LETTER: How will they enforce the footy booze limits?


Sir – As a long-time supporter of Minister Lambley both in her previous role as an alderman on the Alice Springs Town Council and now as an NT Minister, I hope she will accept Erwin’s request for a regular – weekly? fortnightly? – interview.
We locals would really like to know what is going on up there in Darwin, and I, for one, am not quite ready to accept that the Berrimah Line is a thing of the past.
Neither do I accept that spinning press releases are an effective way to communicate.
If Minister Lambley does agree to an interview, one question that I think needs to be asked and answered is why was the Banned Drinkers Register so summarily trashed? I acknowledge that all incoming governments allow themselves a certain latitude to remove programs brought in by the previous government, and removing the BDR was a CLP promise made prior to the election. But still, has removing it given a positive outcome, and can it be reinstated?
The answer to that double question will probably be yes and no while I suggest the correct answer would be no and yes.
Consider the restrictions the Liquor Licensing Commission has decreed on take-away sales over the three days of the coming Indigenous All Stars / Richmond clash.
How will the outlets enforce a limit of one carton or one spirits bottle per person per day if they have no authority to ask for an ID? Is there anyone living in Alice so naive as to think the clients targeted by these restrictions will answer truthfully when asked if they have already purchased a bottle or a carton?
And aren’t we being just a wee bit precious about this whole ID thing?
Hal Duell
Alice Springs


  1. Hal – Aren’t licensees still using the scanners in Alice after 6pm in their bottle shops to check whether customers who want to buy a wine cask or bottle of fortified wine to consume off-licence have already bought another one in another shop on the same evening?
    I’m pretty sure that’s the go. If so, then it will be easy to check about details of these provisos too during these three days.

  2. @Bob
    This may be how it will work, but I would like to have it confirmed.
    What do the scanners show? I notice that for the three days of restrictions there will be no sale of cask or fortified wine. Will the scanners have to be re-jigged to show if cartons and bottles of spirits have already been purchased?

  3. Hal – I imagine it would have to work like this: the retailer scans the ID and product type. The scanner screen shows if that ID is already associated with any sales of the restricted products on that day. If the scanner shows the customer’s ID has already reached its quota for the day, then the salesperson has to refuse to sell the product.
    If the database shows it’s the customer’s first purchase of the day, the sale is able to go ahead (unless the customer is also barred from drinking by a magistrate maybe???), then the database will record that the sale has occurred, and retain the info until midnight. You are correct: it would be better for somebody to check these details, rather than rely on my guesswork.

  4. @Bob
    A call to the Liquor Licensing Commission this morning has confirmed that any purchase of a restricted item over the three days of restrictions will involve a scan of a driver’s license (or maybe something else? I didn’t ask that). The scans will be kept for that day.
    So no ducking around the corner to repeat, and that means the restrictions will be as effective as they can be.
    Now let’s all hope the weekend doesn’t boil over any more than it has to.
    Hell, let’s be optimistic and hope it doesn’t boil over at all.

  5. A carton per day of Bundaberg Rum and Coke is a lot of grog. I wonder whether these grog restrictions are anything more than a politically correct attempt to appear as though something constructive is being done.
    Unfortunately, there don’t appear to be any workable solutions that don’t breach the Racial Discrimination Act.
    A personal grog licence, as issued in the United Arab Emirates could do the trick.
    Their Police Department issued them annually with a consumption limit and at each purchase of take-away, the consumption figure was decremented. When the limit was reached, purchase or sale of booze was illegal and had stiff penalties for both seller and buyer. (These were infrequently policed).
    In Alice Springs we could set the limit personally or it could be a court mandated limit for habitual offenders whose offences were related to alcohol. This did not relate to over the counter sales and tourists would need to produce proof of residence.
    Maybe something like this is worth a try, but obviously has a huge administrative overhead.

  6. Robinoz (Posted February 7, 2013 at 1:36 pm): we have just seen the demonising and demolition of the Banned Drinkers Register (BDR) by the Terry Mills Gang.
    The BDR in Alice Springs (and in places like Nhulunbuy and Groote Eylandt) was based on requiring production of ID for scanning in order to purchase takeaway liquor, or to enter large public bars selling alcohol.
    In principle there is little difference between the BDR scheme and a licence to drink alcohol. Both are subject to some loopholes, such as onsupply by third parties, but in both cases this particular problem would become lesser over time if the scheme were to be supported by intelligent policing, as the onsuppliers would themselves be subject to licence withdrawal or banning, and most would grow wary of risking this too often.
    The sanctioning of bad behaviour, and the need to take responsibility for your own actions, were central to the workings and aims of the BDR process, a fact seemingly missed by those rightwing political warriors who only wanted to see negatives emanating from legislation enacted by their political adversaries. They were truly blinded by their own dogmatism.
    Those banned or having their drinking licence withdrawn for a period would grow more and more careful not to repeat too often the risky behaviours that lead to these things.
    Most other loopholes, such as buying interstate, would not be likely to present a large scale of undermining of the scheme, especially amongst many of the biggest problem drinkers; and interstate and internet buying could be sanctioned as well where those who carry out this trade cause problems for others and come to the attention of police.
    Both the BDR and licence approaches, whilst not absolutely effective, would substantially reduce the levels of problem drinking.
    I believe that the public would find it easier to accept a modified version of the BDR than they would a fully fledged licence to drink alcohol, but I would be very pleased to be proven wrong, as I think a licence to drink alcohol would ultimately be fairer and easier to administer than some arbitrary aspects of the BDR enforcement. However, a BDR would be much better than what we have now, as the present situation is bound to lead to much greater alienation, and eventually aggressive behaviour, between Aboriginal drinkers and police.

  7. @Bob and Robinoz
    Interesting to see that BOTH main political parties in Canberra are calling for the reinstatement of the BDR. It may not be too long before Federal action is taken if the current CLP government remains intransigent.

  8. Oops. It seems Tony might be back-pedaling a bit.
    Still, it was an encouraging thought while it lasted. And who knows, he might come around again. It is so clearly a sensible idea, the reinstatement of the BDR.
    And Julia does still have a bit of time. She could jump in on her own. After all, she did it with Purvis.


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