Australian government to give new fuel to Aboriginal communities

Australia's federal government will provide special gasoline to Aboriginal communities that ask for it as a way of reining in the growing problem of petrol sniffing, Health Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday.

Petrol sniffing is becoming a scourge of impoverished Outback Aboriginal settlements and larger towns, such as Alice Springs. A report published Tuesday by respected economic analyst Access Economics said that more than 100 people have died since the 1980s as a result of sniffing gasoline to get high.

A new unleaded fuel called Opal has been developed that has very low levels of chemicals that give sniffers the high, but it is not available in all Aboriginal communities.

"As soon as the communities have agreed that they want it, it will be there," Abbott told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "Not a single indigenous community that has applied for unsniffable petrol has been denied it."

Abbott's comments came after the Access report estimated that petrol sniffing costs government authorities 78.9 million Australian dollars (US$58 million; Ђ 48 million) each year in medical and legal bills, reports the AP.

I.L.