Alcohol Watch #15 by RUSSELL GUY
ALICE SPRINGS ALCOHOL REFERENCE GROUP ANNOUNCED
The NT Minister for Alcohol Policy, Dave Tollner, has announced an Alcohol Reference Group (ARG) for the formation of an Alcohol Management Plan (AMP) in Alice Springs.
The group comprises “community members as well as industry and community organisations”: Mayor Damien Ryan (Chair, pictured); Kay Eade (pictured), Chamber of Commerce; Jeff Huyben, Central Australian Tourism Association; Di Loechel, Australian Hotel Association (NT); Eileen Hoosan, Central Australia Aboriginal Alcohol Programs Unit, supported by Phillip Allnutt; Dale Wakefield, Alice Springs Women’s Shelter; John Boffa, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress; Michael Liddle, Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation, supported by David Kenny; Annette Partridge, Clubs NT Association; and Matthew Osbourne, Liquor Stores Association.
Under the terms of reference, eight out of ten members must agree to any initiative. The dice appear to be loaded against the most effective measures (a floor price, photo ID monitoring system, alcohol free days and later commencement times for bars).
THE BANNED DRINKERS REGISTER RETURNS TO TENNANT CREEK
Mark DiStefano (ABC, 18/3/14) reports: “Take-away alcohol outlets at Tennant Creek have reintroduced the Banned Drinkers Register (BDR) scanners and computer databases first put in place by the former Labor government to police liquor restrictions.
“A local alcohol control group has been set up at Tennant Creek and the resurrection of the BDR is one of its first recommendations. The Government has confirmed it is allowing the system to be used to help enforce restrictions on the sale of alcohol at Tennant Creek.
Anyone who buys alcohol in the town is required to present photo ID to be scanned, to ensure liquor restrictions cannot be circumvented by people visiting several bottle shops. Under local restrictions, the sales of beer, wine and spirits are limited.
Attorney-General John Elferink says other communities can follow Tennant Creek’s lead if they decide to use the Banned Drinker Register’s ID scanners to enforce liquor restrictions.
“What we have been saying all along [is that] each community can make its own decisions as to how it manages liquor in that particular community,” he said. “What we are not going to do as a Government is ram this down people’s throats.”
PROSECUTION CONSIDERED FOR PREGNANT DRINKERS
NT Attorney-General John Elferink is considering prosecuting women who drink heavily during pregnancy in a move to protect the rights of unborn children. Lindy Kerin (ABC,14/3/14) reports that “3,000 babies are born every year suffering foetal alcohol spectrum disorder” (FASD).
Kerin spoke with Dr James Fitzpatrick, a paediatrician who specialised in FASD at Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia. He says a supportive and voluntary approach, rather than punitive, is needed.
“There’ll be a number of women who would seek out that kind of support actively. They would probably welcome the chance to get to a quieter, calmer, more supportive place for women. My interest is firmly in giving the unborn child the best chance of brain development and general development.”
QUESTIONS RAISED OVER UK GOVERNMENT ALCOHOL POLICY
Australian governments are not the only ones resisting a minimum price (floor price) per unit of alcohol as Katherine Brown (British Medical Journal, 2014) writes: “Each year the United Kingdom sees more than 8700 deaths related to alcohol and 1.2 million hospital admissions, and alcohol is estimated to cost society more than £21bn (€25bn; $35bn).
These figures include costs to the NHS (£2.7bn), the police and criminal justice system (£11bn), and loss of workplace productivity (£7.3bn), and they total more than double the £10bn annual revenue generated from taxes on alcohol.
“Evidence from the UK and abroad shows that reducing affordability is the most powerful tool at a government’s disposal to tackle the problems associated with alcohol… studies have shown that poor people who drink heavily will experience the greatest benefits, in terms of better health outcomes, from raising the price of the cheapest drink.
“Yet alcohol is 61% more affordable today than in 1980, because real household disposable incomes have risen considerably more than alcohol prices, and it seems that one of the biggest barriers to tackling this is the power of the drinks industry.”
CLAIMS THAT NT ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION IS DECLINING
In a media release – DRIVING DOWN CRIME BY TURNING OFF THE TAP (18/3/14) – the NT government has claimed the lowest per capita alcohol consumption on record: “Estimated per-capita consumption of alcohol in the Northern Territory has dropped to 12.84 litres per person in the 2012-13 financial year.
“This is the lowest estimated consumption value recorded for the Northern Territory since prior to 2001-02, which is the first period for which per-capita consumption has been estimated. The latest value continues the decrease in estimated consumption seen in the Northern Territory since 2004-05.”
It is anticipated that further evidence will also show that when the Banned Drinkers Register (BDR) was abolished, consumption and consumption-related harm spiked, before being curbed by the subsequent intensification of police patrols outside outlets.
The police patrols are effective for much the same reason as the BDR was effective, but at a very substantial financial and social cost.
Alcohol Watch #15 by RUSSELL GUY