The Northern Territory news Sat 23 Jan 2010
The Northern Territory news; NewspaperNT
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Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin; Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin
Nationwide News Pty. Limited
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Nationwide News Pty. Limited
www.ntnews.com.au Northern Territory News, Saturday, January 23, 2010 27 P U B : N T N E W S D A T E : 2 3 -J A N -2 0 1 0 P A G E : 2 7 C O L O R : K m g 3 0 0 6 0 6 spoils it formajority TRANSPORT HEADACHES : A lack of taxis in Darwin means people are not getting home safely after a night out Pubs and clubsare subject to considerable regulation and are the safest place in many respects to consume alcohol It is the expected standards of community behaviour and attitudes that must be addressed first and foremost. Social attitudes towards getting drunk, taking illicit drugs, law and order, unacceptable behaviour and violence must be shifted through education, awareness and enforcement. Any anti-social behaviour that exists in our entertainment precincts such as Mitchell St simply mirrors that of a standard of behaviour that exists across the broader community. Certainly, the hotel industry has a very onerous legal obligation to serve alcohol responsibly. However, industry does not set community standards and more must be done to shift social attitudes surrounding responsible consumption of alcohol and violence in the community. I fully endorse Superintendent Jamie Chalkers statement as reported in the NT News on Saturday, January 16 that people ultimately have to change their own behaviour before we can be successful. Instead of deterring the community away from licensed premises, more should be done to entice them back into licensed premises. Pubs and clubs are subject to considerable regulation and are the safest place in many respects to consume alcohol with staff required to observe responsible service obligations, the presence of CCTV and security, the exclusion of underage patrons, standard drink pours and licensing inspectors patrols. In fact, we can now see a strong shift of 18th and 21st birthday parties moving back into hotels and clubs because of security and intoxication concerns of parents hosting the parties in their own homes. We have all heard the nightmare stories of youth parties, including underage parties, getting out of control resulting in extreme drunkenness and uninvited guests. History tells us that alcohol will never go away (eg, failure of prohibition in the United States and parts of Europe early last century). Young people will still congregate to socialise and party if it isnt going to happen in pubs and nightclubs then the parties will certainly be pushed to houses and public places like beaches and parks. When you push these gatherings to house parties and beach parties, you are pushing these people into a completely unregulated environment where drinks are mixed in anything but standard drink proportions and there is a complete lack of supervision. Currently in the Darwin CBD, the people who own the hotels and nightclubs consist of well-respected and reputable Territory families and business persons. Undermining the commercial viability of the industry will merely drive these good operators out and risk bringing the dodgy in and possibly even organised crime syndicates who have been known to infiltrate late night trading venues. Failure to work together with industry to address identified problems will increase the chance of this occurring. We are always going to have our challenges given the huge crowds that frequent Darwin City late at night. On top of the issues of poor community standards of behaviour, there are a range of factors that contribute to anti-social incidences in and around the Darwin CBD late at night. Hoteliers accept that one of these factors is alcohol but it is by no means the only significant contributor and in our view is rarely the sole reason behind violent acts. Other factors include: a dire lack of transport options to get people off the streets quickly and home safely. There are simply not enough taxis to handle the demand from both the Darwin Airport and late night revellers. The growing and rampant use of illicit-drugs. People working at the coalface know a drunk could not do the damage that some of these violent offenders are doing. As publicans, we have seen our fair share of drunks. A drunk takes two swings and is lucky to land a punch. The offenders we are seeing are revved up, extremely alert and on edge none of these are characteristics of a drunk. Large crowds; poor planning. Mitchell St has become an alcohol-based precinct despite previous warnings by the industry to the Licensing Commission of the consequences. Earlier this decade, industry raised concerns that if the Commission continued to issue tavern licenses in Mitchell St the precinct would be at risk of moving from a food-based entertainment and family precinct to an alcohol-based precinct. At the time of raising these concerns, these problems were already being experienced in other cities in Australia (eg, Hindley St in South Australia). Responsible service of alcohol is a legal obligation which the industry takes seriously. Intoxication is not an easy test and I believe licensees in the Darwin CBD strive to do their absolute best in this regard they would be stupid not to given the risk it would bring to their livelihoods. Responsible service and monitoring intoxication is certainly made much harder when illicit drugs are being mixed in and the growing trend for many young people to come into town after having a number of drinks at home. How many of your readers have straightened themselves up just prior to walking into a pub or have had their friends buy the shout to avoid going to the bar? If there is one thing the NT News and community must understand is that the last thing a licensee wants is for someone to get harmed in or around their venue not only for concern for our patrons safety but put simply, its just not good for business! Alcohol-related harm is a significant issue not just in the Territory but around the world and our industry is, and has always been, keen to be part of the solution and not just be seen as the problem. We will only start to achieve some real and positive outcomes for the benefit of all involved when industry, government, police, the media and the community as a whole start working together to tackle these problems.
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