Wednesday, August 4, 2021

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HomeIssue 34Candidates keep low profile on booze

Candidates keep low profile on booze

By ERWIN CHLANDA

There has been a poor response from the seven parties standing candidates to a survey by the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition about their positions on alcohol policy. 

PAAC says the CLP has said it will dump the Minimum Unit (floor) Price, but its leader Lia Finocchiaro supports the Police Auxiliary Licensing Inspectors (PALIs) at bottle shops. 

“Meanwhile, we understand that at least one CLP candidate is telling voters he will get rid of the PALIs if he’s elected. And what will the CLP do with the Banned Drinkers’ Register (BDR) if it wins?” said PAAC’s spokesperson John Boffa. 

“The convenor of the Federation Party NT, Eli Melky, says his party leaves such matters to its individual candidates. In other words, it has no party policy on alcohol. That is astonishing.”

Chief Minister Michael Gunner, in a letter to PAAC, says Labor would maintain the BDR, the floor price and the Police Auxiliary Licencing Inspector workforce (cops at bottle shops or PALIs).

But he will “ensure legislative reforms such as caps on grocery store alcohol sales are introduced as scheduled” – something that is supported by PAAC.

This is likely to affect the three IGA stores, locally owned by the Lhere Artepe native title association. 

CEO of Lhere Artepe Supermarkets, Sally McMartin, expects a 25% cap would be introduced in October meaning that 75% of the income needs to come from sales other than alcohol.

She says this won’t affect the bottle shops attached to the two national supermarket chains, because of their great turnover in groceries, but endanger the small to medium stores including the IGAs.

“It is restricting trade,” she says.

“How will this be policed?  What happens in the case of non-compliance? How is it measured? What will the penalties be?”

The smaller stores would need to increase their non-alcohol sales: “That’s a challenge for any business.”

While generally welcoming the presence of PALIs they “need to be less aggressive towards customers when seeking information and IDs.

“It seems some keep a record of what people are buying and say to them, you’re not allowed to buy this, you bought this yesterday.”

In a transcript circulated by PAAC of an ABC interview with the Territory Alliance’s Robyn Lambley she says: “The principle we hold in high regard is that we want to focus on the problem drinkers. Even now, responsible drinkers are being targeted. Okay. [BDR and the need to show ID] is part of our lives. So, to take it away now would be probably a bit premature, until we know what we’re going to replace it with.

STEWART BRASH: There’s a review going on about the BDR. It’s going to take four years I understand. Will you wait for that to come out?

LAMBLEY: I don’t know.  But what we do know is that police outside bottle shops absolutely worked and Labor took that away for two years pretty much, or didn’t provide one hundred per cent coverage.

Ms Lambley said her party will be looking at the Liquor Commission: “Last time I sat in on a Liquor Commission hearing I was appalled at how the licensees were treated – with disdain, almost rudeness.  I’ll be looking very closely if I come to government, at how they operate and what their real agenda is.  

“The reason we’re not talking about grog at the moment is because we know the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition are effectively an arm of the ALP.”

In another transcript circulated by PAAC, an interview with Katie Woolf on Mix FM Darwin, Territory Alliance leader Terry Mills says: “The issue is more not controlling alcohol but helping those who have a problem with alcohol, and I think there needs to be a policy shift more in that direction. So, what we would do – maintain the measures that are already in place [and] put measures in that begin to more strongly deal with the underlying problem.”

PAAC’s demands include ongoing BDR, floor price and PALIs, monitoring indicators including alcohol-related hospital Emergency Department presentations and sobering-up shelter admissions; trial BDR scanners in clubs; maintaining and evaluating the five-year moratorium on take-away licences, as required under the Liquor Act. 

NT Greens candidate Bernard Hickey says the party supports all of PAAC’s recommendations.

PHOTO: Illegal alcohol confiscated by the police. People on the BDR sometimes resort to illicit sources of grog.

1 COMMENT

  1. I am astonished at PAAC spokesperson’s “astonishment” that the Federation Party leaves some issues, such as this one relating to alcohol, to its candidates’ individually held conscientious positions instead of pushing a “party line policy”.
    What’s the matter? Does it smack too much of democracy for you?
    Alice’s problem with alcohol is very complex and one that will not be resolved by legislation alone, as seems to be the only approach adopted by PAAC, judging by their poorly presented “requests” sheet.
    I am on the PAAC email list and while I applaud and support their efforts such as a minimum floor price, the use of BDR scanners and PALIs, it disappoints me that they are proposing nothing on changing the destructive drinking culture that exists in the Territory.
    In Italy, I have seen how effective a good drinking culture can be in promoting responsible drinking.
    Despite alcohol being at about a third of prices in our bottle shops, alcohol abuse is controlled more by peer pressure and community expectation: no drinking before lunch, always drink with food, do not drink to excess and drink to appreciate the quality of the wine, beer or spirit. As a result, it is rarely seen in Italian society.
    People who cannot control their drinking, including many tourists letting the cheap prices get the better of them, are publicly shunned and looked down upon as “having a problem”.
    In my opinion, PAAC needs to accept that legislation, be it for wearing seat belts, registering your car or having to possess a driver’s licence, will only get us so far and only works when a community culture accepts that such change is needed and allows it to work.
    Continuing to ignore that changing the drinking culture has a role to play in resolving our problems with alcohol will only delay finding the solutions we need.

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