Letters to the Editor
What you say. See also at the bottom of this page the comments posted direct.
One punch homicide law equals one punch policy
Sir – The Criminal Lawyers Association of the Northern Territory opposes the Country Liberals’ pledge to enact the Criminal Code (One Punch Homicide) Amendment Bill if elected.
This law was first proposed by the Country Liberals in November 2011, and then again with only the name changed, in March of this year. The Bill is seriously flawed, as it is drafted in the terms of statutory principles of criminal responsibility for homicide which were superseded some seven years ago.
The Bill was proposed following community concern arising from the tragic and violent death of Sgt Brett Meredith in Katherine. However, it must be emphasised that the trial of Michael Martyn, the man who caused Sgt Meredith’s death, resulted in a conviction for manslaughter. As a result, Mr Martyn is now serving a lengthy prison sentence. If that case illustrates anything, it is that the current law works. If Mr Martyn had been sentenced under the law now proposed by the Country Liberals, he would have been convicted of a much less serious offence, and in all likelihood would have received a lesser sentence.
In 2005, the Legislative Assembly passed some very important amendments to the Criminal Code which saw the progressive adoption of principles for criminal responsibility based on the Uniform Model Criminal Code, a painstaking process by which the most eminent and experienced criminal lawyers in Australia, drawn from the bench, the bar and our universities, put their heads together to formulate a comprehensive, rigorous and effective set of laws to regulate these very difficult and complex issues. The Model Criminal Code is framed so as to cover the field of criminal responsibility for homicide.
One of the key elements of these reforms was the abolition of the offence of “dangerous act causing death”, which had been widely criticised for allowing many defendants to escape manslaughter and get an unfairly lenient sentence. One obvious danger of the proposed new one punch homicide law would be that this problem would be re-created.
More importantly though, it would be irresponsible and premature to rush to enact such a law. The Government was right to refer the matter to the Northern Territory Law Reform Committee, presided over by former Chief Justice Austin Asche. Before we “fix” this purported problem, we need to be make sure the system is “broke”. Given the fact that what we now have is the product of such a careful and considered process of law reform, I’m not convinced it is in fact “broke”, but if there is a gap in the law that needs to be fixed, the fix needs to be very carefully designed.
The Country Liberals have promised to reduce crime by 10 per cent a year. None of their law and order policies announced to date, however, will achieve that heroic aim. The one punch homicide law is no exception. It is very disappointing that an important, sensitive and technical issue such as the law relating to criminal responsibility for homicide has been used as a political football to score a few desperate points in the dying minutes of the last quarter of this election campaign.
President, Criminal Lawyers Association NT
NT turns the corner on alcohol consumption and harm
POSTED August 7, 2012
Sir,- Data made public by the NT Department of Justice last week clearly, and happily, reveals a reduction in per capita alcohol consumption.
The NT is finally moving away from notoriety as the home of the nation’s biggest drinkers.
Per capita consumption peaked in 2005 at nearly 15.3 litres of pure alcohol per person aged 15 and over, and has come down to 13.3 litres in 2011.
It is the decline in cheap wine sales that has made the biggest difference. The sale and consumption of beer and spirits actually increased slightly in this period, but only by a fraction of the total reduction in wine consumption.
Limits on the sale of cheap cask wine in the NT’s major population centres have brought about this change. This wine is the usual first choice of the heaviest drinkers – those who drink to get drunk from the Top End to the Centre.
Alice Springs is the town most studied and we know that the introduction of an effective minimum price of 50 cents per standard drink in 2006 along with other restriction saw a 20% reduction in the sales and consumption of alcohol. This was subsequently undermined somewhat by the availability of very cheap bottled wine.
From mid-2011, thanks to the actions of Alice Springs retailers, the minimum take-away price effectively became around 80 cents at hotel bottle-shops and one dollar or more at the supermarkets and smaller grocery shops. In 2011 there was an additional 7% decline in wine sales, although this change had only been in place for six months.
It’s clear that supply reduction measures based primarily on price are working, and that a uniform, regulated minimum price set at the price of full-strength beer would see the current trend improve and our consumption levels go down, closer to the national average.
The Licensing Commission’s 2006 Alice Springs reforms, overseen by the NT Government, played a major role in the introduction of these supply reduction measures and it is vital that this success continues and is not abandoned by any newly elected administration.
This is an achievement that the Northern Territory should celebrate and build on, as we move away from the frontier drinking culture that used to shape our identity and how we drink. We are no longer such ‘bloody good drinkers.’ We are finally becoming more responsible.
Another recent report – from the COAG Indigenous Reform Council* – has shown that during this period of lessening alcohol consumption there was a decline in the NT of around 20% in the adult mortality rate for Aboriginal people and about 5% for the rest of the population.
Dr John Boffa
The People’s Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC)
LOOKING FOR AN OLD BUDDY
POSTED June 15, 2012
Sir,- his is a long shot. I’m a retired airline pilot from the UK trying to find a good friend that I haven’t seen since 1975 when I graduated from the British Airways training college at Hamble Southampton, aged 25.
His name is Christopher Sharpe, and he was married to a girl called Isabelle before he left the UK, to travel the world in his old VW campervan.
I know he ended up in Australia in Darwin, and then Alice Springs. I was recently invited back to my old school in Teddington Middlesex, to revisit before it was demolished, to be replaced by a new school. I was lucky enough to meet one of my old teachers who had been in contact with my friends mother until she died.
He told me that she was very proud of Chris, as he had ended up as the Chief Inspector of Schools for Australia.
I have been searching on the internet for more information, but have had little success other than seeing an old article in your paper mentioning his name in reference to a teachers dispute.
So can you help me to get in touch? There must be somebody in Alice that can remember him.
He was the same age as me, so that would make him 62 now. He was a Geography teacher, and graduated from Hull University and was very keen on football. I hope you can help me as it would be great to get in touch with him again.
Thanks for any help you can give me.
Contact c/- Alice Springs News
Carbon tax takes out cattle station aircraft
POSTED May 29, 2012.
Sir – Fuel companies have reluctantly started to notify their customers that the price of aviation fuel for mustering cattle will rise.
An essential part of the cost of managing modern cattle operations, aviation fuel is used for helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to check water supplies and animals throughout the year and during calving, often when conditions are too wet to travel on the ground.
Mustering cattle to allow essential animal husbandry practice such as weaning, vaccinating and attending to calves and the gathering of cattle for sale are often only possible with the use of aircraft.
The decision by the government not to extend the tax exemption to on-property aviation fuel is yet another blow to the struggling northern cattle industry. This is on top of last year’s live export ban which effectively shut down the northern industry and the flow on of that impact is still accelerating, with Indonesian import quotas for Australian cattle at an all time low.
The rise will be in the order of 9-10 cents per litre from July 1, 2012. This will also increase the cost of other essential operations such as fire management and monitoring; weed and pest management survey and control programs. Many of these operations relate to the overall wellbeing and environmental integrity of northern Australia, making the revenue raised through the tax a false economy.
While the NTCA applauded the government’s decision to exempt other on-property fuel from the carbon tax, the possibility of on road transport fuel being taxed from 2014 is causing serious concern. Freight is a major part of the cost of doing business with the transport of goods and services in, and livestock out, over long distances. As it is, from July 1, there will be a flow on impact with the carbon tax affecting the cost of most business products and services.
These costs will not only further stress families and business viability but also the competitiveness of our industry in the domestic and international markets on which we depend.
We call on the government to exempt aviation fuel from the carbon tax for the good of the families and country of northern Australia.
President, NT Cattlemen’s Association
Grog mayhem is exhausting Alice Springs
POSTED May 14, 2012.
At the end of April, I submitted the following letter to the Northern Territory Licensing Commission. It was discussed at their May meeting.
I now submit it as an open letter in the hope that anyone supporting my views will express that support by contacting the Licensing Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org
Due to circumstances beyond our control, the supply of take-away alcohol has helped create a situation that is spiralling out of control in Alice Springs. From reports in the media, the same situation is found in the urban centres and around the roadhouses all along the Stuart Highway. I do not know if this current situation is of a greater or lesser magnitude than experienced in the past, nor do I know if it can rightly be called a crisis. But I do know that it is exhausting.
Among the circumstances beyond our control I would include the success of the original Intervention in reducing the supply of alcohol to remote communities. The fact that remote communities are now largely free of alcohol means that those living there who want a drink can only find one by coming to town.
I would also include a natural drift from outlying rural or remote communities into urban centres. Sometimes this drift is driven by a need for medical attention, sometimes from a desire for an education or for employment that are both unavailable at remote locations, sometimes by young people looking for the excitement of city lights or following their dreams of sporting fame and sometimes by a combination of the above.
I do not presume to say this list is exhaustive, but for whatever reason or combination of reasons, we along the Stuart Highway have lately been inundated by an increase in refugees from outlying communities. Having arrived, a dashing of dreams, boredom, peer pressure and thwarted expectations of entitlement lead many to indulge in excessive public drinking. Others come solely to drink.
I am not a member of an organisation with a publically expressed opinion on alcohol supply in the NT. I can quote no statistics from the hospital or from the police. My primary concern is not to reduce what many consider our excessive consumption of alcohol throughout the Territory, nor is it the health and wellbeing of habitual public drinkers.
My primary concern is with the sheer exhaustion felt across Alice Springs that comes from coping with the day-in day-out noise of drinkers drinking in public places, from cleaning up after them day after day, from putting up with their disrespect for all laws and for all others and from their apparent inability to adopt the basic hygiene necessary for sharing urban space.
It is my contention that we who live in Alice need a day off, a time out, a chance on one day of the week to catch our breath before re-entering the fray on the following day. For that reason I ask you to please ban all take-away sales of alcohol on Sundays between the South Australian and Northern Territory border and Elliott.
I nominate Sundays because in Alice Springs most of the bottle shops are already closed on that day. I ask for the ban to extend from South Australia north to Elliott to keep those desperate for take-away grog from taking to the highway and becoming a danger to themselves and to others.
It would do the NT no harm if you were to make this ban Territory wide, but my focus is on central Australia. This is where I live.
The tourist industry often complains that restrictions on alcohol sales damage their industry, or have the potential to damage their industry. This objection carries weight, especially in a town like Alice Springs where so much depends on tourism. However, I suggest that this mostly shows a paralysing lack of imagination on their part.
Alcohol restrictions, in this case a day off, could be packaged not as an imposition but as a way for visitors to help us weather an acknowledged rough patch. The tourist industry prides itself on coming up with clever slogans. Surely there is at least one bright spark among them who could rise to this challenge.
Thank you for considering this appeal.
Hal Duell, Alice Springs
Listen, act NOW, involve the town.
POSTED April 30, 2012 (This comment was posted in response to our report “Those in a hurry and those who are not”)
I left Alice Springs after 13 years, not because of the anti social behavior, not because because of the endemic drinking problem, not because of the myriad of social problems in Alice. I left Alice because of the inaction on all levels of government, from the CLC, to the council, to the minister, and a whole jumble of governing bodies of people, whose main objective in this whole mess is to bring home a big pay check, employ a countless numbers of consultants to do their job for them, and still not willing to make the hard decisions and put into action a plan to fix my town. A town and ALL its people who I love dearly, and sincerely think are the most unique and accommodating people that I have ever met in my life. LISTEN to my Model / Plan to secure a safe and thriving town for all.
1: Dismantle and throw out all the insane drinking regulations that cause a horrific backlash to the community, and replace it with the standard model that the rest of Australia uses make the offenders accountable. Just execute it! Simple. The existing regulations / prohibition only gives the impression to the rest of Australia that the NT Government cannot manage its own back yard and puts Alice Springs into the bad town to live in image, bad publicity brought about by fly in and out politicians who have not walked the walk or talked the talk, honestly what chance have we got!
2: Drinking in public. Again same law as the rest of Australia make the offenders accountable. Again Execute IT! SIMPLE, its not rocket science just common sense.
It is inconceivable that under the very noses of all government departments, best examples being all around the council chambers itself, the Todd River, and yes! even outside the very Police department that are charged with the enforcement of this law, that in any minute of any given day alcohol is consumed and the discarded bottles and cans are left in full view for all to see. As quick as the discarded cans and bottles hit the ground the council sneaks in every morning early and cleans the areas. What an insult to the Alice Springs people.
The Big problem here is not the fact that this is happening on a daily basics, it’s the dismay, the disappointment, the frustration that infiltrate the community as a whole which promote racial intolerance, a repulsive by product of yet another failed government process.
The Minister blames the people for talking down the town and instructs us to talk up the town and all will just go away. I say to you Minister, sit down and listen to the families of lost ones, injured ones and sick ones that are products of this mess, and think to yourself if this were my children my family my friends, would I just walk out silently into the night as I have done in the past?
3: Anti Social Behaviour: Again an existing Australian model exists for this – Execute it! And so on and on and on. Simplistic ideas? Not at all! Use what you have and get the job done! No more over complicating and procrastinating over all the issues make a stand now! The people of Alice stand with you, I know this for I have walked the walk and talked the talk.
The People of Alice Springs expect, no, demand that the government workers employed by the people for the people act now or move aside and let someone else have a go, that’s what Australians do, have a go and save our town.
Anthony de Souza
Formerly Alice Springs
Recent comments by the operator of an Alice Springs taxi company that he is considering taking his taxis off the road at night is another example of the debilitating effect of violence, crime and anti-social behaviour in Alice Springs.
The council elections have been and gone and nothing has changed.
The new Mayor of Katherine, Faye Miller, has been in for less than a month and already canvassed introducing foot patrols to reduce crime in partnerships with police, council and community patrols.
Perhaps her Alice Springs counterparts should follow her lead.
People are right to ask where is the Minister for Central Australia, where is the Member for Lingiari and what is Alice Springs Town Council doing?
The complacency and inertia displayed by these decision makers’ amounts to meek acceptance of the situation as being normal, and that Alice Springs residents should tolerate violence, crime and anti-social behaviour as part of life.
But here we are with taxis being vandalised and drivers fearing for their lives.
If taxis are forced to cut night services we could also see dangerous flow-ons with people – unable to catch a cab home – choosing to drink drive or simply not venturing from home, which will hit the local economy.
Decision makers need to get out of their office, open their eyes and stand up for Alice Springs –otherwise step aside and let others take on the job.
At a time when governments struggle to maintain connection with their electorate, and when the very relevance of local and State and / or Territory governments is being questioned, the following suggested change to the Alice Springs Town Council’s procedure might go some way toward redressing that poor public image.
I am asking Council to please consider changing its set agenda to include the following: In both Committee and Ordinary meetings, immediately prior to Council adjourning from Open to Confidential anyone in the Gallery would be asked if they wished to challenge the placement only of any item listed on the night’s agenda for discussion in Confidential.
In the event of a challenge, the Council Officer(s) who placed that item in Confidential would be asked to explain why they did so. The challenge could not be taken on notice.
The Councillors would then vote to move the item into Open, or to keep it in Confidential.
At no time would the details of the item being challenged be debated until it was determined where that debate was to take place. If Council votes to move it into Open, the debate would then proceed. If not, the meeting would adjourn into Confidential, and the public and press would leave the Chamber.
I appreciate that this change could add to the time needed for an already long meeting. To make it easier to support, I suggest that:
• The right to challenge would not be used often or lightly.
• This is not a threat to Council’s ability or right to discuss matters in confidence. It merely offers a chance to ask why.
• Any change to Council’s agenda that increases the public’s confidence that all business conducted by Council is as transparent and accountable as it’s possible to make it is a change for the better.
• Any change to Council’s agenda that opens its meetings to greater public participation is a change for the better.
Admittedly this is not the first time I have suggested Council adopt this change. Notwithstanding previous rebuffs, I still think it has merit. Perhaps a majority of Councillors can now agree, so I make the suggestion again.
POSTED April 13, 2012
Sir – Charles Darwin University has committed to sponsoring the AUSTAFE National Conference in Alice Springs in October.
Alice Springs campus Vocational Education and Training Senior Adviser and AUSTAFE National President Lyle Mellors says the three-day conference was expected to attract more than 150 tertiary and further education leaders from across Australia.
This will be an important opportunity for CDU staff to network with interstate counterparts, for professional development activity and for the promotion of partnerships with vocational education and training stakeholders.
Vice-Chancellor Barney Glover will deliver one of the keynote speeches and the planning committee has invited submissions for theme and breakout session papers.
The conference theme “TAFE on Target” will allow delegates to examine a series of strategic questions: Is the vocational training sector hitting the target for regional and remote students, is it equipping staff adequately for the demands of the 21st Century and is it on target to meet government, industry and community needs for a highly skilled and educated Australia?
These and other questions will inspire plenty of lively debate about the latest trends, activities, policies and reforms affecting VET.
The conference will help provide dual-sector institutes such as CDU with a yardstick for measuring their effectiveness in providing a smooth transition from secondary education to employment or further education and training.
The conference is scheduled to take place at Pioneer Park on October 3-5.
By the way, the AUSTAFE conference website went live today.
CDU, Alice Springs
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