Adam Giles slams Feds giving themselves new alcohol reform powers in NT
The Australian Government will add to the ways in which it tells the Northern Territory Government what to do with new measures to tackle alcohol abuse just announced.
It’s a move vehemently criticised by Shadow Minister for Central Australia, Adam Giles (pictured), who says the “Territory Labor Government has again ceded its sovereignty to the Commonwealth as a direct result of its failure to bring about improvements in living conditions on Aboriginal communities.
“Under Labor’s second intervention, southern bureaucrats will effectively have the power to shut down any pub or bottle shop that is seen to adversely affect Indigenous Territorians.”
The NT’s most recent alcohol reforms have been packaged under the banner Enough is Enough but they are clearly not enough, in the view of Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin.
The Stronger Futures legislation, being introduced into the national parliament today, will give her new power to request that the NT appoint independent assessors to look into licensed venues that are contributing to significant alcohol related harm to Aboriginal people through their serving practices.
“If the independent assessors find that the venues are disproportionately contributing to alcohol related harm to Aboriginal people, the Australian Government will work with the Northern Territory Government to ensure the practices of those venues change,” she says.
Minister for Indigenous Health and Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon says the new provision will help ensure licensed venues have the right licensing arrangements and are operating well.
“Most licensed premises in the Northern Territory are reputable and responsible businesses,” says Mr Snowdon.
“But sometimes venues may not have the right licensing conditions or are located in places where people are particularly vulnerable to alcohol related harm.
“And sadly sometimes the licensee may run the business in a way that facilitates extremely dangerous drinking.
“We need to make sure that genuine concerns that a venue is disproportionately contributing to alcohol-related harm are properly and independently assessed.
“This measure will make sure that those that warrant closer examination will get it.”
Specific venues are not mentioned in the government’s announcement but the so-called ‘animal bars’ of Alice Springs (video below) have been the subject of controversy, with strong criticism of their mode of operation aired in the national media, and would seem likely candidates for scrutiny. Despite Chief Minister Paul Henderson’s declaration at the time that such venues had “no place in the Northern Territory” and “their time is coming”, his government has done little to get in the way of their trade. A proposal by the Alice Springs Alcohol Reference Panel that there be no sale of full-strength alcohol without a meal before 2pm sparked a local outcry and was duly rejected by the Licensing Commission on the grounds that it would be “resented” by the wider population and “would likely increase the social divide”.
The only action taken was the the development of a set of “amenity guidelines” for licensed premises and the trial of Electronic ID systems in the venues hosting the ‘animal bars’.
The Australian Government’s legislation further includes measures to extend current alcohol restrictions, develop alcohol management plans and increase penalties for grog running.
Today’s announcement also refers to an agreement between the Australian and NT Governments to initiate an independent review to determine the effectiveness of alcohol-regulation legislation in the Northern Territory, to be tabled in the federal Parliament within three years. It will cover the Northern Territory Government’s Enough is Enough reforms, the Stronger Futures alcohol restrictions and the Northern Territory Liquor Act.
Mr Giles says Ms Macklin “delivered a damning critique of Territory Labor’s performance when she released details of the second intervention.
“And the Government has just rolled over and accepted laws that ‘allow regulations to be made to modify particular laws of the Northern Territory’.
“It also means that any shop that sells food could be required to submit to a draconian set of Commonwealth rules.” – Kieran Finnane