Booze battle: Public service in overdrive?

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By ERWIN CHLANDA

Your right to buy a perfectly legal substance – alcohol – may be struck out in a government process taking just a few minutes.

You can swiftly get a Banned Drinker’s Order (BDO) which puts you on the Banned Drinker’s Register (BDR) and when you front up in your favourite bottlo and present your ID – as you’re obliged to – you’ll be shown the door.

Police Minister Brent Potter (pictured), whose office did not respond to our questions, explains how it works, obviously inadvertently.

In a written release on January 19 he announces new “measures to curb alcohol related harm” that include “giving our hardworking Police more powers to place people on the BDR, by providing them with a streamlined process to issue a BDO.”

Streamlining is a clearly an understatement of what is more like performing miracles.

Before the BDR registrar can issue a BDO, the law says, he must make “a determination as to whether a referred person should be placed on the BDR,” explains a NT Health spokesperson.

“Before making a decision, the registrar reviews the outcome of any clinical assessments and all other available evidence.

“They will also attempt to make contact with the referred person.

“In making a decision, the registrar must be satisfied as to the referred person’s identity and that they are misusing or have misused alcohol [and] the misuse of alcohol is a risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of the person or any other person (including children and other dependants).”

How much time did the registrar have to perform these comprehensive tasks, required in each and every case?

Not a lot.

According to Mr Potter’s handout, since the new powers were implemented in December “732 individuals have been issued Police BDOs in the last five weeks”. That is three times as many as in December 2022 through January 2023. 

For the five weeks (or 25 working days or 200 working hours) that means 3.7 people an hour were slammed with a BDO – one every 16 minutes.

And that is just for the BDR candidates put up by the Police.

It does not count those put up by sources other than the Police including health professionals, child protection workers, social workers, sobering up shelter team leaders, public housing safety officers, Aboriginal health workers, Australian Counselling Association Level 4 counsellors,  family members, carers and appointed guardians.

None of that seems to worry Minister Potter, beating his chest: “Measures to reduce alcohol harm are working,” he trumpets, without giving an iota of evidence, such as lower crime rates and hospital admissions.

Mr Potter and his minder gave no response to a string of questions the News put to them on January 22.

Included in the new measures, in part to stop grog running (Police photo), is “the implementation of a legitimate residence clause. This will require people from outside of the Greater Darwin Regional area to demonstrate where they intend to consume alcohol,” says the Minister’s release.

Mr Potter being stumm we asked the media people of the Police in Alice Springs.

The answer: “That is a question for Minister of Alcohol Policy Hon Brent Potter.”

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