The true extent of alcohol and drug-fuelled violence in WA has been laid bare with statistics revealing that the substances were involved in almost 70 per cent of the 200,000 physical assaults in the State last year.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that WA has a bigger problem with alcohol and drug- driven aggression than the rest of Australia as the substances contributed to 57 per cent of physical assaults nationally.
Leading child health researcher Fiona Stanley this week implored politicians to take urgent action on alcohol abuse, saying that would do more to stop violence, crime and child abuse than anything else.
In response yesterday, Premier Colin Barnett and Opposition Leader Mark McGowan expressed concern but politicians have been accused of persistently ignoring the problem.
The ABS research also showed police crime statistics capture only a fraction of the violence in WA and less than half of physical assault victims report the attacks to police. Victims reported 195,700 physical assaults in 2011-12, far more than the 24,382 sexual, domestic and non-domestic assaults reported to police in the period. It was also a 31 per cent rise on the 149,100 physical assaults reported in WA in 2010-11.
One of WA's foremost researchers on violent crime, associate professor Guy Hall, said alcohol played a big role, particularly in domestic violence and young men fighting.
He said victims in both situations were reluctant to report the attacks.
"What we end up with is a skewed picture from police reports compared to what's actually happening," Professor Hall said. "Obviously when violence occurs and we do not do anything, there is increased probability of violence occurring."
Mike Daube, who works with Professor Stanley on the WA Alcohol and Youth Action Coalition, said it was "mind-bending" that alcohol abuse was not a top election priority.
"Their policies are about how to make access to alcohol easier," Professor Daube said. "Action on alcohol is almost invisible. The police are calling for action and the problem is the Government is ignoring them."
Police Minister Liza Harvey said the Government considered the ABS's crime victimisation survey when developing policy and pointed to a decrease in assaults reported to police between 2008-09 and 2011-12.
Shadow police minister Michelle Roberts said "if people want to get their hands on alcohol, they will".
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