Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007

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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



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DEBATES Wednesday 14 February 2007 3863 This is a very serious matter, as is anything that affects the potential of the Territory, which largely involves alcohol and indigenous issues. It really should transcend politics as far as possible. We could diminish that kind of banter and dishonesty that sometimes go on at the expense of a political point and we could make some real gains, as we are seeing in the substance abuse committee, which is one of things that gives me some hope. It is at least an opportunity to be useful in this Chamber. The Living with Alcohol program provided real data. Before coming into this Chamber, I remember visiting the Alice Springs Show. I was absolutely floored to see the little display which is probably still there, but I saw it a few years back - where there was a demonstration of the quantity of alcohol that the average person in Alice Springs had drunk in that year. It was an average. The minister cited 17.3 litres of pure alcohol. When you see that translated into cartons of beer, bottles of bourbon, casks of wine and mixed drinks, it is staggering. I remember seeing it, which was hard data provided by the Living with Alcohol program. The program was reinforced by advertisements on the television telling you that light beer is a suitable option, that Territorians could drink light beer. It reinforced a different approach to alcohol and the Living with Alcohol idea, that education process. Seeing that in front of me, I could not believe it. I could not believe that anyone could drink that much. Then what I found chilling was that I never did. Then I spoke to my wife and she never did. Perhaps together, or maybe with three or four of her friends, we might have been able to deal with that pile in front of us. If I had not pulled my weight and a couple of others had not managed to consume the average, someone is drinking a heck of a lot. There are only two kidneys in every human being. It showed me that there are some people drinking extraordinary amount of alcohol. That is frightening. When you consider, too, that there would be many ladies drinking large amounts who are pregnant and that affects the next one, which I find most tragic. We have seen the effects. As an educator, I have seen the effects of young ones who, try as you might to get them to understand stuff, they have the effects of alcohol and they have never drunk. It comes through to the foetus. That is a significant effect; when you consider what is going on in our communities, and those who are drinking to excess, hopelessly consuming vast quantities of alcohol, and the harm that is impacting on the unborn, it is frightening. It is a problem that will be there for future members of this Chamber to address through education, health and our legal system. It has to be dealt with. Living with Alcohol provided some very solid data. The problem has been clearly outlined, and it is shocking. We have spoken about cooperative strategies, and that is good. It is not new, but it is good and important. We need to have programs owned by local communities, which is absolutely essential, but there is a time, a human dynamic, that you must strike whilst the iron is hot. The three elements that the minister referred to in his statement are important: the demand for alcohol; the supply of that demand; and the harm that is caused as a result of consumption. I recently had the great honour of visiting Taiwan and spent some time in Indonesia as well,. It was interesting to look at those societies and to see their appetite for alcohol. Do they have the same problems? Apparently not. In Taiwan, there was a time when the indigenous people had a serious alcohol problem and that has been reduced significantly. When I investigated how significant this alcohol problem was, it was nowhere near the level that we encounter. It is shocking to visit another society Mr McAdam: I am interested to find out how they reduced it. Mr MILLS: Yes, I will talk about that, but it is some of the factors we are talking about and it will feed other discussions. I will make them in times to come, but thank you, member for Barkly. It is quite startling when you visit other societies and you see that they do not have the same culture or the same demand or desire for alcohol. Alcohol sits in the shops alongside the cool drinks, and they do not seem to have any drama. It is a different culture. We undeniably have a very serious culture here that needs to be addressed with regards to capacity to live with alcohol. The demand is the culture that we have, which seems to elevate alcohol to a place that is harmful in its consumption, and the level of consumption is excessively high. The effect of that consumption is enormous and flows right through our society, as already outlined by the minister. It was those three measures that were identified as the core principles of the Living with Alcohol framework. Culture was first. We need to change the culture and that requires education. One was to change the culture and our values and attitudes towards alcohol, and the other one was to change our capacity to live without alcohol or live with alcohol without harm. So it was the change of the culture through education, changing our values and our attitudes, and changing our capacity to live with alcohol without harm. There are lots of families, especially after Christmas, who talk about reducing it, and they find it is not so hard to live a life with little or no alcohol. You often talk to people who say: I am