LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – The NT Chief Minister has again revealed his ideological rejection of evidence-based alcohol policy in the NT. Adam Giles’ failure on the ABC’s Lateline last Thursday to nominate a single expert who supports the CLP’s Alcohol Mandatory Treatment (AMT) Bill, particularly the criminalisation of drunkenness, shows an astonishing resistance to evidence.
He says he is worried about domestic violence and about kids who are hurt and neglected through grog abuse. So is PAAC and so are many others, such as the Congress Aboriginal health service and NPY Women’s Council.
They have campaigned on the issue over many years. Tragically, Mr. Giles’ only answer is expensive AMT for a very few, topped off with the criminalisation of drunkenness kicking in on the third breach of a detention order. The Chief Minister’s bare-faced claim on national television that that no-one has had anything to say about how to tackle our appalling record on grog abuse and domestic violence for eleven years shows just how out of touch he is with major initiatives that have made a difference in the NT.
He knows, and his Rehabilitation Minister Robyn Lambley admits, that about 90% of people under AMT orders won’t get off the grog as a result. The likely most effective single measure, an alcohol floor price per standard drink at the cost of beer, would cost nothing!
He stubbornly and irresponsibly ignores the evidence about what will reduce consumption. He refuses to re-introduce a Commonwealth-funded Photo ID system that costs virtually nil to run, and which would help to prevent sales to people who do abscond from rehabilitation or breach Tribunal banning orders.
It seems he’d rather they keep breaching orders and face a prison term the third time. Is this a good use of public money compared to other investments, especially early childhood and family intervention programs?
Ordering people to treatment on a trial basis with no criminal consequences may be effective with some addicts, provided there is good follow up and support. But even if we get all of this right, it will still be a very small contribution to addressing problem.
It is also wrong to detain people for up to eight days without any charge, as is now proposed, and to criminalise drunkenness by creating offences for absconding.
In case Adam Giles really believes no-one has any answers, we’d be happy to refer him – again – to credible research on what works: pricing adjustments to cheap liquor, and shorter take-away hours including a day without take-away sales.
It is very likely that for the first time in six years NT wide alcohol sales have increased since the election of the CLP Government and the removal of the Banned Drinkers’ Register. No wonder some have been calling the CLP the “Country Liquor Party” and that the alcohol industry is so happy.
It is not too late for the Chief Minister to listen to the evidence and implement what works. This would be the best way for him to act on his concern for women and children.
Dr. John Boffa (pictured)
People’s Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC)