Grog, residential land, law & order: More power to Alice under Country Liberals, says Terry Mills.

Central Australians would get much more influence over their affairs if the Country Liberals gained power in this year’s NT election, says Opposition Leader Terry Mills.
In an interview with the Alice Springs News Online yesterday he said locals and the town council will have a greater say about town planning, and stakeholders will be involved in decisions over tourism promotion.

Alcohol control measures will “bring back peace to the streets of Alice Springs” and will have strong mandatory elements. There is no mention of a take-away free day nor a floor price.
The big shires may be broken up so that decision making is brought “closer to the people”.
And while policies have yet to be fine-tuned, Mr Mills promises cheap residential land to enable young people to “get a stake in the Territory”.
He spoke with editor ERWIN CHLANDA.
NEWS: Robyn Lambley, when campaigning for Araluen, said it’s worth considering selling land in Kilgariff to first home buyers at the cost of development, around $60,000 to $70,000 per block. Would you be doing that?
MILLS: Given the importance of having particularly young people with a real stake in the Territory by giving them the ability to buy land we would be, as far as we can, heading in that direction.
We can’t damage the existing market but it is in that space that we will be working.
The main thing is, you’ve got to recognise the existing market but there are mechanisms that will allow people on modest incomes into the marketplace, namely through equity shares.
If you qualify as a first home buyer you [buy] property at cost but you are required to stay there for a set period of time.
You cannot sell it, you can’t speculate with it. You can’t take advantage of the concession you have been given for a set period of time. This is one of our most important areas of policy.
NEWS: Alcohol reform is one of the town’s major concerns.
MILLS: There will be alcohol reform. We will get rid of the banned drinkers register, we will have a genuine mandatory rehabilitation program, increase rehab support, build prison farms with a focus on rehab, and introduce licensed social clubs in communities.
NEWS: What will you do to revitalize the town?
MILLS: We will develop an overarching, coordinated strategic plan for Alice Springs, answering the question, what do the town’s people want Alice Springs to look like in the five, 10, 15, 20 years’ time?
We have already announced the Planning Commission which will develop town and region master plans from which will flow the approval of proposals by the existing Development Consent Authority (DCA).
At present planning is done on an ad-hoc basis.
The Planning Commission will involve Alice Springs people, professional planners and strategists. It will report to the Minister and its reports will be made public through the Parliament. There will be no politicians on it. It will have a representative of local government. It will be at arm’s length from the political process.
NEWS: Will local government get planning powers?
MILLS: Yes, by being involved in the Planning Commission.
NEWS: Currently there are two council members on the DCA but they are there in their own right, not representing the council. What influence, under your government, would the town council have on the DCA and the proposed Planning Commission?
MILLS: Local government will be represented on the Planning Commission.
NEWS: In a majority?
MILLS: No, it will be represented. The commission will also have other local professional people on it.
NEWS: Will the Minister be able to over-rule the Planning Commission as he can – and frequently does – the DCA?
MILLS: The Minister can, however the advice from the Planning Commission is made known to the Parliament and, consequently, to the public. Currently the DCA advice to the Minister remains confidential. The Minister has to wear the political risk of making a decision contrary to Planning Commission advice. The Commission will be an independent body.
NEWS: What would a CL Government do in the CBD?
MILLS: The CBD will benefit from law and order initiatives which flow from our alcohol reform. We’ll be taking out of circulation those who are coming before our courts, again and again. This intervention will strengthen the control of the streets. Prisoners will be deployed to assist with cleaning up the place.
NEWS: The tourism industry is in crisis.
MILLS: The marketing plans for Alice Springs must be set by Alice Springs people, by the stakeholders on the ground, who are selling the products.
NEWS: Would the local lobby, Tourism Central Australia, be given a greater role?
MILLS: Yes. Promotion must be driven, it must be owned by locals stakeholders. The process starts there.
NEWS: What would happen with the super shires?
MILLS: The shire reform has not worked. We’re not going back to the way it was before. There was obviously a need for reform. But on the principle of bringing the decision making closer to the people, we are working with traditional people to identify the best construct for local shires, moving away from the super shires to something that’s a better fit for local people. Recognising language and culture is a better way of delineating the boundaries of shires rather than something that sucks decision making authority away from local people. Traditional people can see where the lines should be drawn.
NEWS: If the shire boundary lines are drawn on language and tribal criteria, how many shires would there be?
MILLS: Couldn’t give you the number.
NEWS: The number of tribes and languages is known.
MILLS: Some can work with others and some can’t easily. It’s not a simple matter of getting out the ethnographic map. The decisions must ultimately be made by the people. Some may want the bigger shires arrangement, some may not.
NEWS: Will the people on the ground be making these decisions? How will they be asked? Will there be a plebiscite?
MILLS: We will be working with them. Alison Anderson will be able to give more details.
NEWS: Will some of the senior public servants who have been shifted to Darwin be returned to Alice Springs?
MILLS: Yes, they will be. Following our philosophical approach, you have got to have more decision making closer to The Centre. That’s the direction we would go in.
NEWS: Will the Mereenie Ring Road be built?
MILLS: It depends on the state of the books. I can’t say when. I’m genuinely concerned about the state of the books.

Photo: Mr Mills addressing protesters outside NT Parliament during its sittings in Alice Springs in last year.

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11 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Hal Duell
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 12:45 am

    To repeat what I said in the first post below, it’s time to stop pretending. And I would include in that the pretence that there really is enough money to build a mandatory rehabilitation facility that will hold alcoholics until they are over their addiction – forever if need be. At millions to build (billions?) and more millions every year to maintain, the cost is simply prohibitive. We don’t have enough money to put the criminals in our jails, let alone the drunks.
    I am not an economist, so prove me wrong on this and I may change my tune. But by my reckoning, we need to think of some other way to tackle the repetitive public drinkers, whether they are actual alcoholics or merely serial nuisances.
    I think we can all agree that what we are talking and talking about is public drinkers abusing this town pretty much all day every day. Who isn’t sick of it? A floor price will raise the price of the cheapest drinks so that has to slow some of the flow. A day off is just that – a day off. In my thinking, this is more for the rest of us than it is for the grog hounds.
    But what about allowing controlled drinking areas out of town, which effectively means on communities? Sorry, Bob, but I’m all for it. If you want to drink, drink. But do it standing up on your own land, not sneaking onto your neighbour’s. Isn’t this another area where we are pretending?
    And Russell, closing the Northside as Jane Clark suggests will just push those drinkers into the CBD or further afield. Do it if you can – one less outlet can’t hurt. But be ready for the displacement elsewhere in town. It’s also worth answering Rex’s question. Isn’t the Northside now owned by an Aboriginal corporation? How does that work again?
    I can’t help but feel that we are somehow missing the point in all this debate. I think Bob goes close when he speaks of ‘our lamentable system of socially-inappropriate welfare provisions’. Isn’t it the case that every single drunk making a mess of himself and this town in Alice Springs today is on the dole? Is that where we start? And wouldn’t that just open a whole new can of worms?
    Short answer – yes, it would. So let’s do it.

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  2. Janet Brown
    Posted April 30, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Rex the real question in relation to PAAC: Why are they under the arm of the NT Government? Why is their voice given the government stamp of approval? Why do they meet with the government and those with opposing views are ignored?

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  3. Bob Durnan
    Posted April 29, 2012 at 2:00 am

    Reply to Rex Neindorf’s comment (which was posted by Rex April 27, 2012 at 11:49 pm):
    It is important for us all to remember that not all those drinking to excess (i.e. “abusing alcohol”) act violently, neglect children, or commit criminal actions; this includes some who may be drinking in public and irritating us on an almost daily basis, whenever they are able.
    On what basis are these people to be consigned to your gulag, possibly never to be released? Just because their presence annoys you, or because you are afraid that one day they might commit a criminal act?
    The idea that you could really solve many problems with Terry’s “plan” to lock up hundreds of alcohol abusers and thus abolish the harms once and for all is ludicrous. Terry’s “plan” would do nothing to change most of the factors which have in the past led to most of the excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs, and they would continue to do so, placing new waves of apprentice alcohol abusers on the streets as fast as Terry’s gulag was absorbing the tattered remnants of their older counterparts.
    On the other hand, reduction in the supply and availability of the substances would be a definite contribution to reducing these problems; it would impact on the rate of production of new addicts at the same time that it would reduce the impacts of the pre-existing abusers, and would be relatively low cost to boot.
    Your simple “solution” sounds dangerously like other dangerous authoritarian “solutions” of the recent past, Rex. Putting the rights of children ahead of the rights of neglectful adults should not, and does not have to, mean denying any rights and consideration to those adults, especially where their main offence has been to become addicted to legally available substances which have been funded by tax payers via our lamentable system of socially-inappropriate welfare provisions, and made available through an oversupply of fiercely competing and completely legal drug dealers, conventionally known as alcohol retailers.

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  4. Bob Durnan
    Posted April 29, 2012 at 1:50 am

    Further in reply to Rex Neindorf (Posted April 27, 2012 at 11:49 pm):
    Rex, Like you, I too am much more concerned with the wellbeing of children and the other innocent or vulnerable victims of alcohol abusers, than I am with the wellbeing of those alcohol consumers who are the perpetrators of violence and neglect (and, I imagine, most other PAAC members share these same priorities).
    I suspect that you are not bothering to read either PAAC’s or my comments and posts very carefully if you think I (and most other PAAC members) do not share these concerns of yours about the wellbeing of children and other victims.
    (Please note that although I am a member of PAAC, I am very careful not to write on its behalf unless I have been delegated to do so, and I clearly state so when I do write on its behalf. I write all these comments on Alice Springs News threads as a private individual).
    However, unlike you I am also concerned at the costs accruing to society and government from the continued high levels of dysfunction and harms caused by all those who drink alcohol to such excess that they cause harms to others and themselves.

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  5. Bob Durnan
    Posted April 29, 2012 at 1:44 am

    In reply to Rex Neindorf (Posted April 27, 2012 at 11:49 pm):
    Rex, I don’t know exactly how many members PAAC has. There are quite a few organisations and churches, as well as many individuals. You should direct your enquiry to the PAAC convenor, via the website. She is currently in Cambodia for a few weeks, along with a number of other individual PAAC members, lending a hand in an orphanage and touring some remote regions which have poor email access, but I’m sure she will get back to you on her return.

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  6. Posted April 28, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Hi Russell,
    You have hit the nail squarely on the head when you use the word ‘ADDICTION’. This word sums up exactly why restrictions will not work. These people are addicted to grog, if they can’t buy enough to feed their addiction they will beg, borrow and steal it! This is happening right now and will only get much worse if your skirting-around-the-edge restrictions are put into place. The only thing which in my opinion will work is to remove the addicted person ie. place them into a rehab. However if they are placed into a rehab and things work what will happen to all the people’s jobs whose work currently revolves around the industry which is the ‘abusive drunk’. I think this is the real issue and this is why you are so against rehab as it will put many people you obviously know out of work.
    I have stated before that if a Banned Drinkers Register (BDR) was used in conjunction with mandatory rehab I have no problems with that, as the BDR will identify the people who require rehab. If the Country Liberals have something else in plan to do the same job, this may be why they have chosen to not support the BDR.
    I looked at the PAAC website yesterday as well. No figures there on membership numbers. Why are you so secretive on membership numbers? Is it because there are possibly only three actual members? Action for Alice had well in excess of 300 members.
    On Northside, is this not owned now by a local indigenous corporation? I’m sure something does not add up here? And at long last the many local Aboriginal organisations are going to meet to discuss what is happening. Why was this not done years ago? Local, and I mean LOCAL indigenous elders should be demanding that visitors respect their land whilst visiting here.
    On Newcastle, and every other metropolitan eastern seaboard place in Australia, a floor price may work there as the targeted drunks are different. Generally they are binge drinking teenagers not yet addicted to alcohol. In Alice Springs we have entrenched alcohol ADDICTED abusive drunks. I am 100% certain a floor price and any other measure except for mandatory rehab will be an absolute waste of time and money here. The only people a floor price will benefit are those who study alcoholism in society by keeping them in a ‘job’ studying why these new restrictions did not work here.
    As for Steve Brown not wanting to attend the public debate, I don’t blame him, he is sick of restrictions that don’t work and he has been here longer than us. I can’t say why Steve ‘is interested in seeing PAAC gone’ however as long as PAAC to me, apparently puts the welfare of the abusive drunk above the welfare of all others (re your own comments in another thread regarding ‘Human Rights’) then I would also be happy to see PAAC gone.
    If PAAC was to immediately advocate to remove all abusive drunks from our town and place them into mandatory rehab to give our town, our children and all of us a chance to live a life again I will be the first to sign up!

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  7. Russell Guy
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Rex, you and Jason Newman ask how many people constitute the membership of the local, community-based People’s Alcohol Action Alliance (PAAC). I just looked at their website and it’s open for all to join, so what’s the big deal?
    The “abusive drunks” you write about concern us all, which is why alcohol reform is needed. Have you read Jane Clark’s post calling for the Northside take-away licence to be revoked (below the Adam Giles pic)? She very sensibly calls for the licence to be revoked.
    Your reference to “90%” of Alice residents being fed up is un-substantiated, but the Emergency Department references are more evidence as to why PAAC should be supported in its efforts to introduce a floor price and a take-away restriction.
    Others are calling for this and for opening hours to be pushed back to noon, etc. PAAC is not alone. Local Aboriginal Organisations have just announced a meeting to address these issues and PAAC is calling for a public debate.
    Perhaps, you could tell us whether you support the divisive comments of Cr Brown who says: “I’m not interested in debating. I’m interested in seeing PAAC gone.”
    You call for uncosted rehab while ignoring alcohol reform, but I’m glad that you’ve raised the taxpayer argument which I’ve repeatedly pointed out is $15b p.a. nationally and the NT is overly represented.
    However, as soon as talk of restricting supply is made, you back-off, or erroneously claim that restrictions haven’t worked. Much evidence has been presented to the contrary, but you seem to be like Cr Brown in ignoring it as well and like Terry Mills, you can’t see the link between addiction and supply.
    Some of PAAC’s concerns on childhood prevention echo your own. Perhaps you should consider joining, but, in my opinion, your claim of a “100%” success rate on rehab or throw away the key, is not the best or only solution.
    I would recommend that you ring around the roadhouses of the NT and ask about the Banned Drinkers Register which has been in place since January. You’ll find that it’s proving useful in giving notice to the few who are spoiling it for the many Aboriginal drinkers out bush. You may also note that the CLP wish to dismantle this and other reforms.
    It’s time to take a stand alright, but for the sake of those whom you too are concerned about, I hope you get on the side of that old chestnut, common sense. They did in Newcastle and we can use restrictions successfully in Alice as well.

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  8. Posted April 27, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    Hi Bob,

    Glad to see you have read my letter. My thoughts are set down for all to see. Firstly, as Jason has stated in other threads I too would like to know how many members does PAAC actually have?
    As I have stated I really do not care one bit about the abusive drunks who roam our streets, smash their partners senseless and ruin any chance their kids have to make a decent life. However obviously you do. That’s fine by me. But I bet that 90% of Alice residents think the same as me. I do feel sorry for the lady who was in Emergency last night, courtesy of her ‘loving’ relative and I am extremely disturbed by the two kids also in Emergency late last night (aged ten and twelve) admitted for sniffing.
    Where were their parents and where were the estimated 57 juvenile agencies based in town who are supposed to prevent this? I for one would more than happily see abusive drunks placed in rehab and I don’t care one iota for how long either and pay for their ‘incaceration’ if this finally breaks the grog cycle. You call this ‘long term’.
    This grog abuse has now gone on for two generations and if heavy handed intervention can prevent it from ruining a third then I for one am totally in favor. I call this long term and we the taxpayer have been paying for it for a very long time and if nothing drastic is done we will continue to pay for generations to come.
    I want this abuse to stop with this generation and not carry on to the next. Alcohol reforms which have been going on for a very long time have not worked. Probably because if they did work a lot of people here in Alice would be without a job! But they couldn’t have that could they Bob? Think of all the money we will save by rounding up the 300 to 500 drunks who cause most of the problems. We now pay for their rehab, security, education etc in one place.
    We can get rid of dozens of agencies who apparently fight alcohol abuse but in the last 20 years have got nowhere and you blame this on not enough restrictions? I don’t think so.
    In my opinion removing these abusive drunks from society until they can productively participate within it again is proactive prevention and early intervention (on behalf of the next generation). Today’s children MUST be given the utmost priority over today’s adult abusive drunks. Let us make this very clear Bob, are you saying that you wish to place the drunks first? In my opinion this is madness. My version of rehab will have a 100% success rate. If they cannot be rehabilitated then they are not readmitted into society. Simple as that. This will let their partners and children and all the rest of us have a life!

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  9. Bob Durnan
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Looks like back to the future with Terry and his Gang of Simple Pranksters – that same old seventies show.
    It was a disaster then, and will be the same again this time: no population health approach, no serious community development or diversionary programs, no systematic prevention or early intervention strategies, just reactionary, non-evidence-based foolishness.
    First he wants to feed angry populist payback prejudice by advocating more grog outlets (on the remote communities again, and that was a complete disaster in the early seventies, leading to massive increases in drinking rates, addictions and violence, and increased visitation of drinkers to towns like Alice to seek even more grog than could be obtained in remote communities).
    Then he wants to feed fierce populist payback prejudice again: more prisons and imprisonment (under the cloak of ‘mandated rehab’ and ‘prison rehab farms’).
    Third, he wants to lull the fearsome populist beast by feeding its sentimental prejudice, throwing good money after bad: more funding into rehabilitation programs, the best of which have a very low success rate (something that Terry’s fellow travelers like the Browns and Rex Neindorf appear to recognise when they opine that if the mandatory rehab doesn’t work, or lasts for a very long time, or even forever, then they wouldn’t mind at all. This obviously means taxpayers bearing the cost of long term, even permanent, incarceration of the mandated rehabilitation clients living forever in their secure facilities).
    Terry and the Pranksters have made a great show of being liberals who are against the NTER Intervention and against alcohol restrictions, but when you look at the detail here of their alcohol policies they seem to be [seeking] to solve everything by the same old simple and brutal methods: putting ever more police on the streets; cracking down hard on public disorder; imposing deadly “solutions” on troublesome minorities in remote parts; abolishing progressive programs aimed at increasing personal responsibility and agency; and tossing the troubled victims of previous government policies into prison farms (which will double as long term internment camps), and throwing away the keys.
    Has Terry actually stopped to think deeply about what he is saying?
    How do we stop this madness?

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  10. Russell Guy
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Terry Mills and his CL cohorts still don’t comprehend the connection between irresponsible alcohol supply and addiction.
    He promises to build uncosted “prison farms” while maintaining an increasing, industry-led, level of supply. The perverse logic is obvious to anyone not interested in power.
    The NT is overly represented in alcohol-abuse statistics and yet our leadership pushes on, seemingly oblivious to the news which consistently shows the alcohol-related carnage of a liberal policy.
    The NT Labor Government is pushing ahead with evidence-based reforms which the CLP under Mr Mills wants to dismantle. The NT will be the poorer for a lack of political will in convincing the electorate that it’s time to turn down the tap.

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  11. Hal Duell
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Some interesting points here.
    1) Licensed social clubs in communities will be hugely controversial, but if they can break the current pretence of dry communities being dry only because their drinkers drift into the urban centres, why not try it? Denying people what they want at home usually means they just leave home.
    2) Looking at the shires and how they work sounds like a good idea. I don’t live there, but since they first came in, I have wondered if two shires in central Australia, both stretching from WA to Qld, can ever work.
    But would a Planning Commission sitting on top of the DCA simply add another layer of bureaucracy?
    And what about youth diversion programs coupled with mandatory restitution by families for damage done by their under-age sons and daughters? The vandalism being done in Alice today seems to be done mostly by children.
    As in talking dry while drinking wet, not paying for breakage is another example of ducking responsibility.
    It’s time to stop pretending.

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