Some have stated that it is time that we adopted …

Comment on Grog stats may be useless as they do not include online and mail orders by Chris Carey.

Some have stated that it is time that we adopted policies that work rather than those which are popular. It seems clear from evidence based results that reductions in consumption and policies like a floor price do work in terms of reducing consumption and, hence, reducing the harm of excessive consumption.
No one could argue with this. It works.
It would also “work” to simply line up the problem drinkers and shoot them.
Why do we not take this option?
We examine the philosophical underpinning of the idea of shooting problem drinkers and reject it.
If we examine the philosophical underpinning of alcohol restrictions or a floor price we would accept or reject these on the basis of our rational examination of the philosophical underpinnings.
It may be that we accept that there is a utilitarian notion of the greater good which would justify restrictions.
It is also possible that we might find that there is no justification for alcohol restrictions.
It is clearly not enough to say that because something works it is justified.
It is not acceptable to say that if people do not accept that alcohol restrictions are justified that this means that they do not care about the issue of problem drinking or the plight of the individual problem drinker – sometimes lost in the debate.
I am interrupted by a knock on the door from five men from Balgo, a remote Aboriginal Community in Western Australia who are visiting Alice Springs. This brings to mind the memory of Balgo. At one point the Catholic Church built a beautiful Church and Monastery from local stone. The Monastery building was particularly appealing and was open to all who would choose to wander around its main lounge area and grounds.
Over time Balgo became an environment where there was a fair degree of anti-social behaviour including break-ins. I guess that there were attempts to deal with the issues but, for whatever reason, one approach involved encasing the Monastery building in a kind of iron cage.
At one time in Balgo a funding agency purchased three trucks. It was predictable that the trucks would go to Halls Creek and that there would be trouble. This occurred. What happened? The funding agency – rather than dealing with the issue involved – the differing ways in which people see the use of trucks – decided to impound the trucks and put them in jail behind a locked fence.
This is what was described as the control method of self-determination.
It seems that one way our country has of dealing with the issues involved here is to build these defences to protect ourselves in a situation where we are unwilling or unable to deal with the underlying issues.
I can see little difference between the caged Monastery in Balgo and the fence around Braitling School, the proposed closure of the Northside alcohol outlet, alcohol restrictions or even the idea of turning off the tap. These are all interventions designed to avoid facing the enormous task of dealing with the underlying issues and accepting that we are not very good at dealing with the issues Alice Springs faces.
To pretend – if you like – that we are dealing with things when we are not.
The one thing that Alice Springs needs is to avoid the pretence.
This newspaper is correct to suggest that the alcohol debate is volatile.
Volatility need not mean that we cannot appreciate the fact that there are differing views represent a diversity that gives this place life.
Maybe we are losing sight of that.
I remember the day Woolworths decided to stop selling two liter casks of wine. Cellarmasters, owned by Woolworths, had a freight free offer if you paid by PayPal. This enabled you to get bottled wine to Alice Springs at prices less than cask wine.
The arguments here are interesting because we all know that not everyone in Alice Springs can take advantage of the Cellarmasters type offers.
The fact that I can makes me feel vaguely disconcerted.
I am not afraid to say that I used to enjoy drinking cask wine. (The suggestion that cheap wine is qualitatively inferior to non-cheap wine is debatable.)
Anonymity is defensible in this situation but more importantly is recognition of the fact that the debate is volatile – we cannot pretend that it is not.
What we must try and avoid is not being willing to listen and learn and accept that the future of Alice Springs is in the hands of its people.
It takes courage to live with diversity and avoid the anger that comes from becoming welded to a particular and fixed position.

Recent Comments by Chris Carey

Bleak tunnel vision in new book on Alice Springs
“It’s very, very confronting.”
These words appear in the book.
These words were also said by someone from Melbourne who recently visited Alice Springs.
Ms Hogan writes:
“But weariness set in that I found difficult to shake and I feared my outlook on life was becoming unduly negative.”
I think that we should acknowledge that the bleakness can be seen as a function of the weariness.
One of things I miss is the weekly physical receipt of your newspaper. Somehow the web edition is simply not the same.
Or, perhaps it is simply that there is a certain weariness attached to reading the predictable correspondence which is a testament to what might be seen as the intractability of things.
Listening to the national anthem being sung in multiple languages at Araluen on Saturday I wondered how we might protect ourselves against this weariness.
Well, we do.
We wake up in the morning (thankfully slightly warmer mornings) and go on.
The search for solutions lies in the search.
There is bleakness.
There is wonder.
Let us abandon thoughts of weariness and negativity.


Questions about Snowdon as Congress CEO quits
Thank you for taking a continuing interest in this story.
Has Ms Bell been made a scapegoat?
One must acknowledge her contribution.
All grants would have had conditions which should have outlined how the interest could be spent. Hence the interest is a separate issue to the administration fee.
There is nothing wrong with charging a reasonable administration fee in order that the organisation can administer the grants. 20% may seem on the high side but not necessarily unreasonable. It would not be that difficult to work out how the administration fee was used. Are McGrathNicol examining this question?
The suggestion seems to be that it is difficult to work out how the administration fee was spent. Another suggestion is that up to $2m was spent improperly. How are these suggestions reconciled? If the money was spent improperly what was it spent on? Surely not only a few airfares and unauthorised credit card payments.
If the $2m is accurate, it seems improbable that this would have occurred during the course of a single financial year. If so, why was this not discovered earlier?
What kind of pressure – if any – was placed on the finance staff to be flexible in its interpretation of the use of the grant funding?
One reason for the creation of the Shires was the lack of administrative competence held by smaller organisations. Congress may well have been better able to administer – as opposed to control – the Yuendumu Nyirripi Health Service.
The problem is – as you suggest implicitly – that we will never know the answers to these questions.
Should we know? (A rhetorical question, drowning in a kind of spiritual weariness.)
Do we rely on the governance capacity of the organisation, the audit requirements and the wisdom of the funding agencies – and the politicians?
Can such questions be asked without it being seen as an attack on Congress and its good work?
Why did this happen?
Oh – thanks to Congress for the great carry bags handed out at the Show.


Overseas trips with no report back to Congress – allegation
Thank you for pursuing this issue. Silence is the virtue of fools.
(Sir Francis Bacon)


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