Alcohol reference group: Dice seem loaded


Alcohol Watch #15 by RUSSELL GUY
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).
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.


  1. OK. Finally a step back from the adamant stand that the BDR was no good and would never be any good forever and ever amen.
    “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 (Attorney-General John Elferink) said. “What we are not going to do as a Government is ram this down people’s throats.”
    So now it’s up to the communities to decide if they want the BDR or not. Tennant Creek has opted for it. Will we?
    Over to you now, Damien and crew. It really was a good idea. We all know it. It worked to a point from the off and was beginning to kick in in earnest when it was scraped due to a poorly considered election promise.
    Please reinstate it and free up the police. There is so much more they can do to contribute to the safety and well-being of residents in Alice than spend their evenings checking IDs.
    And the price to the public? We will have to show ID when we buy take-away liquor. How, please, is that any different than having to show ID on demand to the police stationed outside the liquor outlets? And the BDR has the added bonus of not being able to be construed as racial profiling.

  2. For about 10 years now I have frequented the Northside bottle shop and slowly over these years I have watched it deteriorate to a point where the majority of the floorspace is taken up with boxes upon boxes of $10 bottles of white wine, clearly targeting the residents / visitors to Hoppy’s and Charles Creek Camps.
    You don’t have to look too hard to see the shimmer of broken glass over the Charles Creek and work out where most of this cheap grog is going.
    Not only has the selection deteriorated but the general behaviour of people – I have been lucky and never been caught up in any dramas, but have been unfortunate and witnessed increased levels of anti social behaviour there over the years, even a small riot one evening – from my observations – mostly grog related.
    Despite what Mr Tollner and Mr Giles feed us the BDR was making a difference, at the outlet level it was noticeable.
    As the owners of the outlet, Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation or LAE Holdings, operating under LAE Supermarkets, as being represented by Mr M Liddle in this instance, he / they will need to make a choice on where they stand. What’s good for the bottom line, isn’t always whats best for the community.
    I would ask Mr Liddle to get support of the LAE Holdings board and to vote for the reintroduction of the BDR, not only at Northside but other liquor outlets LAE Holdings operates, and that he encourages other members of this reference group to do the same.

  3. @ Open Spaces. Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:20 pm.
    Thanks for your comments. Cheap wine is part of the global discounted alcohol strategy – a glut of Australian grapes poured onto the market at a price alcoholics can afford, but if a floor price was introduced around a minimum price for each unit of alcohol in each product, it would not be so affordable and the cynical ploy would be disarmed.
    Alcohol Watch has presented the effectiveness of a floor price in recent editions (google this site). Cheap grog is socially determined and sanctioned to create alcohol-related abuse, violence and self-harm.
    It is one of the reasons why the social reform of alcohol legislation is necessary.
    I’m not sure where the voluntary floor price entered into by supermarkets and bottle shops in Alice is at present, but the two hotels were not party to it.
    Alice Springs-based People’s Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC) provided a valuable service in reminding responsible outlets, but management / staff changes occur.

  4. Is there no Doctor on the list? I think there should be and maybe also one of their first recommendations be that people that are constantly in hospital because of their drinking be put on the banned drinker list.
    There are many families out there suffering because of, and being unable to stop, a loved one from their continued alcohol abuse whilst they just pass through the revolving door of the system.
    The whole system is corrupt with too much money at stake. We may see Ryan and his mob’s lips move, I don’t think much else will happen with this eight point system in place and at least four on the list that can effectively veto any decent move.
    As they say “a loaded dice” – so true.
    [ED – John Boffa is a doctor.]

  5. Thank you ED, I did not realise John Boffa is a doctor, I just hope he speaks up loud and clear in a meaningful way.
    If I can say this, and have it seen as not derogatory, we used to have what was known as “the black fellow act” and there was many a white man put under it and it did work.
    I see the BDR as having the ability to help reduce the heartache and tragedy that comes as part of the package with alcohol.
    I am speaking as a person with a much loved family member in the grip of the peddlers of misery.
    John Elferink and Co are doing something, I think the pregnant women thing is a great idea, but there is much, much more that needs to be done and not with just the vote grabbing ideas.
    For far too long we have had to listen to those self righteous that are able to sit behind their lovely closed doors, acting out their ever so perfect lives with their ability to hide their alcoholism, whilst condemning those not so fortunate.


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