By ERWIN CHLANDA
“Good alcohol policy and legislation targets the problem drinkers by promoting rehabilitation, enterprise and personal responsibility. The Liquor Bill 2019 does none of these,” said Independent Member for Araluen who did not vote for the Bill last night.
Meanwhile the CLP Opposition, which did vote for it, is doing little more than repeating the hackneyed claim that the “Bill would blame, punish or intimidate the vast majority of Territorians and Territory businesses who do not have a problem with alcohol”.
And the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC) has congratulated the government on the passage of the Bill.
As to actual initiatives, all that Opposition Leader Gary Higgins, in a media release, called for is “an extensive evaluation of the Banned Drinkers Register as evidence to date suggests the BDR is having little, if any effect at all, without the continued use of point of sale interventions” which, as he points out, was a CLP idea belatedly picked up by the Gunner Government.
Ms Lambley called the draft legislation “Gunner’s Big Brother Bill” and another step in cementing the “Gunner Nanny State … an epitome of over regulation, over-reaching and unnecessary social control.
“What is missing in this legislation is actually targeting drunks and promoting personal responsibility.
“The Government has created legislation in which everyone in the liquor industry as well as everyone who enjoys a drink is the culprit. This broad brush approach to trying to stem alcohol abuse is ineffective and offensive to the 99% of the adult population who don’t have an alcohol problem,” said Ms Lambley in a media release.
“There is no focus on what the Government is doing to identify and help those people with actual drinking problems. Apparently we all need to be saved from ourselves.”
PAAC spokesperson John Boffa says the new Act will clarify the previously confusing variety of liquor licences and a risk-based licensing (RBL) scheme will be introduced to “encourage licensees to operate responsibly, rewarding good operators and penalising those who breach their licence conditions.
“There will also be a limit on how much money grocery stores can make from alcohol sales, expected to be regulated at 25%.
“This will address the historical anomaly of ‘ancillary’ take-away licences at corner stores that were never meant to derive their main income from grog.”
The passage of the Bill came under sharp attack by the manager of the three Aboriginal-owned IGA stores, Sally McMartin.
She had previously pointed out the inconsistencies of the liquor control regime involving point of sale intervention officers (POSIs), now PALIs, and the disadvantage locally-owned liquor stores suffer in their competition with national giants Woolworths and Coles.
Today she pointed out difficulties in keeping track the liquor sales, avoiding to exceed the 25% of total takings: “If one day we sell 26% does that mean we are in breach? How many breaches will lead to a loss of our licence? If we get close to 25% would we tell people to go away because we have to close the bottle shop? Wouldn’t that drive people to the bottlos of the supermarket giants which are not locally owned?”
Ms McMartin also pointed to the arbitrary judgment by the Liquor Commission or POSIs of what is a suspicious transaction: “If you buy three cartons of beer for a party, is that a suspicious transaction? Does that mean we can’t have a party any more?”
She says she has been stopped by a PALI while buying one bottle of wine. She had been asked where she would drink it and she said: “In my hotel room.”
“Which hotel,” the PALI asked.
“You don’t need to know that. What are you suspecting me of?”
Ms McMartin said to the Alice Springs News: “There is no hotel in Alice Springs that is a prohibited area under the Liquor Act that I am aware of.”
She was refused service by the PALI.