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Government alcohol policies a giant hangover

2523 bottle shop OKThe government commits to “cops at bottle shops” in response to the Riley Review but the police says it will provide officers if it can spare them, reports ERWIN CHLANDA.

With trouble in the streets continuing, attributed largely to the parents of delinquents getting drunk rather than looking after their kids, the government’s alcohol policies are in utter disarray.
It pledged in response to the Riley Report to continue with POSIs – cops at bottle shops – until licensing inspectors can take over that function.
Yet POSIs are sporadic: For example, there were none at the Todd Tavern bottle shop (pictured) when we checked on Saturday and yesterday. We have asked for an explanation, and an update on police policy. [See update below.]
This morning the government announced that “an additional 75 police auxiliaries will be trained as liquor inspectors” for Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek, to be posted at take-aways.
But there’s a problem: While Chief Minister Michael Gunner states that “these police auxiliaries will be recruited over the next 12 months, and trained in Alice Springs,” he makes no mention of what happens between now and then.
Opposition Leader Gary Higgins is raising that question while Independent Robyn Lambley is calling for a Parliamentary inquiry into the police.
Any absence of POSIs from bottle shops suggests that the police – possibly under pressure from its union – are acting in contravention of the policy touted by the government.
The government “supports” – that means, “to be implemented in full” – two specific recommendations by Judge Riley: “POSIs continue in regional centres after the commencement of the BDR until (and unless) it can be demonstrated that they are no longer required” and “Police continue to undertake the POSI role until Licensing Inspectors are employed and trained”.
Yet it seems there is going to be a gap of up to 12 months, making an incomplete keeping of the government’s promises.
The government commented on the Riley Report that it “recognises the effectiveness of POSIs / Temporary Beat Locations (TBLs) are a harm minimisation tool”.
The NT Police Association’s Paul McCue agrees – so long as cops have no role in it: “Why is this a police job?
“The police auxiliary scheme was introduced to the NT in the early 1990s to provide support to police in three main employment streams, communications, front counter and the watch house.
“None of these streams are in a first response capacity on the frontline. An auxiliary police officer receives approximately seven weeks’ training to work in these crucial support roles, but this latest announcement sees them pushed onto the streets, to do bottle shop work.
“This will unfairly place our Auxiliaries at risk because they do not receive the same extensive training required by constables to deal with working on the frontline in dangerous and unpredictable environments.”
Mr McCue says the announcement to train in Alice Springs also comes as a surprise, given there is no dedicated training facility in the town. The current Accelerated Recruit Squad being trained in Alice Springs was forced to use current operational facilities, with trainers being required to temporarily relocate to Alice: “It must get a fit for purpose training facility.”
He also says the government needs to fast-track amendments to the Liquor Act, providing police more direct power to deal with breaches: “It’s clear the government cannot trust Licensing to enforce the law, so police need to be given the power to act appropriately.
“Further amendments must include a responsibility on the licensee to create a safe environment for its patrons and the public, and harsher penalties for any breaches detected, including longer suspension of licences.
“It’s a clear message to the Liquor Industry, your time is up,”
The government statement this morning says the Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors will form part of a new 97-member strong unit within the NT Police, and will include 12 police officers specifically targeting secondary supply, seven operational staff and three prosecutors.
The measures will be backed by an $11.83m investment annually – “the largest ever investment allocated to target the supply of alcohol in the NT.
“This will see frontline police return to core policing roles – including getting them back into remote police stations.”
Ten additional CCTV cameras will be deployed outside bottle shops “to catch those people involved in secondary supply”.
Meanwhile Opposition Leader Gary Higgins says: “Today’s announcement lacks detail and does not address the need for an immediate response to stemming the supply of alcohol and secondary supply in the Territory, including in remote areas.
“This announcement fails to address the critical shortage of police resources in remote locations.
“Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek crime is out of control because of the vacuum without POSIs.
“Recruiting, training and appointing Auxiliaries will take at least a year by government’s own admission and will draw on existing police officers to conduct training, be it at the Darwin Police College or in Alice Springs.” 
And Independent MLA for Araluen Robyn Lambley wants “a broad Parliamentary inquiry into the NT Police Service.
“With reports of up to 100 vacant positions working conditions are stretched and strained.”
This inquiry should look at police numbers over the past 10 years; current challenges in the recruitment and retention of staff; the allocation of staff; communications; roles and responsibilities; resourcing and risks and demands.
UPDATE 3:40pm: POSIs “balanced” with other needs.
The police provided this response: Temporary Beat Locations (TBLs) are a tool that Police use, and will continue to use to combat alcohol related crime and antisocial behaviour, but the deployment of TBLs is balanced with addressing other community policing needs including property offending, traffic, domestic and family violence and youth engagement.
NT Police continue to deploy TBLs as part of a pro-active approach to social order management, but the deployment of TBLs is balanced with addressing other community policing needs.
UPDATE 3:50pm: Lambley pleased Gunner “flip-flopped”.
[I am]  pleased the NT Government has seen the light and has finally decided to commit to keeping police outside of bottle shops, Araluen MLA Robyn Lambley said in a media release.
This continuing flip flopping on alcohol policy by Gunner is ridiculous and has come at a huge cost to Territorians. It also shows Gunner has no clear vision or direction of where he is taking Territorians.
The Banned Drinkers Register is a complete flop in Alice Springs where less than 500 local people are on it. Less than 1% of drinkers are being refused service.
It is no surprise Gunner has had to back flip (again!) on alcohol policy. Last year he back flipped on the Dan [Murphy] Ban and the floor space limit.
My only concern now is when will the Police auxiliaries be in place at our Bottle Shops and what will happen in the meantime.


  1. It becomes more apparent every day that the job of Chief Minister of The Northern Territory of Australia is a bit beyond Mr Gunner’s capabilities.
    A massive red F for fail is embedded on his report card after two years.
    We are bombarded with contradiction and promises sworn to and broken.
    Seems to me you have lost control of police and policing policy.
    We are hurting in Alice and Tennant Creek, Mr Gunner. Take a stand listen to the people.Sstop listening to the advisors.

  2. Get the bottle shops to hire their own security, or make buyers go inside the shop to purchase their goods.

  3. $12m for bottle shop watchers! It is not a taxpayer’s responsibility. Send the wages account to the bottle shops at the end of every month. If not paid the place is shut down.
    Why only Tennant for new grog rules? Is there not a problem in the rest of the Territory?
    Over the years Tennant has been a favourite to be hammered with various grog rules, none of which have worked.
    How about all of you pollies show some of the necessaries, get out of the pockets of the grog industry and make some hard decisions, rules and laws that are made in the interests of Territorians and for the Territory as a whole.
    In true Territorian speak, show some balls!

  4. Absolutely Gavin, totally agree. Taxpayers of the NT should not finance private businesses who are making a killing out of alcohol by having the police patrol their premises due to crime that occurs from the product they are peddling.
    It would be better if this task could be done by other security type people but only the police have the power to demand respect.
    As a result the sellers of alcohol should be paying the police force for their time spent controlling the issues that alcohol abuse creates.

  5. It just doesn’t make sense why the police have to be private security guards to these businesses.
    I think you would find none of these bottle shops are Territory owned businesses anyway, so their profits are just going elsewhere.
    Make them pick up the tab or better yet hire their own security.
    Alcohol restrictions should be Territory wide.
    We always see the actions of the few affecting the whole population, why is this not the same.

  6. The Banned Drinker Register prohibits a person from the purchase, possession or consumption of alcohol.
    It is an offence to supply persons on the Banned Drinker Register with alcohol.
    It is an offence for a person to supply a person on the Banned Drinker Register with alcohol.
    It is the responsibility of Licensees to ensure no person on the Banned Drinker Register obtain alcohols at their premises.
    If police have evidence alcohol was supplied to banned persons at licensed premises, their superior should order the licensed premises immediately closed for remainder of the day.
    When premises closed this way, everyone will be aware it may well happen again.
    Behavior of most persons reflects perceived risk.
    Being aware police likely to close premises shall encourage licensees, their staff, even customers, to ensure persons on the Banned Drinker Register avoid seeking alcohol there.

  7. The NT Government has extended special measures for a further three months in Tennant Creek to allow things to settle down and the Tennant Creek residents to decide on what the next step should be.
    Why should it be left to the Tennant Creek community to decide the next step for them?
    Alcohol issues and violence are a Territory wide problem that we are all well aware of, along with all forms of costs associated with it, not just in money terms alone.
    And it’s not unique to Tennant Creek. The NT Government has the power to legislate like any government, so enact legislation that is uniform right across the NT to get on top of the alcohol scourge to control it with effect.
    Quit kowtowing to the liquor industry and listening to inept advice of spin doctors.
    In the end it’s down to government to act in the best interest, well being and safety of all Territory people, So stop piss farting around the edges and get to the guts of it.

  8. Yes, the restrictions should be across the Territory. A slab a day is more than enough for anyone.
    I would suggest that they also limit how much is purchased per week. Four slabs perhaps. That will help finish secondary sales and improve peoples health and the wellbeing of our community as a whole.

  9. Whilst I agree with the sentiment, it’s not actually a grog shops issue. The fact that the product they sell is being grossly abused and is causing pain, is due to non-existent or weak government policy.
    Blaming the grog shops, would be similar to blaming the supermarket smoke shops, for people who die from smoking relate diseases.
    The real issue is that the government has no idea what to do and in typical style, implementing knee jerk reactions.
    They continually fail to see what the real long term effects are and because they are not going to be accountable, they don’t really give a rats arse about the longevity of Alice Springs and surrounds.
    What we need is Gunner to grow some balls and forget about the popularity contest and be a Chief Minister for the benefit of all people living and visiting the Territory.
    In reality, the Big Five (Town Council, Chamber of Commerce, Congress, Tourism Central Australia, Arid Lands Environment Centre) should call a meeting with Gunner, sit him down and tell him what to do. Perhaps Congress could show some interest and do something for the benefit of WHOLE community and justify some of the $30m we so graciously give them.

  10. Re: Surprised! Posted March 15, 2018 at 8:36am: I admit am cynical about political meetings, so much spoken is rhetorical, open to various interpretations.
    IF the Big Five (Town Council, Chamber of Commerce, Congress, Tourism Central Australia, Arid Lands Environment Centre) do agree on specific changes, they should publish clearly what they expect, with specific call to Chief Minister and other politicians to issue publicly and clearly their responses.
    The real benefit of written words is meaning of the words do not change so quickly.
    Related to politics is reading (and thinking) being replaced by listening?

  11. @ Kathy. Yes I agree with making buyers go inside the shop to purchase their goods.
    How about getting rid of the drive throughs and making people enter the shop on foot?
    No more drive through bottle shops for Alice or Tennant Ck.
    Also the problem may be that there isn’t enough work in town? Find out why people keep on drinking the way they do? Surely if people held a full time job doing something they liked or was at least had reasonable conditions then surely they would be more responsible poeple and take more care for their kids and themselves.
    Or is it just weekend problems?
    Then maybe rather than spend the money on a new tourist attraction in town, use that money for more community sports etc?
    Perhaps more attention needs to be spent on families and change the way people get paid their allowance?
    Instead of people just receiving an allowance, perhaps they can’t get their full allowance unless they can ensure their children are kept in school, prove their children are being fed and cared for etc.
    If any particular household or family is not complying to simple compliances then they will just will be banned from buying liquor for say two months. Then everyone else in their community would also have limits placed on take away liquor. The ban could only then be lifted once improvements are made with the community.
    The only reason for limiting alcohol to the rest of the community would be to ensure no one has enough liquor to then onsell or give away their share to the household that has been banned for the two months.
    The ban could be lifted and modified to a restriction if say after a month the household has made significant changes and or has proven to have either full employment or the person/s are actively participating in full time education or community services. At any time if anyone does a backflip then the ban would be put back into place again and then tightened to three months.
    Then throughout the ban term there should always still be incentives in place to keep children in schools and adults to be active with care of children, higher education or maintaining employment. Bans alone will never work.
    Punishing isn’t always going to be the answer on itself. If it was the only answer it might just make things even worse.

  12. @ Former resident: “No more drive through bottle shops for Alice or Tennant Creek.”
    Why not Darwin? It is bad enough that I cannot buy my sherry for cooking before 6pm.
    I have a certificate of naturalisation stating that I have the same rights and privileges than all Australians.
    Close all drive through bottle shops and I will agree with you. Unless Northern Territory is not Australia.
    You have the happy drinkers and the nasty and violent drinkers. Why put them all in the same bag?


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