Debates Day 4 - 20 August 1975
Parliamentary Record 5
Northern Territory. Department of the Legislative Assembly
Debates for 1st Assembly 1974 - 1977; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT; 1st Assembly 1974 - 1977
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
pages 457 - 498
Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES-Wednesday 20 August 1975 We all recognise it; wherever we go this is a major problem. That is all I have to say. We have a good report saying something that has been said before. Let us for once start having action by government to take a firm step forward. I suggest that the step forward is the provision of an alcohol and drug authority. Mr EVERINGHAM: Dr Gerald Milner has done an extremely thorough job. I cannot but endorse the remarks of the honourable member for Nightcliffwho said that there has been no provision made for the setting up of detoxification centres in this year's Territory budget. This report has been in the hands of the Minister since March of this year and one would therefore consider that the Minister would have had adequate time to budget for the setting up of the centres. This is another one of the reports commissioned by the Australian Government which is so fond of commissioning reports and so fond of doing little about them when they finally see the light of day. The Federal Government, as it is constituted today, is just a "waffle" government. It goes in for lots of waffle, lots of paper, lots of reports, but no action. We know all about everything. We have reports from here to breakfast time but they never do a damn thing about them. They sit on them; they have cushions feet high comprised of reports. I cannot also but comment on the way that this report at least supports the bill which I introduced into this House earlier this year, namely the" Drunkenness" Bill. I don't think that this report detracts one whit from the provisions of the Drunkenness Bill and I hope, when the interdepartmental committee finally gets itself together and the Executive Member for Finance and Law and myself meet with it, that we can say "Here is your report; here are the facts in your report; here is the Drunkenness Bill; what have you got against the Drunkenness Bill in the light of the report that has been commissioned by you?" I ask the Federal Government to start putting its money where its mouth is in relation to the treatment of alcoholics in the Northern Territory. This report is a far more important document than the Budget that has come down before this house today. That budget is a transient thing and ensures that there will be a reasonable degree of prosperity in the Northern Territory for the next 12 months but this report deals with the lives 491 and futures of a good percentage of the population of this Territory for the foreseeable future. Let's look at the background. Last year the Legislative Council was persuaded to do away with the provisions relating to drunkenness in the Police and Police Offences Ordinance and introduced an amendment which was supposed to fill the gap. What does Dr Gerald Milner say in relation to the decriminalisation of drunkenness? "Obviously the decriminalisation of public drunkenness is a logical move, but not if it is an isolated move in the absence of alternative valid social responses". What valid social response have we seen initiated by government since? Not one, not a tittle, not a jot of response. You couldn't get anything out of them if you put a battery onto them. What have we done as a response? At the request of Northern Territory communities, we have introduced a Drunkenness Bill. How can the Australian Government departments oppose the provisions of this bill when they have done nothing, not a thing? Dr Gerald Milner speaks about the magnitude of the problem. He says "The average Australian drinker is near the threshold of problem drinking, generally regarded as 80 grams of absolute alcohol a day or eight 70z beers. If the average Australian drinker is near the threshold of alcohol problems, the average Territorian is way over. This makes it especially important to avoid the use of denigratory terms like drug, wino, alcoholic, and even criminal". Obviously Dr Gerald Milner, from his researches, has ascertained that we drink approximately 50 per cent more per capita than other Australian citizens. Here is another very valid passage from his report: "Thus whenever public intoxication has been removed from the list of crimes, without the provision of valid alternative measures, a backward step has impaired community attitude and overall problem solving success". That is exactly what has happened in the Northern Territory since the amendment to the Police and Police Offences Ordinance. The Darwin police have more or less covered up for the inadequate action of the community and the simplistic change in legislation. In Alice Springs, however, it would appear that the police have accepted the change in the law at its face value and in the words of the Executive Member for Social Affairs, quoting once again from Dr Milner's report, "have stood back to let the community
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