Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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HomeIssue 41Are answers to stupid questions required by law?

Are answers to stupid questions required by law?


G’Day Erwin,

I have long been a supporter of the many and varied attempts to curb the excess use of alcohol in our community.

I don’t mind showing my ID.

I don’t mind the obligatory sensible question from the POS auxiliaries.

But give a man a badge …

During a recent question and answer with a couple of these I was shown “the board”.

Point 1 was that  “it is an offense not to answer a question”.

This cannot be true. Particularly when it is a stupid question.

Which is what I have been asked lately: “Where are you going to drink it.”

This question presupposes that (a) you are going to drink it all at once.

(b) You are going to drink it all in one place.

(c) It is any of their business.

I am sick of trying to explain that none of the above may be true. I don’t go to the bottle shop to buy one bottle of wine.

I normally buy half a dozen or a dozen. Which I may drink at home, wuth friends, out bush camping, or at a BYO restaurant.

I tersely said this to the female, adding that it is “beyond their purview” and entered the shop.

Enter the “bloke”. He didn’t like my attitude. Took me to “the board” and “declined me”.

So of course I went to the opposition for my purchases.

Can whoever is in charge of these people point out that for someone who has established that they are a resident of Alice, that “where are you going to drink” is a stupid question?

Charlie Carter, Alice Springs


  1. Charlie, I had a big argument with the same question with the officer on duty: Where are you going to drink it (two bottles of wine)?
    I answered: “How would I know?”
    I need to know.
    What about I met a friend on the way home and I get invited to a party? can I take my bottles because I told you I will be drinking home?
    Sieg Heil! Sorry I have forgotten to wear my yellow star.

  2. Charlie is right, it is a stupid question and has been recognized by several posts on the Alice Community Forum.
    So, what is the correct answer? Do you get “declined” if you say you are going to drink elsewhere other than your home? Or do you just say at home?
    I usually tell them I share with no one, which of course is crap.
    I have noticed that everyone is being challenged.
    In the past any scruffy looking individual was put through the wringer and others were not challenged.
    The other area of disbelief is age.
    My two granddaughters who are 21 and 19 are continually harassed for DOB details before they even get their ID out.
    Still I suppose it’s better to be young and good looking rather than an old ugly bugger. IQ tests for PALIS!

  3. Honest residents need to lie at the bottle shop in order to purchase alcohol.
    Lie, because they may be allowing their mother who is visiting from interstate to drink some of it (hence they are sharing the alcohol).
    Lie, because they may be taking the alcohol to a friend’s BBQ (hence they are not drinking it at the address on their licence).
    Many residents are therefore being forced to provide false information to a police officer.
    There should only be one questions that the police ask, and that is: “Are you purchasing the alcohol to sell it?”

  4. Pretty funny stuff. I bought 40 litres of paint, paint brushes and rollers from a hardware store and at the counter asked for five litres of metho. They asked me what I was going to do with the metho. With humour,= I responded: “Drink it.”
    And to my surprise they still sold it to me.
    With regards to IQ, you need to have an IQ of over 50 in order to be able to tie shoe laces, so look at the feet and you’ll have your answer :-), but what is really scary is that I have seen these people with handguns and tasers, so don’t upset them!

  5. Re Craig Eibeck: No one would answer the question posed knowing that it should lead to immediate arrest. The answer is as I do, brew your own beer and buy your wine on line. Works every time and much cheaper.

  6. For goodness sake, give the PALIs a break and think about it from their perspective!
    After being criticised for how discriminatory their selection for who they chose to question was, they are now being told to ask everyone.
    And now they are trying to do the right thing (and I believe they are only trying to do the right thing), they are finding a whole bunch of individuals who feel that want to be belligerent about the nature of the questions.
    At the end of the day, how hard is it to say “at home” or “at a friend’s barbecue” or even “I’m stocking my cellar because there is a special on a dozen bottles”?
    The PALIs don’t need or want your life story. They just want to know you are doing the right thing.

  7. I am the owner of a remote roadhouse, and we are having all of these new rules enforced upon us to try and stop secondary supply.
    About a week ago, I had a drunk mob arrive at the roadhouse to get more alcohol, which they were declined.
    I only had to walk over to their wagon and look in the back to see a 5L cask of wine inside amongst other empty vessels (and a dead goanna).
    Surely it doesn’t take a genius to realise that that secondary supply is coming from interstate.
    A lot of tourists are staying away from Alice now because of the crime so most sales would be local I would have thought?
    I don’t think too many Alice Springs locals would be supportive of the antisocial behaviour by adding more fuel for the fire by being a grog runner.

  8. @ oaexperts:
    I did not mention their selection of people.
    I did address my comment to “whoever is in charge of these people”.
    And next time you’re at the bottle shop try: “I don’t know” as an answer and see how you go.
    And as Trevor S says: “No one would answer the question posed knowing that it should lead to immediate arrest.”
    Which supports my contention that it is a stupid question.

  9. Haha. Count your blessings!
    The bottle cops are SO much better now.
    They are doing a good service, but ’twas not always so.
    Backintheday they would ask me what I was going to buy. Seriously.
    I answered how do I know until the spirit of Bacchus enters me.
    They said it was an offence to not answer any questions.
    Of course that’s nonsense, but that first batch were poorly trained and aggro.
    The current crop are so stellar in comparison. They know how to “keep the peace”.
    BTW, the NT Liquor Act 2019 says the bottle cops may require you to say where you INTEND to consume the liquor. Not where you will actually DO the deed.
    So chill.
    Your intentions may change!

  10. Over armchair experts 14 October 2020 at 11.40am: I would not mind either if they were consistent. Sometime I feel I am being interrogated by the GESTAPO asking what I believe is not their business and sometime like this afternoon there was no checking, no questions, because three officers were having good time in the carpark. I told them: “You are getting slack,” walked away with my purchase and nobody moved.

  11. Chris who owns a roadhouse: most of the illegal secondary supplies of grog in both Alice and Tennant Creek are sold or supplied by local residents.
    It is very difficult for police to get adequate evidence to prosecute most of these suppliers, whether they are from Aboriginal or other groups.
    Much of this illegal supplying is done on a small scale, but there is a lot of it. It is not all being sold: for example, it is illegal to supply alcohol to people who are on the Banned Drinkers Register or on Court mandated Prohibition Orders. This is the case whether you sell it to these people or simply give it to them free.
    It is also illegal to supply alcohol, by gift or by sale, to anybody (resident or visitor, of any race or ethnicity) who intends drinking it on, or taking it onto, “prescribed areas”, including nearly all Aboriginal Land Trust areas and town camp leases, unless they have a permit to do so.
    The prescribed areas were established under Mal Brough’s NTER (the NT Emergency Response, aka “the Intervention”) legislation in September 2007, and are listed by the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
    The Federal Government requires the NT to enforce these laws, and that is why PALIs have to ask questions which attempt to discover whether any of us may be planning to do something illegal or stupid with the grog we are buying.
    It is not as simple as us proving that we have somewhere legal where we can consume it. We have to assure the police that we won’t be supplying it to people who may drink it in places where it is not legal for anybody to imbibe it.
    Tennant Creek has more secondary supplies coming in from Mt Isa than Alice does.
    Alice has caught some illegal secondary supplies that came from SA.

  12. Charlie, it is good to hear from a critic who has a dry sense of humour.
    However, when you are asked “Where are you going to drink it?” the PALI is simply trying to elicit whether you might be going to drink it on a prescribed area or at a place where it is prohibited to consume alcohol. Many non-Aboriginal people also live on these areas.
    Please cut the poor PALI some slack here.
    Such consumption (e.g. at Yuendumu, the APY Lands, or Hidden Valley town camp) is often a very big problem for police, ambulance workers and most local residents.
    These questions do not presuppose that you are going to drink it all at once, or that you are going to drink it all in one place.
    The questions don’t preclude these possibilities, but nor do they necessarily infer them.
    They are simply open questions designed to assist in establishing whether anybody not entitled to do so will consume any of the alcohol, and where it may be consumed.
    There is no limit on the amount of alcohol you can buy on the one visit to the grog outlet, but there are some rules about the ways we can use the grog, including the bans on supplying it to people who are on the BDR or Prohibition Orders, or who may be going to take it onto Prescribed Areas or other places where it is illegal to consume alcohol.
    The present system is working reasonably well, despite some apparent flaws.
    Under these rules and the PALI arrangements, there have been major reductions in the rates of the alcohol-related assaults, domestic violence, deaths, injuries, child neglect and abuse notifications that are associated with the over-consumption of alcohol.
    But there is still a very long way to go in most of these categories.
    If anybody can think of alternative ways to maintain these improvements in the short term, I would be very surprised.

  13. Firstly, why is the photograph of the PALI’s face blocked out? This is a disservice to freedoms and journalism and feeds in to the issue this newspaper had recently when trying to photograph the COVID testing shed.
    These questions can be answered along the lines of: Whilst I am not sure where this alcohol shall be ultimately be enjoyed, I do not intend to consume the alcohol in a prescribed place. Further, whilst I do not know who I will enjoy this alcohol with, I do not intend to knowingly supply or share it with anyone on the BDR.
    But certainly these questions are stupid, intrusive and an overreach of the Government into the lives of citizens. The whole relationship between The Government and the People in regards to alcohol is a mess and Gunner’s Nanny State looks much like Dictator Dan’s Victoria.

  14. I think the underlying issue here is that while most of us do the right thing, we are paying the price for those that don’t!
    Unfortunately, this has become the norm in society and there is something terribly wrong when everybody has to pay for the crimes of the minority.
    Take a look around, it’s not only the grog situation. We are all presumed to have done the wrong thing, until we can prove otherwise.
    Doesn’t this concern anyone?

  15. Dear Interested Darwin Observer: I blocked out the PALI’s face because I did not want to suggest he is to blame for the stupid questions when in fact the blame lies with the system he is working for for.
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor.

  16. Archie Nemesis 14 October 2020 At 8:24pm: When you are asked “Where are you going to drink it?” the PALI is simply trying to elicit whether you might be going to drink it on a prescribed area or at a place where it is prohibited to consume alcohol.
    Many non-Aboriginal people also live on these areas.
    If my intentions were to do so, would I tell the PALI the truth?

  17. In the past when I was asked where I was going to be drinking and I answered “going to a friend’s place for dinner” I then had to give there name and address for them to look up.
    Try saying camping that is even more fun. I think the powers that set this all up need to review the questions that these PALS ask.
    I think they have a very hard job to perform each shift. I would not do it. They need the support of the system so than can avoid being abused by shoppers.

  18. @ Charlie: Indeed, give a man a badge.
    To paraphrase Mae West: “Is that a gun hanging off your belt or are you happy to see us?”
    Maybe as well as debating the merits and demerits of asking stupid questions we should be discussing the need or otherwise for these meat in the sandwich officers to be armed.

  19. The officers are doing what they are told to do. However, some are more diplomatic than others in performing their duties.

  20. Evelyne Roullet, you ask: “If my intentions were to do so, would I tell the PALI the truth?”
    I hope that you would tell the truth to the PALI, and change your mind about buying the grog when you realised that it would lead to your breaking the law.
    On the other hand, if you told a lie and went on to break the law, at least the PALI would have some record of the alcohol and purchaser in question.
    If there were a need to investigate any related crime, there may be some evidence about who might have contributed the grog to the situation.

  21. Allen Byrne, in reply to you question: Grog shops may employ their own security, and they often do.
    But be clear about this: the PALIs, who are trained Police Auxiliaries, are not there as “security” to protect the shop, its staff and goods.
    They are there to enforce the provisions of laws designed to reduce overconsumption and illegal supply of alcohol, especially in prescribed places where it is illegal to consume or supply grog.

  22. Hey Frank, I asked them about carrying guns and they said:
    1) everyone now knows they can find a cop at the shop, so they are responding to other problems. They are trained to do everything but investigate.
    2) the police do not want to leave them unprotected.

  23. Having recently returned from spending some time in Tennant Creek, I could not help but notice the fact that one grog shop had a long queue, but not the others. The next day, the long queue was at a different outlet. Over the period of a week, the queues moved.
    Partially due to boredom and because I am of an inquisitive nature, I spent several days studying this.
    As it turned out, the queue length at any particular outlet seemed very much to coincide with which PALI was on duty at a particular time.
    Over the several days, I managed to narrow it down to one PALI.
    I am not suggesting that, nor do I believe that anything is illegal going on, I am merely pointing out the inconsistency of all of this.

  24. I believe that there is no such thing as a stupid question, it is the answer that is stupid. Hoey, you got the old ugly bugger bit right but left out the grumpy bit.

  25. @ Frank: NT police carry a sidearm. It is to protect the member and any other person if confronted by a lethal threat. I am glad they have access to them.

  26. Don’t we all have the legal right to not answer a question that could incriminate yourself?
    The “5th” amendment or such.
    Or is that just for Law Courts … and perhaps only in America?

  27. @ Archie. You write a lot, much of it off topic, but you clearly haven’t read carefully what others have written.
    The main point is: Once the buyer has established that they are an Alice resident, as confirmed by their license, with their full name and address, they have access to a legal place to drink.
    No more questions.
    If they are not an Alice resident (or live in a prescribed area) the question “where are you going to drink” is valid.
    End of story!

  28. Charlie, please pay better attention in class. You are missing several points: being an Alice resident does not mean that you have access to a legal place to drink.
    For example, alcohol is banned in many Territory housing properties, and on all town camp houses. However, these people are not banned from drinking alcohol per se. But they are banned from drinking it in their places of residence.
    Nor is it valid to assume that any purchaser is necessarily going to drink the alcohol they have purchased, or drink it at their place of residence.
    The people who engage in illegal secondary supplying of alcohol to people who are banned from drinking alcohol probably mostly are also Alice residents or have access to places in which it is legal to drink.
    The aim of the exercise is to disrupt and prevent the operations of the illegal suppliers, and gather information that may be relevant to investigating their activities.
    That is, it is not all about you and the other legal consumers and suppliers; much of it is about a bigger game, of making life safer and more productive for many innocent and/or very vulnerable people.

  29. Pot and kettle Archie. Note I said “address”.
    Presumably the PALIS will recognise a “prescribed area” which I also stated.
    As for secondary sellers, if anyone thinks they will admit their intention to a question from a PALI, I have a bridge to sell.

  30. I didn’t mind answering the questions whether stupid or not but I felt like a criminal when I was asked: “Do you know it is an offence to provide false information.”
    Very intimidating!

  31. It seems that the purpose of the questions is to ram it home that there are prohibited areas to take the alcohol.
    If you can say: ‘I intend to drink it at such-and-such address’ but later change your mind and take it next door, it isn’t a big issue.
    It’s difficult to understand why this should be having a positive effect, but if it is, I’m prepared to cope.
    I’m sure that the police and security people are totally sick of smart answers. I don’t need to add to that!


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