By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Chamber of Commerce represents members who make money from liquor as well as those whose businesses – tourism, especially – are going downhill because of the grog-fuelled violence and anti social behaviour in town.
So it’s no surprise that asking Chamber CEO Kay Eade what issues she will be putting before the new Liquor Commission is a hard question: “If you find the answers let me know,” she says in our interview.
She contributes points outside the usual discussion.
In Tennant Creek an alcohol accord, which is made up of licensees, is in operation which regulates sales outside the government rules, making adjustments in response to local circumstances.
For example, that includes selling only mid strength beer from the hours of 2pm – 3pm, and only two bottles of wine is sold per person after 3pm. Week-ends, when there are football carnivals and so on, they may decide to serve only mid strength beer.
A similar accord is operating in Alice Springs but doesn’t have voluntary restrictions on the sale of alcohol.
Ms Eade says secondary sales are “one of the biggest problems” in Tennant Creek and in Alice Springs: “The quantity would be quite huge, I think.
“I can just gauge that by what I see in the morning, when I go to work. There is quite a bit of alcohol around at a quarter to eight in the morning, in the CBD.
“It could be coming from the south or from Mt Isa via Tennant Creek.
“How is the Liquor Commission going to approach that,” she asks, conceding that it is a police issue, not one for the licensing authorities.
She says Judge Riley’s recommendation for inspectors to take the place of cops at bottle shops has merit because it would free up police officers to deal with crime.
Where does the Chamber stand on sales restrictions?
“It has to benefit the health and well-being of the community,” Ms Eade says.
The Chamber has no answer to the age-old argument that with restrictions, the majority is being penalised because of a minority.
“And then there is online buying. How do you police that?” she asks.
Does it need policing? Surely the drinkers causing public mayhem and neglecting their kids who then commit crime don’t have the internet and a Visa card at their disposal?
“You still have the secondary sales,” Ms Eade says.
“You go to NSW and they have take-aways open from 9am to 10pm, and they don’t have the problem we have. Why is it that we have it in the Territory?”
What does she say to her members in the tourist industry who complain about the drunks in the streets? How can you help those business people?
“It’s Catch 22, you just can’t. You can’t just cut off alcohol completely. Because the tourists also would like to buy a bottle of wine to drink in their caravans.”
Could they not be served as bona-fide travellers?
“If you really want to be brutal, stop serving known alcoholics,” says Me Eade.
How do people become known alcoholics, short of the court declaring them as such?
“I don’t now.”
Why should the liquor merchants not be performing the work now done by police, namely ensuring that people who live in dry areas are not sold alcohol?
“You can’t serve one person and not another. They would be up for discrimination.”
But that’s exactly what is happening now. Police are doing just that.
“Well, that’s the police. Police have powers. Bottle shop managers do not have these powers. No matter what you do, there is always a loophole.”
Would she accept a more cumbersome way of buying liquor if it would save the town, its tourist industry, and people could go out at night and have dinner, walk the streets?
“But there are still the kids, that’s still a problem. The parents drink. And the majority of that is secondary sales. Catch 22.”
And so the debate goes on.
Chamber of Commerce in a grog Catch 22
By ERWIN CHLANDA