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 3875 increasing the tax on alcohol to pay for health, education and treatment of alcohol problems (AIHW 2005). Minister, whilst I do appreciate what you have said today, what I have tried to highlight is that there are big gaps in what could have been put as a statement today. I am not knocking in the least what you are trying to do. They are good programs. Whether they work or not, only time will tell. They are difficult areas for any government to take on, but if you are to change the culture of big drinking in the Northern Territory, then you have to change the culture of, as the member for Arafura said, the bloody good drinkers in the Northern Territory. It might have been all right a few years ago when people laughed about it. The reality is, underneath all that there is tragedy because we have abused our Territory lifestyle. How do we change that? We need to change it so people can enjoy moderate drinking and drink sensibly, but we have a long way to go. I would like to hear from the government what practical ways it has in mind to address some of these symptoms. Mrs MILLER (Katherine): Mr Deputy Speaker, I was not going to contribute to this debate because I feel as if all I have done in the last two days is talk about alcohol, but that has only highlighted the abuse of alcohol within the Territory. From the outset, I am not standing here and playing a blame game with anyone. Alcohol abuse within the Territory is at such high levels that really serious steps need to be taken. I do not believe that the Territory government can do it alone financially. There needs to be support from the federal government and I suggest that may be through the funding of detox and rehabilitation centres because it is so serious it is not something that can be done by the Territory government and local councils alone. It has been highlighted to me in Katherine in the time that we have lived there since late 1989. The seriousness is the tragedy of watching people destroy themselves through the abuse of alcohol. I have watched so many really lovely people slowly degenerate into brain-damaged vegetables and die, and some of them under the most dreadful circumstances. They have fallen asleep on the road and been run over, committed suicide, died of health-related issues such as kidney failure and cirrhosis of the liver. They were all young and did not have an opportunity to do something with their lives because they were hooked on alcohol and, unfortunately, did not have any lifestyle at all. One person who comes to mind is someone who calls me mum. He is an indigenous man who he used to come to Red Gum Tourist Park to the shop and buy food regularly. I still see him quite a bit. His name is Maurice. Maurice and I formed a really good friendship - Mike is dad and I am mum. I am using Maurice as one example. He had so much potential to develop into a wonderful leader of the Jawoyn, even working at the gorge as a park ranger. He had all those potentials, but he became hooked on alcohol for one reason or another and his life is meaningless. He wanders the streets. He tries to dry himself out regularly. He would deliberately be arrested so he could be sent to gaol for a few weeks when he would dry out. He would come out looking really good because he had been eating properly but, within a short space of time, there was despair and he was back on the streets and looking absolutely terrible again, just drunk. It is a tragedy. He is just one example of many that I see in the streets of Katherine regularly. In the time that Mike and I had Red Gum Tourist Park, we used to witness some terrible violence due to alcohol across the road from the park. There is a camp called Red Gum Camp, which had nothing to do with our park, but they called it Red Gum because it was close by. We witnessed some really violent things there, in most cases women who physically hurt themselves or each other. They would smash a bottle when they were influenced by alcohol and physically attack each other. It was absolute tragedy. That has not changed at all. Many times I have spoken in desperation and frustration about the effects of alcohol in our community. Every time we try to do something, it seems to be piecemeal. We seem to put our toe in and decide that we will put a bit of prohibition in here because that might work. Then we might put in a little dry area there because that might work. It has gone beyond that. We have to take a much stronger stand, and it is not going to be popular. Government is going to have to make a decision that is unpopular, whatever it is. For instance, I am very much in favour of dry areas and I am talking about the whole of Katherine being dry. I am very much in favour of that. I would very much like to have seen government legislate for regional towns to be dry, but the responsibility is now back on the Katherine Town Council and Alice Springs Town Council. They think: Oh, God. How far will we go? Will we just do this little area? I know that there are some members of Katherine Town Council who would like to have the whole of the town dry, whereas there is the push and pressure against it, supporting trialling three streets for a while to see how that goes. I have spoken to Joy Baluch, the Mayor of Port Augusta, which had the same system in August
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