LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – In response to the letter of Paul McCue, NT Police Association president.
Congress continues to be very sympathetic to the Police Association who continue to represent the views of their members in relation to Point of Sale Intervention (POSI, or “cops at bottle shops”). We appreciate that it is not work that they want to keep doing.
Congress fully expects Commissioner Kershaw to ensure that police are doing the required work to maintain law and order and public safety. We appreciate there are many different aspects to this important work and the police are doing a great job and we have never suggested otherwise, however, for now, police on bottle shops full time is a key part of their overall work. Unfortunately, it is still needed.
Congress gets that police on bottle shops is by itself insufficient. We are also keen to work with the police association, other stakeholders and government to ensure other key recommendations from the review on alcohol policy – including the alcohol floor price, risk based licensing, the liquor commission and other measures – are in place as quickly as possible.
Congress also supports the recommendations of the Riley review including the recommendation to replace police on bottle shops with uniformed licensing inspectors.
However, we also support the key recommendation that police do not withdraw their critical work on bottle shops until the new system with the uniformed licensing inspectors is in place. Congress is keen to work with the Police Association to help ensure this happens as soon as possible.
Arguments about individual choice are interesting but do nothing to address the fact that POSIs are very effective and when in place they prevent severe alcohol related harms, including premature and tragic deaths from alcohol related violence, suicide and motor vehicle accidents.
We also fully understand the need to continue to work very hard on the broader social determinants of the alcohol problem including early childhood, education, employment, housing and the extreme poverty that too many of our people still live in. We don’t support either / or arguments, it is always “both / and”.
The Australian Hotels Association has suggested that their NT members alone contribute around $50m per year in taxes. So to suggest that the alcohol industry does not pay anything for police operations is like suggesting that the community do not pay anything for their health care when it is bulk billed through Medicare.
These sorts of essential services are rightly paid for by our taxes. Yes, POSIs are discriminatory, and no, they do not resolve underlying issues of addiction and violence and need to be combined with other key alcohol policy reforms.
However, it is a very unsound argument that says don’t do anything immediate that will help, especially when we have seen the results.
Donna Ah Chee (pictured)
CEO, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress