Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007
Parliamentary Record 12
Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Wednesday 14 February 2007 3861 sick leave from the indigenous employees of GEMCO. Everywhere you look on that island, there are very strong positives, all directly related to fact that they are off the grog. It is in the context of those sorts of developments that we are seeing in place and the effectiveness of them that we should ask Alice Springs to have a little patience with where they are at the moment. The glass is a problem, we recognise that, but glass can be cleaned up much more easily than damaged, broken and brutalised bodies from the effects of alcohol abuse. We have to remember that the cost of alcohol abuse, the dysfunction of families that comes with it, the injuries, the trauma to individuals and the damage done to the families across the board is debilitating enough on its own. There is a huge economic cost behind it as well. The economic cost of failure of these people to be work ready in a time of labour shortage in the Northern Territory where everyone able to get a job does get a job, those who are suffering from the abuse of alcohol are missing the best opportunity in 40 years in the Northern Territory to become a mainstream part of the economic development of their own region. Of course, there is the economic cost of providing the health services, costing the taxpayer and the government millions and reducing our ability to spend those funds in key preventative primary health care areas. There is the economic cost of crime and antisocial behaviour and the inevitable flow through the courts in the prison system. The list goes on in the direct cost on one hand and the cost of the lost opportunity on the other. Clearly, we are learning as we go along, but the evidence to date has been positive. I am proud to be part of a government that has had the intestinal fortitude to tackle these difficult issues, unlike our opponents who have yet to miss any populist bandwagon that appears on the horizon. The decision to halt takeaway licence applications for a year and then only to allow them for hotels and clubs in the future is not only giving this government and the community valuable breathing space to continue to develop local alcohol management plans, but it underlines the government seriousness in resolving this social problem. Perhaps if we had known more about it when we were first elected in 2001, the earlier that decision was made, the more we are going to benefit from it. With hindsight, I would like to have seen us make that decision far earlier than we did. However, I support the ministers statement wholeheartedly. Most importantly, I thank him for his individual and personal commitment for this ongoing work because this is one of the greatest social challenges that this government faces. He is doing a great job. We are there to support him and I want to encourage him to keep going in the direction he is. Mr MILLS (Blain): Mr Deputy Speaker, opposition supports the statement. There is no more important issue for us as a whole to address - and address it we must. It feeds into the very essence of that to which we aspire - a quality lifestyle - and to be able to capitalise on that which we have been blessed. Moreover, people in the Territory are our greatest resource. The harm that many inflict upon themselves, sadly, diminishes our capacity to make use of our location, the resources that we have, and the people themselves. No one at any barbecue or gathering would go away without some reference being made to this issue - not in my experience, anyway. It appears at every gathering that I have had socially in the past four or five years, this issue rises to the surface, and increasingly so. What is useful in these discussions that occur in back yards and households all around the Territory is real information data, facts and figures. That is what helps us to get a grasp on, first, the nature of a very serious problem; and, second, once we have a clear view of the nature of the problem, then we have some capacity to begin the process of putting in place appropriate measures to deal with that problem. The minister has greater resources than I and perhaps has access to this information. I understand that when we consider the perception of indigenous Territorians as being those who have a problem with drink - it seems to be fairly evident and is often, sadly, the topic of conversation and does affect the perception of indigenous Territorians - I have heard that the number of problem drinkers who are indigenous are smaller as a percentage of the total indigenous population than the number of non-indigenous problem drinkers as a percentage of the total non-indigenous population. That is, there are many more indigenous Territorians who manage to live without alcohol problems. Sadly, what we see in our malls and public spaces reinforces a very negative perception which, in fact, is not the case when there are many indigenous Territorians who have maintained a noble fight against alcohol and go largely unrecognised. We have noticed that in our tours around the Northern Territory, and I have mentioned it a few times in addresses here. There are some outstanding characters in communities right across the Territory, unsung heroes who should be elevated to the highest places of honour because of their contribution to a very serious problem. However, because they are far from highly populated areas and they struggle away in the
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