Monday, July 22, 2024

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HomeIssue 15Bottle shop cops need to be brought into line: local chain

Bottle shop cops need to be brought into line: local chain

Sir – Since October last year, Police Auxiliary Licence Inspectors – PALIs – are standing in or outside every bottle shop in Alice Springs during opening hours.
The presence of law enforcement personnel outside the stores has generally been welcomed in Alice Springs, as it discourages humbugging and anti-social behaviour.
However, the PALIs have been given surprisingly wide-ranging powers which in some cases go well beyond the normal powers of regular police officers.  What we regard as fundamental human rights are being diluted and altered.
For example, in normal circumstances a citizen can go about their lawful business without interference from law enforcement officers.
Normally, the public cannot be questioned unless there is reasonable suspicion that an offence has been or will be committed. And of course, there is the right to silence and the right not to incriminate yourself.
A PALI, however, can demand that a person states their name, address, whether they intend to buy alcohol, where they intend to drink it and with whom, and a host of other matters simply because of what the PALI personally thinks about the person’s intentions. The PALI doesn’t need to show reasonable suspicion of an offence.
These powers are regularly being used and in many cases, overstepped.
People who are going about their lawful business are being interrogated and harassed when there is no evidence that an offence has been or is about to be committed. Some of the examples would astound you.
Is this because of inadequate training PALIs receive before being given a gun and taser to stand out in front of bottle shops and challenge people who are doing nothing wrong? Or is it because PALIs are deliberately abusing the power with which they have been entrusted?
There have been many complaints about PALIs lodged with the Minister for Police, the Attorney General, the police themselves, the Ombudsman’s Office, the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, and a variety of Aboriginal organisations.
The main problem appears to be that nothing has been published to inform the public about these very wide powers, and what a person can do if challenged by a PALI.
Another basic right that is being ignored here is racial equality. There is consistent evidence from the community that Aboriginal people are being targeted. Some people are calling it racial profiling.
The government says that the new liquor laws apply equally to everybody. That may be how the new laws read, but it is not how they are working in practice.
The government’s position is that it is acceptable for these basic rights to be diluted and ignored in pursuit of the goal of reducing alcohol-fueled harm in the community.
To a limited extent, that is right. There will always be a cost to policies like this. But it is the government’s obligation to make sure that cost is worth it, and basic to this is to make sure that the policy does not cause more problems than it solves.
In any event, there is no reliable evidence that by putting the community through this, the government is actually achieving its goal.
It has been reported that not only is the government refusing access to the raw data but that the government is publishing incomplete or even biased statistics to support its position that its policy is working.
The time has come for the Attorney General to publish a clear and simple code of conduct for the PALIs that outlines what they can and cannot do in the line of their duties and the rights of members of the public when dealing with the PALIs or being challenged by them.
The PALIs are driving people away from their local grocery stores into the arms of the big supermarkets.
If things keep going the way they are, where legitimate concerns are being ignored by Government, it won’t be long before Alice Springs wakes up one morning to find that one or more of these stores has closed for good.
And then it will be too late. I’m not joking.
Peter Holden
Chair, Lhere Artepe Supermarkets
[ED – Acting Commissioner of Police Michael Murphy yesterday released a statement about “the unfortunate recent commentary about PALIs in Alice Springs [which] does not reflect the tireless efforts of the men and women of the Northern Territory Police Force to address the harm that alcohol causes within our community”.

The Acting Commissioner claims as “undeniable” statistics that show massive drops in alcohol related police work, including protective custody in the Alice Springs and Tennant Creek region dropping 55.8% in July.


On June 4 the Alice Springs News requested access to the raw police and health data underpinning those statistics on the condition that privacy is not breached.


We have not been given that access, but continue to request it.



  1. Anecdotal I know, but on two recent occasions, I’ve sat outside one of the AC owned bottle shops and was quite shocked to realise that the only commonality of those who were pulled up and questioned by the bottlo monitor, was the colour of their skin.
    From a group of young women, to tradies on the way home from work, to older people and middle aged women – the only constant was their skin colour. Not good enough, NT Government.

  2. For people who have been long time residents of Alice Springs and remember of how it used to be: You couldn’t go to the shops without being confronted by drunken violence.
    I’d say without a doubt 99% of the offenders were Aboriginal.
    Just a fact and I know that’s just a minority of a proud and lawful race. Now we have PALIs at the bottle shops and the problems have improved dramatically.
    So, things have improved and now Lhere Artepe Supermarkets are complaining about a few PALI questions to people.
    I have nothing to hide and have been asked many times for my ID and where I am consuming the alcohol I purchase.
    Long gone thankfully are the days of illegal irresponsible service of alcohol by liquor outlets.

  3. IGAs are much needed necessities to the function of this wonderful town that is sadly being ripped apart by the ever growing effect and impact of alcohol.
    What Peter Holden and Sally McMartin have to acknowledge here is that people do use the IGAs to do shopping – food shopping, that is.
    Getting alcohol from these places has to stop if the town is to improve and make a point.
    Remove the PALIs, well, then remove the sale of alcohol and see how much more people start using the IGAs for shopping.
    I am very confident that you will see an increased flow of traffic who are there getting food and other products that the IGAs sell.
    I’m not joking!

  4. I get asked most times (and I’m a Caucasian Kiwi), and while it can be a little annoying, it’s much better than the old days of drunks yelling, humbugging and fighting outside alcohol outlets that used to go on.

  5. Alcohol is the biggest problem with crime and violence in Alice Springs and it’s mainly the Aborigines. Laws should be stricter to stop problem Aborigines drinking.
    More PALIs, I say, they don’t intimidate people shopping, what a ridiculous article.
    The author is just losing money from alcohol sales, that’s what this article is about.

  6. Jim Martin, it is not only an Aboriginal problem, the difference being is that Aboriginal people are visible.
    On the owner losing money, take Flynn Drive for example. The PALI was standing OUTSIDE the shop, not the bottlo, asking, mainly Aboriginal people for ID and preventing them from food shopping.
    So the shop is not losing money from alcohol sales its losing money from grocery sales as a result of the new laws.
    I agree that we in the NT have a problem with alcohol but why ain’t any funding going to places like CAAPU and other services to help with the alcoholism in the NT? No-one talks about helping the alcoholics get on their feet.

  7. It’s sad when the society cannot talk about facts and statistics due to being afraid of being called something.
    Try to address the majority of troubles directly and you will be labelled.
    Easier to just let the town die the slow death, like it has been for the last 10 to 15 years.

  8. Doogety: Stop making excuses. When people stop making excuses maybe Alice Springs will get somewhere.
    The offenders (yes offenders) know they cannot buy alcohol and still attempt to every day of the week. Good on the PALI officer for asking mainly Aboriginal people for ID.
    It is not racial profiling, he/she is just making informed educated decision that most offenders (buying alcohol when not allowed) are Aboriginal.

  9. I’m sick and tired of getting humbugged, dodging drunks at the back of the TAB seeing them urinate by people’s cars.
    I let the officer at the Coles outlet know and it gets sorted – sad to say but we need the PALIs.

  10. I’m a little confused here. Is the issue the racial or the profiling?
    I am white, possibly by selecting the wrong parents, nevertheless I am pretty sure I’m not allowed to send my kids to Yirara College.
    I need two permits to drive to WA via the great central road to be allowed to go more than x metres off the road or camp along the drive. Says a lot about caring about driver fatigue.
    Am I allowed in the renal clinic on Gap Road?
    If I had selected different parents, I would be allowed to do these things.
    So what is different? What, really is the go here people?


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