Debates Day 6 - Thursday 28 October 2010
Parliamentary Record 15
Debates for 11th Assembly 2008 - 2012; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 11th Assembly 2008 - 2012
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Thursday 28 October 2010 we still have issues in Alice Springs with youth and alcohol, but it is programs like the youth action plan and the Alice Springs Transformation Plan that will make a real difference. I urge the member for Araluen not to get caught up in that negative spin; to do things her own way and find out more about these strategies. I am quite happy to work with her in a bipartisan way, and to address the serious issues we have in Alice Springs. I hope she takes up the offer and we can work together to make Alice Springs a better place. Ms LAMBLEY (Araluen): Madam Acting Deputy Speaker, I address the motion put forward to the parliament: Enough is Enough, the proposed alcohol reforms. I thank the Minister for Central Australia for his invitation to join him in combating the problem of alcohol in Alice Springs. As the Minister for Central Australia alluded to, Alice Springs has been subjected to a raft of reforms implemented by this government over the last 10 years. Some have been more successful than others. In 2002, the government brought in reduced takeaway hours for liquor outlets, opening at 2 pm and closing at 9 pm. In 2004, it brought in the Northern Territory Alcohol Framework. The final report was presented to the government. In 2005, it introduced the Alcohol Courts, which will now be replaced by SMART Courts. In 2006, it introduced the broader alcohol management plan, with a moratorium on new takeaway licences for 12 months. In 2007, we brought in our public restricted area legislation, and saw income quarantining by the federal government. Many of the town camps were declared dry in 2007. In 2008, identification cards were implemented in Alice Springs. When it comes to alcohol reforms, the people of Central Australia are used to being a social experiment by this government, being treated as guinea pigs in their plight to work out exactly what works and what does not. In some ways, the people of Central Australia are experts in this area and are well accustomed to being pushed and prodded by this government. We have had an identification system operating in Alice Springs since 2008 and I have never heard of anyone being declined the sale of alcohol. It has not targeted habitual drunks. It has cost taxpayers a great deal of money for the technology required to run the identification system, and train liquor outlets how to manage and use it. Collation of this important data has also cost the taxpayer money. To what end? The Alcohol Court has been ineffectual. The identification system was tied to the Alcohol Court, with only a few people being put through the Alcohol Court. The experience of the identification system in Alice Springs over the last couple of years has been a flop. It has been an exercise in futility because this government thought a couple of computers placed in liquor outlets around town would be the answer to stemming the flow of grog. That was an interesting social experiment. We are now told it is going to be rolled out across the Northern Territory with, not the Alcohol Court, the SMART Court. We can only assume the Alcohol Court was the not-so-smart court and now is rebranded as the SMART Court. You will have to excuse my cynicism, but when you have lived in Alice Springs as long as I have, and when you have been subjected to reforms in the past, you tend to take it all with a grain of salt. A drive around the bottle shops and takeaway outlets of Alice Springs will give you a clear indication of the problem in Alice Springs, and the target group, as the government refers to it. You need not go far. You need to hang around bottle shops at 2 pm when they open, and see the assortment of people gathering, including the habitual drunks we are all very familiar with in Alice Springs. You can ask the emergency department staff of the Alice Springs Hospital. They are familiar with the target group, the habitual drunks who end up there in different states at different times of the day with all sorts of alcohol-related health problems and afflictions. You can ask the police who have to deal with the antisocial behaviour every day of the week as a result of intoxication. You can also ask members of the judicial system - Legal Aid solicitors for example - who have to represent these people in court after they have offended. In order to target reforms you do not need to go far. You can go to our health system, our police service, and our judicial system to find out who they are. You do not need to implement an identification system which, in the experience of Central Australia and Alice Springs, has been a farce. We have dry town status in Alice Springs. We have had that for over three years and, for a short period, it worked quite well. Police were happy to enforce our dry town status, and the drunks seemed to disappear off the streets. The purpose of the legislation was to stop people drinking in public. We now see habitual drinkers - people who drink heavily regardless of what time of day or night it is as long as they can access alcohol - hide away in Alice Springs. They have their little hidey-holes. As time goes on, most of us are aware where the drunks are hiding, and the police seem to have almost given up on the battle of keeping these drinkers out of the town area. 6747
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