LETTER: The Banned Drinkers Register did NOT work


Sir – The Banned Drinkers Register did not reduce drunken violence on our streets and did not stop drunks accessing alcohol.
A huge haul of alcohol (picture courtesy police) obtained by Alice Springs Police today illustrates why the BDR simply did not work.
Today’s haul of 44 bottles of spirits, two bottles of wine and a carton of beer from a house in Gillen in Alice Springs shows just one way how drunks were accessing alcohol while on the BDR.
Police allege the alcohol was being sold illegally without a license from the residence and have arrested two men over the haul.
Clearly effective policing and more police on the street are working where the BDR failed.
As well as buying alcohol illegally from operations like this, drunks on the BDR could still access alcohol through a third party such as a friend or relative or purchase alcohol in licensed venues.
The BDR simply made no difference. The same people were being taken into custody over and over again.
During the 2011-12 financial year, while the BDR was in operation, 431 people had eight or more Protective custody episodes.
In one example, one person on the BDR was placed into custody 117 times in 12 months, that’s once every three days.
The quarterly crime statistics, that this Government has now made publicly available, further show that the BDR did not work.
The latest statistics accurately show the effect of the BDR as they compare the December 2011 quarter (when the BDR was in full swing) with the December 2012 quarter (once the BDR had been scrapped).
During the December 2012 quarter, alcohol fueled assaults dropped by 5.9 per cent across the Territory.
The Country Liberals Government is focused on breaking the cycle of problem drinkers by addressing the real problem which is behaviour.
We will be releasing our alcohol rehabilitation policy in the coming weeks; Labor meanwhile remains a policy-free zone.
Adam Giles
Chief Minister


  1. You are wrong, and I suspect that you know it. What I cannot fathom is why you persist in your error.
    The picture of the sly grog confiscated today tells us only that there are predators among us who capitalise on the hunger of addicts.
    Their presence can have nothing to do with the BDR for the simple reason that the BDR is no longer operational.
    That they, or someone else with the same agenda, was operating last year at this time is to be expected. Predators in the form of sly grog merchants (drug dealers) have ever been among us.
    And it was always going to be easy to point the finger at the chronic recidivists. Any piece of social engineering will not work on the edges. It’s always possible for some to find a way around, to get what they want. They are the low hanging fruit in the equation, and it does you no credit to hide behind them.
    Or behind the drug dealers for that matter.
    Where you are most wrong in your take on the BDR is in portraying that one initiative as the failed panacea to our ills, the non-answer to our prayers.
    No supporter ever said the BDR was perfect, that it alone was all we needed. It was still a work in progress, and it was showing results.
    For some alcoholics and/or binge drinkers it was helping them to not buy grog.
    For some others, who had placed themselves on the list voluntarily, it was helping stop the incessant humbugging they were subjected to from their family and friends.
    For both it was a refuge, an excuse to say no. Thanks to you, both now stand exposed with no shield, no help.
    And the unacceptable cost to the rest of us was? A moment of inconvenience while we showed an ID!
    When you took the reins from Mills I had hoped that you would take the opportunity of your new start to restart the BDR. I concede that that was a forlorn hope.
    Now the ball is in your court. The thirst among some indigenous Territorians is overpowering, as is their contempt for the society they live in. In Alice our streets are under siege, as is our hospital.
    Our police are stretched so thin that their phones are only just working, and sometimes not. The obvious behavioural issues are legion. Banning the BDR has not made them go away. It has not even minimised them.
    You have just tossed a useful tool under our Wi-Fi equipped buses. Good luck with all that.

  2. That pretty well sums it up Hal. We keep getting the knowingly false line that police statistics “prove” that the BDR didn’t work, when we know that these are just one data set that should not be used alone to assess the BDR. How about a proper evaluation, at least, looking at hospital and other relevant data? In the meantime anyone with eyes to see can observe the slide in social amenity as the police struggle to cover each take-away outlet in Alice every day. Hope all those who were so inconvenienced – according to the NT Government – by showing ID are similarly put out by the sad sight of more drunken people, broken glass and general disarray in the town.

  3. Adam, with a perfect example to consider the options available, writes: “In one example, one person on the BDR was placed into custody 117 times in 12 months, that’s once every three days.”
    Why was the person released?
    What were the judicial alternatives?
    Such a record seems more contempt toward court orders, judicial process and the legislative authority.
    The police are required to respond, so they face repeat performances until legislative problems are resolved.

  4. Good points made in all three responses so far to Adam Giles’ letter on the BDR. I too am unconvinced by the Chief Minister, it seems to have become an article of faith with the CLP Government that the BDR had to be abolished, despite being exactly the sort of targeted tool that was needed as part of an effective strategy to ameliorate the problem we all face.
    More anecdotal evidence in the NT News late this week re the effectiveness of the BDR … Nigel Scullion is going to have a fence built around his electoral office in Darwin because of problem drunks. Neighbouring businesses support this, but say the situation has got markedly worse since the BDR was abolished by the CLP Government.
    Love Hal’s comment about the Wi-Fi on the bus, crikey, wtf! What is important to Alice? And ‘Notateetotaller’s’ (nor a Namesignertoletters!) point about hospital admissions, where is the proper evaluation of the BDR? And Pauls’s point re the person placed in custody 117 times in one year! A flashing red light to all that we have a problem, but the new Government’s response has simply been to abolish the BDR. Let’s see a proper evaluation of the BDR and the implementation of other effective, and quick !!!, measures to tackle the problem like a floor price on alcohol.

  5. Don’t you just love it! Only a few months out from a democratically held election, in which the people of the southern portion of the Territory spoke almost with one voice. They threw out the most blindly inept government this nation has ever seen!
    A government that after years in office had nothing but neglect, and exacerbation, of the drinking issues as their legacy, gave us as a departing gift, the so called the Banned Drinkers Register (BDR)!
    And Now, this classic piece of propaganda and tokenism is being held up as being part of the answer to our problem drinking issues! What an absurd insulting joke!
    The BDR was a Joke! The people of the Territory think it was a joke and threw it out! Its repeal was a primary, up front, heavily advertised election policy for the CLP! The people have spoken!
    The BDR had zero effect on problem drinkers serving only to further divide the community, and to drag ever increasing numbers of innocent bystanders, family members into the mess, cajoled, threatened bullied, bashed into being providers of alcohol to banned drinkers.
    Change can only ever be made to the alcohol abuse issue by making people responsible for their own actions, by forcing those with the problems, not the whole of society, into rehabilitation.
    Where they shall remain until they find an answer acceptable to a wider society, which of course may well be a continuance of the drinking habit, but in a law abiding manner.
    The laughable suggestion that the BDR was beginning to have some effect is just that – laughable! The BDR was an insulting sham! A fraudulent pretence of doing something while doing nothing at all!
    Yes, there was a drop off in criminal and drinking behaviour in the last months of the Labor Government! Nothing at all to do with the BDR!
    When Labor realized they were actually going to be kicked from Government by Southern Territorians, in a wild last minute scrabble, attempting to hold onto power, they put aside their deliberate, sustained, neglect of our region and provided our town for the first time under their Government our most basic right” The enforcement of “Law and Order”!
    Under operation “Marathon” a combined policing and departmental effort to reduce crime by a very public policing presence along with improved supervision and management in areas such as housing, this campaign had a marked, even dramatic effect. Hooray! Years too late!
    Finally doing what the town had been screaming for! And yet some of you Labor stalwarts want to hold them up as “deserving”!
    Even as having the ability to determine future policy! You are bloody joking aren’t you? The successful operation, now just know as “ordinary very day policing”, has been maintained under the new Government, the level of policing not only maintained but being increased.
    Law and Order wise things are on the improve in Alice, when the rehab scheme comes into effect, I believe you will see marked improvement across the board. Meanwhile you socialist paternalistic proponents of stupidity give it a rest, you had a go, look at what your wisdom has created! Something beginning with a capital D for eh … “Disaster”!

  6. Steve Brown @ April 1, 2013 at 2:15 pm.
    Thanks for the laugh, but despite my three requests for you to unpackage your “paternalistic” argument in reference to alcohol-misuse, I see you’re still stooging for the alcohol industry.
    You don’t seem to be happy unless you’re calling somebody “stupid”, a member of the “loopy left” or “labor stalwarts”.
    Accusation is more your style, rather than engagement and you appear to have all the answers, all the time in the democracy of ideas that passes for our form of governance, but if we can’t all be philosopher kings, some of us will just have to get used to being stupid some of the time.
    Regarding your “providers of alcohol to banned drinkers” comment, it’s been said before, but it takes two to tango.
    “Change can only ever be made to the alcohol abuse issue by making people responsible for their own actions, by forcing those with the problems, not the whole of society, into rehabilitation.”
    The way I see it, Australian society has a problem with alcohol as demonstrated in the past twelve months with alcohol-related, violent crime occurring in every State and Territory.
    Just the other day, the WA Police Commissioner took a stand against alcohol advertising in sport, saying that capturing an image of a player taking a mark with an alcohol product message in the background, subtly enforced success and alcohol in the minds of children who are watching, but you would probably associate that with the “behavior rather than the substance” approach to alcohol management, currently in vogue with the Chief Minister.
    No sensible person would deny the necessity of “Law and Order” as an underpinning strategy for peaceable society, but police in every State seem to have had enough of the current laws relating to alcohol supply and are calling for fewer hours and earlier closing times as well as the example given above in relation to the ethics of alcohol industry advertising.
    That puts you out on a limb, rather than the prince of the populace that your diatribe seeks to portray.
    As for attributing the drinking problem “Disaster” to a Labor government, I seem to remember that the CLP was in power during the past 40 years of licenced outlet multiplication in the Alice CBD, so give your ideological evangelism a break.
    As for the BDR, your opinion is just that. Others have theirs. In a democracy of ideas, it would seem sensible to appraise them on merit, giving those at the coal-face, such as police and hospital staff some say, rather than ideological pork-barelling.

  7. Crikey Steve Brown, you have convinced me … your response is well argued, well supported with evidence, rational and logical, good to see you are over your fluster and bluster attack. Or not.

  8. I tend to agree with you Russell (I know, you may be surprised with that opening statement), that the alcohol problems across the country are getting ridiculous.
    Unfortunately it is usually accompanied by violence as well. Raising the age to obtain takeaway to 21 may be worthwhile, nationally as well as some other initiatives.
    I myself enjoyed clubbing until 4am in my early 20’s, but things have changed, as back in those days there was the occasional blue, but nothing like the random assaults that are occurring all the time now, especially in capital cities and larger regional centers).
    The main thrust of the argument however was the BDR not working. It was quite obvious that the amount of break and enters into licenced venues dramatically increased during the BDR’s time, because people could not get their fix, and the drunks still managed to get grog.
    I personally spoke to a senior ranked police officer one night here in Alice Springs and said to her that she must be frustrated with the BDR being removed, and her words were that it simply made no difference and was a waste of time. This was a full six months after its removal. This was an Officer on the front line, not relying on stats, but simply her experience, “on the beat”.

  9. Fair go ‘Anonymous Ray’. What credibility can be put in a statement allegedly made by an unnamed police officer to a bloke who doesn’t stand by his comments by putting his name to them. Doubly anonymous! At least Steve Brown has the wherewithal to sign his name to his posts.
    My point stands, let us see a proper evaluation of the BDR trial by independent experts. Less assertions, anonymous or not, and more facts based on proper research and analysis.

  10. @4Geez Steve Brown, is that bloody !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! key stuck down on your machine – maybe from being thumped too often?

  11. Interesting to think that two of the more powerful arguments against the BDR are that it was the cause of break-ins at liquor outlets and that relatives of banned drunks were bashing family members to go buy their grog for them.
    In other words, those on the register will steal and / or bash to get their grog, so better all around if we give in to them and let them have it.
    And how is this not pandering to blackmail?
    What if we spent some real money on women’s shelters and stopped giving violent recidivists bail and suspended jail time?
    And reinstate the BDR. The haste with which it was canned makes me think it was starting to prove itself. Perhaps the “senior ranked police officer” could be asked to go on the record with her comments. And then get a corroborating statement from a senior nurse who works night shift at ER.

  12. So the alcohol rehabilitation policy is coming in a few weeks’ time, and it will address the real problem – behaviour issues.
    Is this another Mills moment? Will we be asked to tell these intoxicated people to stop their unhealthy drinking behaviour?
    But seriously, the issue of rehabilitation versus the enforcement of Law and Order seems problematic.
    When will people be rehabbed and when will they be jailed? The current jail population (largely imprisoned because of alcohol related offences) is testimony to this being an issue.
    Aren’t the December quarter stats always a bit skewed too? On another note can we continue to mask our political allegiances in these discussions!

  13. There was a good report on the BDR earlier this year that might be useful in this discussion:
    “… Professor d’Abbs (Substance Misuse Studies, Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin) says …
    “My view is that it (BDR) was not in place long enough to be able to make a really informed judgement about whether it was successful or not. I think the figures that are available do point to some small changes, but they’re not consistent and so I think some of the claims, probably both by supporters and opponents, go beyond the evidence.”
    But Professor d’Abbs says the limited evidence suggests the register was having a positive effect in the Northern Territory.
    “I think that there is strong anecdotal evidence that since the BDR was dismantled there has been an increase, both in drunkenness in the towns concerned, public drunkenness, and some of the harms that spin off from that.
    “I’m not aware of hard evidence that backs that up at the moment and I think one of the reasons for that is that the Northern Territory Government, having said that it would be very transparent about releasing data, has to my knowledge not made the kind of information available. But anecdotal reports from people like police and others with frontline experience suggest there has been a deterioration.”
    Professor Peter d’Abbs, … says now the Banned Drinkers’ Register is gone, the Northern Territory Government is left with something of a vacuum in its alcohol policy.
    “The BDR was part of a broader suite of measures that did constitute a policy and of course without the BDR the rest of those measures have effectively fallen over and in some cases also been dismantled. Of course the other point was that the incoming government took the BDR away but had nothing, certainly no well-thought out policy, to put in its place and I think that was a huge mistake.”
    I think Professor d’Abbs would certainly qualify as someone with expertise and knowledge in this field, and his comments should be given a lot of weight. The Government has been hasty in getting rid of the BDR. Which raises the question, why? Let’s pressure them to reverse the decision and give it a proper trial. It could be a useful tool in an overall strategy to combat the alcohol abuse problem we all want dealt with.

  14. Acknowledged, it is the same people taken into custody over and over again, worse within a single year.
    Is discussion of the BDR a distraction, drawing attention away from more serious problems of poor sentencing alternatives ?

  15. Ian and Hal, The fact that I choose not to leave my last name does not mean what I have said is not true. The simple fact is that a I was talking to a sergeant of the NT police in Alice Springs. It was a very busy night and she was saying how busy it was. I made a comment to her in this context, that the police must be frustrated that the BDR had been removed, and she said it never worked.
    Talk to an ER nurse all you want, I’m simply adding to this conversation with what I heard on the street. Once again, a person with plenty of experience over many years. Take it or leave it. If I was to sign Ray Smith, would it be any more credible?
    [ED – Readers, please note our comments policy.]

  16. @Ray – Posted April 2, 2013 at 9:46 pm
    How you sign your posts is not an issue for me. And I did not say, and didn’t mean to imply, that the senior police officer you quoted did not say what you said she did.
    But I do think it’s important to get these statements on record whenever possible. I also think the view from the hospital is crucial when assessing the BDR.
    To join you, I have been told in a private conversation with a senior nurse who works in the ER that the police are dropping off drunks as often as they can in preference to taking then to the police station. Briscoe’s death saw to that. If true, and I have a feeling it is, these numbers need to be added to the numbers of those charged by the police to get an accurate indication of how many drunks are rolling around our streets.
    In the same conversation, I was told the hospital is compiling stats which will be given to the police in due course. I only hope they will be given to Erwin as well.

  17. @Ray. You wrote … “Take it or leave it. If I was to sign Ray Smith, would it be any more credible?”
    It would if Ray Smith was your real name. The amount of nonsense that has been submitted in letters to the editor in this town over the years beggars belief, people feel free to exaggerate, misrepresent and spew vitriol behind the cloak of anonymity. I don’t trust communications from people who refuse to identify themselves. Erwin’s comments policy says it all, if you want credibility man up.
    So I’ll leave it, thanks “Ray”.


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