Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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HomeIssue 5The crucible of alcohol legislation

The crucible of alcohol legislation

Would this qualify as the shortest taxi ride in the world? People board a taxi at the rank corner Todd Mall and Wills Terrace, some 50 meters from the entrance to the Todd Tavern bottle shop. Why? Because they are not allowed to walk into the drive-through bottle shop to buy booze. Bottles are sold to the passengers sitting in the back of the taxi. It then exits the drive-through, turns left twice and drops its passengers where it had picked them up minutes earlier, a trip of about 200 meters. The fare is said the vary from $10 to $25. Another vignette in the senseless saga of alcohol control measures in the Territory. Photo by ERWIN CHLANDA.
ALCOHOL WATCH #9 by Russell Guy.
Liquor licensing changes in Queensland likely to follow NSW government alcohol restrictions introduced last week, may not include earlier closing times.
The Brisbane Sunday Mail (19/1/14) editorialized:  “It is a difficult balancing act. On the one hand the Premier has viable businesses trying to make a living through the responsible service of alcohol, as well as mostly law-abiding citizens venturing out to have an enjoyable evening.
“It is likely that licensing hours will remain the same but there will be a fresh emphasis on policing and tougher fines.”
Commenting on the NSW measures, author of ‘My Name is Ross: An Alcoholic’s Journey’, Ross Fitzgerald (Australian 1/1/14: 18) writes that “the key to reducing violence caused by alcohol is cost and availability”.
The cost-effectiveness of a floor price was outlined in last week’s Alcohol Watch, but in terms of availability, it’s worth noting that the recent Newcastle experiment which reduced closing hours of clubs and pubs from 5am to 3am, with lock-outs occurring at 1am instead of 3am, saw a 37 per cent reduction in alcohol-related violence.
Fitzgerald recommends that volumetric tax, a tax on the actual alcohol content be increased, in a “user-pays” attempt to ameliorate the costs of abuse to taxpayers.
Tougher legislation inevitably means higher imprisonment rates: The cost of building prisons and the more than $70,000 pa cost of per prisoner incarceration need to be added to an already profligate public health cost. In the NT, the cost of Alcohol Mandatory Treatment must be included.
Fitzgerald concludes that it’s a win-lose situation.  “Either the liquor industry wins or the community loses.”
Meanwhile, State and territory attorneys-general will meet in Victoria in April to discuss one-punch “coward” offending, once referred to as a “king hit” and the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called for a national summit to discuss whole-of-government solutions to alcohol-abuse.
The ABC (30/1/14) reported that “a greater proportion of non-indigenous people are at risk of long-term harm from alcohol in the Northern Territory than Indigenous people.  The latest Productivity Commission report shows 25 per cent of non-indigenous people are at risk, compared to the national rate of 20 per cent.
“In comparison, only 14 per cent of Indigenous Territorians are at risk, which is below the national rate of 19 per cent.”
The Productivity Commission report shows the Territory has the second-highest overall proportion of people at risk of long-term harm from alcohol, after Western Australia.  The data also shows the Territory has the highest proportion of people with type two diabetes, and the highest rate of potentially avoidable deaths in the nation.”
The Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA) – the national peak body for the alcohol and other drugs sector for nearly 50 years – has put in a submission on the impact of its unexpected defunding last November, to a Senate committee inquiring into the Abbott Government’s National Commission of Audit. The submission states: “There is no clearer example of the need for an organisation like ADCA than the current situation in which Australia finds itself – a nation wallowing in alcohol with a failure of leadership to address the critical issues of price, accessibility and advertising of alcohol products.”
A Canberra Times journalist, in an article about alcohol-abuse (25/1/14), wrote: “Using alcohol for celebration, or commiseration, is one of those Judeo-Christian traditions which contributes to our Australian way of life.” But a 2012 VicHealth report suggests that it’s not any specific religious association that leads to alcohol related harm.
The study, commissioned after community concern about alcohol intoxication during major social occasions, has provided evidence that acute intoxication and injuries due to assaults and traffic accidents, increase in the lead up to most public holidays, particularly the days before New Year’s Day, Australia Day, Good Friday, ANZAC Day and the last working day before Christmas.


  1. Is this fiction Russell? Only 14% of Indigenous Territorians are at risk of long term harm by alcohol? Or is it simply they are dead before the meaning ‘long term’ kicks in?

  2. Good point, Rex. I’ve checked the ABC report which quotes from the Productivity Commission report and which is posted at ABC Online. You can make enquiries through the ABC if you wish.
    I agree with you that on the face of it, it seems like fiction. The Commission derives its statistics largely through inter-government departmental bodies, but I’m not in a position to critique them. You can Google them if you want to follow it up.
    However, your point seems valid.
    The point I’ve continued to make through these bulletins and media round-ups is that alcohol is a recognised killer through excessive consumption and that’s the problem we have long had to contend with in the NT. Your own observations confirm the scandalous reality.
    Welcome aboard the A-train.


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