'Proof that the BDR did not work' – Attorney-General releases protective custody stats


Four people on the BDR had 376 PCs between them 
Department of Justice figures released by NT Attorney-General John Elferink show that there was only a drop of 366 protective custodies (PCs) between 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, the period of roll-out for the Banned Drinker Register (BDR). Mr Elferink claims this is “further evidence that the previous Government’s approach to dealing with problem drinkers simply didn’t work”.
The figures (only available for the whole 12 months and not by quarter) also show a high rate is recidivism: 8035 people made up the 19,988  PCs for 2011-12. 431 people had eight or more PCS over the 12 months. Four individuals had a total of 376 PCs: 74 for one, 88 for another, 97 and 117.  All four were on the BDR.
This shows “the BDR failed to stop problem drinkers from obtaining alcohol”, says Mr Elferink, claiming “an enormous gulf between the former Labor Government’s rhetoric about the success of the Banned Drinker Register and reality”.
“Without mandatory rehabilitation, there is simply no obligation on problem drinkers to break the cycle,” he says. “The Country Liberals believe the Banned Drinker Register offered no protection to problem drinkers, their families and communities because it didn’t mandate rehabilitation.
“The Northern Territory has an enormous problem with alcohol and the Country Liberals Government is determined to turn around issues of public drunkenness, anti-social behaviour and alcohol related crime.”
Source: NT Government media release.
UPDATE October 19, 2012, 10.40am
COMMENT: At the time of the meeting of stakeholders about alcohol issues in Alice Springs the public was in the dark about protective custody statistics, and the Alice Springs News Online drew attention to this fact.  We welcome this limited release of statistics by Mr Elferink. However, the Banned Drinker Register went from zero to  779 banned persons by end of its first month of rollout, July 2011.There were 2195 persons on it by end of December, 2011; 2,491 as of the end of June 2012. It is thus reasonable to think that if it were having an impact it would be greater later in the 12 month period than earlier. So it would be interesting to see a quarterly breakdown of figures, compared to the same quarters a year earlier.
The News has requested such a breakdown specific to Alice Springs, including figures for the September quarter when they become available. If figures are going to be used in the arguments – which they must be, as decisions should be based on facts – then let us have the figures presented in the most meaningful way. In fact for the September quarter it would be interesting to see the monthly figures, for whether there was an upswing (or not) in PCs after Terry Mills made it the first act of his government to dismantle the BDR, with no new initiative in its place.
The News has also requested the quarterly comparative wholesale consumption figures for Alice Springs in those quarters as well as the bar sales figures for the bars where ID was required, which are reportedly experiencing an upsurge in custom. – Kieran Finnane


  1. Some suggestions for John Elferink: let’s forget about what the former government may have claimed about the BDR and other alcohol issues. Let’s concentrate on what actually happened in Alice Springs in relation to these matters in the last six months.
    Mr Elferink, to properly inform the discussions, could you arrange for the release of facts about the following:
    1. The number of people taken into protective custody in Alice Springs in both the June and September quarters in both 2011 and 2012?
    2. The wholesale figures, for wine, beer and spirits for the five venues in Alice which had IDeye governing access to their bars, covering both the June and September quarters in both 2011 and 2012?
    3. The wholesale figures for the whole of Alice Springs covering both the June and September quarters in both 2011 and 2012?

  2. Yes, let’s have those figures, Mr Elferink. In defending your goverment’s immediate dismantling of the $2.5m BDR, let it be known that six months is hardly enough time to claim that it didn’t work.

  3. Admit my first reaction to this story was that John Elferink was victim of some internal animosity about the change in government.
    Trust John Elferink to soon release both stats Bob Durnan posted October 18, 2012 at 11:56 pm and other related stats, so as to confirm his support for rational discussion of issues with all available facts.

  4. @Russell and Bob
    I doubt if you get the figures you are asking for, and even if you do, I question if it will really matter. There’s a new government sweeping with a new broom, and they have an agenda which does not include much that has been talked about and asked for in the recent past, including, I might add, my own desire for a day off.
    Two points, neither of which fully fill me with glee:
    The BDR is gone, at least for the term of this government. The CLP has too much public promise invested in removing it to bring it back.
    And wet canteens will probably make an appearance on selected remote communities sooner rather than later. They will swing this through a combination of getting some on the communities to vocally support the idea on grounds of self-determination, human rights and the other usual suspects, and an understandable weariness in the urban centres with putting up with drunks drinking in the towns and making a mess here instead of on their own homelands.
    So the question is how to get ready. Do you stand in front of the train crying stop, or do you somehow put in place mechanisms for dealing with its arrival?
    Or do you go one step further and co-opt the whole move by making it your own and hammering out the best possible deal for minimising any negative impact?
    I guess what I’m suggesting is the status quo is about to change, and what I’m asking is are you ready?

  5. Hal (Posted October 19, 2012 at 10:17 am) I suspect you are correct, despite the serious impacts already manifesting in increased violence in homes, public drinking spots and communities as a result of the Banned Drinkers Register (BDR) rollback.
    However this is such a serious issue that I don’t believe that those aware of its implications can in all conscience allow it to happen without a very strong effort at getting the Mills government to see reason and admit that they have made a mistake. If they did reverse their decision it would stand them in much better stead than if they were to obstinately stick with it against all evidence and sense. They would gain themselves an enormous amount of goodwill and credibility if they were big enough to say “we may have been wrong to rush so quickly to judgement on this one, just bear with us while we re-instate the BDR and do a careful evaluation of its impacts”. Judging by all the available evidence, they would get their immediate drop in public drunkenness, violence and protective custody apprehensions, and prove that they are an intelligent, consultative and responsible government.
    By the way, I now realise that I should have been requesting monthly figures for the protective custody apprehensions and Sobering Up Shelter admissions in my original comment on this article (Posted October 18, 2012 at 11:56 pm, see below), rather than quarterly figures, and for the whole period from July 2010 to end of September 2012. That would really give us a much clearer picture of what has been happening in Alice Springs.

  6. Good informative discussion by all participants so far in this thread, good to read. Thanks to all. And let’s see those stats that Bob has called for.

  7. I agree with Kieran but would add that we also need to know what the trend for protective custody apprehensions was in the years prior to 2011. If the trend was increasing a small decrease is much more significant. In addition, protective custody is one important marker of success but a proper evaluation would also look at other key data like hospital admissions for assault etc. It also needs to be kept in mind that the capacity to use income management for people who continued to breach their banning orders had not even started, so however well the system was working it was not fully implemented. In addition the system needed to be strengthened by including Sobering Up Shelter admissions AND then there would have been 4000 plus people on it and it would have had more of a critical mass effect.

  8. A case of Deja vu? On the 5th of April 2001 John Elferink and the then Chief Minister Dennis Bourke told the Papunya Community that the police would no longer be enforcing the alcohol restrictions in the region. This went against the wishes of most of the western desert community members – identified as “dry community” since the 1980s.
    It was stated at this meeting that it was a choice, a right, people should be able to make. A twist on getting away from the “welfare mentality”, imposed by “do gooders” from down south … “if people wanted to sniff or drink themselves to death that was their business.” It was also stated that there were not enough police to enforce the restrictions effectively.
    There was also talk that the council would be running a “wet canteen” based on models in other communities- providing financial benefits for community development.
    See transcript of the 7.30 Report 02/07/2001, it begins: “Indigenous leaders support moves for drinking restrictions, but the Territory’s licensing commission is yet to be persuaded.
 Chief Minister Burke is actually considering changing the law that allows Aboriginal communities to ban alcohol.”
    Grog wars? Grog debate? Where are the real statistics – that reflect the impact of this day – children’s education, lives lost. As stated at the end of the 7.30 Report: “It’s genocide through alcohol. 

That’s all it is.”

  9. I agree, the discussion has been great and share apprehension about potential changes on Aboriginal communities. I would expect the NT government to try all they can to introduce wet canteens, after all wasn’t that what they were preaching prior to the election … grog on communities and return to outstations. But they are just blowing hot air really! Aunty Jenny Macklin has the final say with her “(no)Alcohol Management Plans”. All the NT government investments is a waste of time whilst the Feds can say and do what they like on Aboriginal communities. I also suspect the stats will be a bit like NT economic measures – figures will be strong at one point and weak at another … and be able to fit in with a minister’s speech to justify whatever action they desire.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here