“The Intervention’s new alcohol measures are steps, but they’re just small steps, when what we urgently need are big steps,” says newly elected President of the Criminal Lawyers Association of the Northern Territory, Russell Goldflam.
The latest measures announced under the Intervention involve compulsory income management for people with alcohol-related problems and ministerial approval of local alcohol management plans under guidelines yet to be announced.
The “big steps” that Mr Goldflam and CLANT want are a floor price and volumetric tax. Measures such as these would have a chance of making inroads on the NT’s appalling levels of domestic violence, fueled by alcohol.
“Let’s have a minimum price on grog so that nothing alcoholic is cheaper than the current price of beer. And let’s have a tax based on how much actual alcohol is in the product, to wipe out the ridiculously unfair advantage cheap and nasty cask wine producers have over all their competitors.
“Do that, and we’ll see an immediate, substantial and sustained reduction in grog-fuelled violence.
“That’s the result the Criminal Lawyers Association of the Northern Territory wants to see, because that’s the result our community desperately needs. Alternatively, we can just keep sending our young people off to gaol in ever-increasing numbers. However, we already have four and a half times the imprisonment rate of the rest of the country, and it’s growing twice as fast as the rest of the country, so this is a path down which we, as a community, simply can not afford to go.”
Mr Goldflam is a senior Alice Springs legal aid lawyer and has represented hundreds of clients charged with assaulting their partner or other family members. He wishes things were otherwise.
“As workers in the justice system, whether we be prosecutors or defence (or for that matter, judges and magistrates), criminal lawyers are involved on a daily basis in sad and often horrible business. Our Association will continue to do what we can to change this,” he says, speaking in the lead-up to next week’s White Ribbon Day campaign, in which he has been involved as an Ambassador for several years.
“Each 25th November, men around Australia and indeed around the world swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.
“I also work hard alongside colleagues such as NT Australian of the Year Dr John Boffa to reduce the devastating harm caused by grog in our community. Here in the Territory, I have no doubt whatsoever that if we don’t fix the grog
problem, we won’t fix the violence, and indeed, we won’t fix anything much.
“We’ve got a very long way to go, but it’s encouraging that governments at both a national, state and terrritory level have recognised the problem, and are at least talking the talk.
“For example, the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children, endorsed recently by the Council of Australian Governments, has made the promotion of community involvement in making communities safe and free from violence as the very first of its 18 strategies.
“And within that strategy, it identifies the key actions of encouraging us all to speak out against violence, and to foster initiatives to reduce alcohol and drug abuse, including supporting local Indigenous communities to take action against alcohol supply.”