tourism as a platform, it’s completely contradictory,” he said.

The Muslim-majority country is relatively conservative outside of tourist areas, with alcohol already banned in Papua and the port city of Surabaya in Java.

Black market alcohol killing tourists

A 2015 Centre for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS) survey found black market alcohol confiscations had risen 58 per cent between 2014 and 2015.

There are concerns a total alcohol ban would simply exacerbate Bali’s problem with dangerous home-brewed drinks.

alcohol ban bali
Spirit-based drinks are the most likely to contain dangerous levels of methanol. Photo: Getty

“If [Indonesia’s House of Representatives] passes the Bill on Alcohol Prohibition, producers and consumers will be forced to go underground,” CIPS researcher Rofi Uddarojat said in a statement.

“A ban will also strengthen organised crime syndicates producing deadly counterfeit alcohol,” Mr Uddarojat said.

Perth teenager Liam Davies died from methanol poisoning on New Year’s Eve in 2013, while only last month a Perth woman was rushed to hospital with suspected methanol poisoning after a night on the town.

The Australian government’s SmartTraveller website specifically warns travellers against consuming cocktails and sprit-based drinks that might be cut with the poisonous substance.

bali acohol ban
Alcohol is already banned in the eastern province of Papua. Photo: Getty

“Locals and foreigners, including Australians, have died or have become seriously ill,” it reads.

The site also warns against drinking “adulterated arak – a traditional rice-based spirit”.

Australian deaths in Bali

The Department of Foreign Affairs revealed 93 Australians died in Indonesia between June 2015 and June 2016 – or one every four days.

That number puts Indonesia third behind Thailand and the Philippines respectively for Australian deaths overseas.

The department told The Daily Telegraph the most common cause of hospitalisation or illness for Australian tourists were motorbike accidents and nightclub fights.

Muggings and robberies are also commonly reported in party hotspots such as Kuta, while Australian arrests are a common occurrence on the island, with tourists nabbed for driving and drug-related offences.

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