LETTER: All quiet on the Alice alcohol front


Sir – Alice Springs was a winner as well as the All Stars: a peaceful weekend thanks to co-operation and less grog. Take a bow Alice Springs.
You conducted yourself with dignity and discipline. Late on the evening of Friday, the night of the AFL Indigenous All Stars vs. Richmond Tigers pre-season game in Alice Springs, several PAAC members went walking in the town.
One rambled along the river bank paths with his dog. Another jogged down to the game at Traeger Park oval, and afterwards back to his home in the suburbs.
A third left the oval after the match and visited popular drinking spots in the CBD, before heading home along the Mall and across the Todd River.
All three noted the remarkable quiet and calm in the town, very different from a normal Friday night, let alone one of the busiest nights of the year, with several thousand extra people from remote communities in Alice to enjoy the game and have a break from bush life.
None of them saw any incidents involving violence or requiring the presence of police.
Drunken revellers were conspicuous by their absence. This atmosphere was the same at the game itself, where there were a lot of families with children having fun, and very few obvious incidents of drunken violence.
Taxis and the casino and bars were busy, but ambulances were not.
Over the last week there has been a steady build-up of young people in town looking for a good time.
Police and youth workers, the Youth Street Outreach Service team and social workers, drinkers and bush visitors, public servants and politicians, hospital staff and ambulance workers, the licensees and the Licensing Commission, Town Council Rangers and family leaders all did their bit, conducted themselves patiently, and worked well together to keep the public scene calm, respectful and reasonably sober.
There have been few violent incidents, and hardly any arrests.
Police had one of their slowest nights on record with only one Domestic Violence call-out on Thursday night (the first of three days of additional restrictions) compared with thirteen on the previous Monday night.
This shows what can be achieved when agreement is reached on a set of evidence-based, sensible alcohol restrictions, with all the key players co-operating to prevent problems.
Alcohol supply reduction measures from 7th to 9th February included:
• An effective floor price at $1 per standard drink, because cheap two-litre wine casks and fortified wines were not on sale at all.
• A reduction in total of nine hours in take-away alcohol trading time over three days.
• The use of photo ID scanning to prevent large volume purchases of beer and mixed drinks (limited to one slab per person per day.)
• An increased police presence and full-time monitoring of all take-away outlets, with confiscation of alcohol purchased for consumption in prohibited areas.
This package combines what that we know works well, in one town at one time, and it produced a moment to celebrate and be proud of for all of us.
It shows it is really possible to make a very big difference with supply reduction measures that most people would live with quite easily. Maybe from this experience we can all learn about how we can find a way forward, together, to make the town better for everybody, every day.
Dr. John Boffa
People’s Alcohol Action Coalition


  1. On the Saturday morning after the match I noticed a group of a dozen to twenty people sitting on a sidewalk in The Gap waiting for the bush bus. They had come into Alice for the game, enjoyed the event, and were going home again.
    Whoever organised that timely return, as opposed to getting stuck here, deserves their own commendation.
    It was a really good weekend. Let’s do it again when West Coast and Port Adelaide meet here next month.

  2. Hal, sadly since the weekend’s restrictions were lifted, and the special efforts of various players ceased, things are back to normal.
    The cheap cask wine is flowing in torrents, multiple slabs and giant spirit containers are bootscooting out the bottlo doors, police are now so run off their feet that they can’t keep up with all the incidents, let alone maintain a presence outside the liquor stores, and too many innocent people are suffering because of the mayhem, waste and neglect being caused by the drunks around them.
    I’m sure you would have noticed all this from your Walmulla vantage point.
    There’s a lesson in this.
    We need to shut down the ultra-cheap wine trade, and thus institute a proper floor price on alcohol; and bring back the banned drinkers register, thus cutting off most of the alcohol consumption of the most problematic grog abusers.
    Showing our IDs would be a very small price to pay to help avoid this continuing catastrophe.

  3. @Bob
    Unfortunately, I have noticed that “things” are getting back to what passes for normal down here in The Gap. That is, lots of drinking and lots of empties to pick up on my morning walks.
    Before I started harvesting the rail corridor for drink containers, I was aware of 2 litre wine bottles. What was new to me (I’m not much of a drinker) was half gallon spirit bottles. I would have thought the sale of those would have been restricted to wholesale purchases for use in pubs and other venues. Instead they are sold across the counter and consumed shortly thereafter.
    So very much not a good look! But at least it gets mixed. I now know that when I see two or three discarded large plastic soft drink containers, a spirits bottle is lurking in the bushes somewhere nearby.
    As a community we are quite simply remiss, if not certifiably mad, to allow this to continue.

  4. Apologies for a necessary correction, but better make that 1 litre, not 2 litre, wine bottles. The two litres comes in casks.
    Here’s a question: If we can permanently ban the four litre wine cask, and I think that’s the case, can we do the same to the two litre, or half gallon, spirits bottle?
    And another question: When temporary restrictions come into force such as we had over the last weekend, and spirits sales are restricted to one 750ml bottle per person per day, does the restriction of one full strength beer carton per person per day apply to the old 24 can slab, or can a newer 30 can slab be purchased? Does anyone know?

  5. Hal (Posted February 14, 2013 at 4:01 am): The Licensing Commission banned the 4 and 5 litre casks of wine, and I understand it could ban any particular product if it thought it had good reason to do so in terms of producing community good. How many standard drinks are there in these two litre spirits bottles?
    The Licensing Commission would probably not act unless citizens or their organisations raised an issue about the high levels of sales and associated harms being caused by the product.
    The ban on buying more than one carton of beer on the weekend of the recent AllStars vs Richmond game was an agreement between the licensees, police and Licensing Commission about how best to handle the situation. It was interpreted as meaning no more than one 24 or 30 can carton per person, so the larger cartons could still be bought.

  6. In regard to Bob Durnan’s comment that the 30 can carton was available on the day – this is another example of how the alcohol industry and its marketing arm has sophisticatedly been able to sell another six cans per person and further evidence of the increasing levels of alcohol in its products over the past twenty years.
    Apart from increasing levels in Australian wine, the new “Devil’s Cut” bourbon has a 45% alcohol content. The visiting UK surgeon, Professor Gillmore, a member of the UK Alcohol Health Alliance, stated on ABC radio this morning, that “the control of alcohol cannot be left to the free market.”

  7. It is about behaviour not consumption. If people become aggressive when drinking stop and make changes to the law. As it stands now if you are drunk or drugged you have an excuse under law to have murder down graded to accidental death or manslaughter. The behaviours are the problem.
    People will be less likely to consume so much and act out with violence if the penalties match the crime.
    Change the law and behaviours will change. Strange lawyers are not on the road to have this change done.
    Oh that is right they only want excuses and there they are written into law. Big words coming … PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY …. sick to death of “its not my fault … the grog made me do it” or “Its not my fault I am a drug addict” …. Its not my fault my parents were lousy … and on and on it goes.
    Suck it up and take responsibility for your own actions. And to those who delight in removing that from those poor fools who in your opinion who cannot think or do for themselves and need you to act for them.
    Clean up your own life and let them clean up theirs and when they realise they have to do something and no-one is going to do it for them they will change and shock horror.
    They can think for themselves and change by themselves for their future. It is referred to as independent living. Not the subordinate treatment from governments who throw money to maintain weakness and insecurities and breeding hatred and chaos. A Federal government that keeps people on their knees feeding on scraps as it is now.
    Or a Federal government that encourages people to stand on their own two legs and participate in the real world with real values real participation and real hope.
    No excuses tried around their necks to keep them on the ground in the dirt. A government who delights in reinforcing the plight of a race of people and then telling them what they can do and how to live and you do this and we will pay to keep you that way is an insult to all others who are encouraged to learn grow and participate in the economics and success of Australia. So whom do you support?


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