Real Action in the wrong direction?

COMMENT by RUSSELL GUY

 

The essence of the Christian faith is to see Jesus as the answer, but the Leader of the NT Opposition, Terry Mills gave a somewhat guarded response at the Australian Christian Lobby’s Make it Count forum in Darwin and relayed to Alice Springs recently.

It’s regrettable that the Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, declined to attend, because a cursory glance at political party advertising in the forthcoming NT Election reveals NT Labor favours “Moving in the Right Direction” while the Country Liberals descry “New Direction” with a caveat called “Real Action”.

Mr Mills spoke about the need for Christian voices to counter arguments so that he could have something to work with. In effect, he was calling for more citizens to involve themselves in the democratic process. This is to his credit, however, he has not responded to emails that I sent asking him about whether the CLP received campaign donations from the alcohol industry or its mates.

Questions put to him from the constituency at the ACL forum provoked a response that showed a protectionist stance towards free-market trade in land release and alcohol supply. He wants more land released for affordable housing, but implied that Aboriginal sacred sites and Native Title on Crown Land may inhibit this, justified by his statement that “everybody wants change, but not for it to happen to them.”

He is correct in identifying this as an issue, constantly reaffirming that “the ball” is in the people’s court, but ideology rears its ugly head at this juncture in a “Conservative versus the Left” contest, a spurious divide referred to by Mr Mills. It would be preferable if Mr Mills could conduct policy decisions based on evidence through the political process.

Mr Mills identified problems with this process in which he is, by vocational choice, entrapped, stating that “the public has no trust in government instrumentalities. I have a lot of work to do to build trust”. He has proposed a Planning Commission as a public interface in one policy area, but it was when a woman asked him about a floor price in relation to “grog and gunja” as serious problems in the community that Mr Mills began to reveal some of the confusion inherent in his ideology.

He failed to isolate marijuana as a substance from alcohol, but this is expected, given that he believes that “substance is not the problem, behaviour is”. This is the biggest mistake Mr Mills has made in his tilt for government and is a fundamental error which influences much of his manifesto, as alcohol-abuse does across portfolios.

He spoke about his mates’ binge drinking at the Drive-In when he was a youth, but not as if he has had direct experience of intoxication or narcosis, which is even more reason why he might avail himself of the statistical data. In formulating his alcohol policy, he appears to reject advice from police and health specialists relating to alcohol-abuse, preferring to move in his own ‘New Direction,’ penalising behaviour, but not the substance supplier, although I’m sure he’s not advocating marijuana be left on the street as he does with alcohol.

Herein lies contradiction and as the woman who asked the question concluded, he appears unconcerned with the “immature brain” or the development of the frontal cortex, which evidence states is still occurring up to people’s mid- 20’s.

His comments appeared to support NT Labor’s Alcohol and Other Drugs Tribunal while not naming it and slamming a key tool, the Banned Drinker’s Register as a failure. Both of which are linked to the rehabilitation issue. This is another expensive contradiction in an uncosted and almost totally unrevealed CLP alcohol policy.

Mr Mills continued to roll out his “it’s not the substance” line by saying that “it’s not the availability of alcohol,” followed by “why is there this destructive thirst?” He doesn’t know the answer, although he says “you’ve got to manage the substance, but you’ve got to ask the other question first.”

Sorry, Terry, but this is another contradiction. You have to manage the substance regardless and continue to ask the big question. In other words, Mr Mills cannot understand the need to “turn the tap down” and concluded the alcohol question by saying “don’t look at me to fix that, we’re all in it.”

Clearly, he is content to present a woeful understanding of alcohol management, despite evidence from around the world about the success of a floor price in reducing alcohol consumption. The NT Chief Magistrate describes alcohol as the single biggest problem the community is facing, as do the police and health officials. In light of this, NT Labor’s approach does seem to be moving generally in the right direction, while the Country Liberals are seen to be merely populist, with, at best, a simplistic and confused approach to this complex social policy.

As the Victorian Auditor General recently stated in reference to alcohol management, what’s popular doesn’t work, what’s unpopular does. That means politicians must gird themselves to manage alcohol by restricting supply, not refer to ideological blind or look for popular support.

This is the real action the community needs from its leaders. To be lost in complexity is one thing – but to subliminally design a simplistic election slogan, abetted by a “New Direction” economic growth policy, is another. It is aided by the largesse of Centrelink, some of whose programs, despite some Basics Card income management, foster alcoholism by default.

The CL stance is the essence of populist politics by a party that introduced voluntary euthanasia. Mr Mills made a big show of saying that people have “value” and should be “responsible” for their actions, but underlying this is a politician who rejects sensible evidence in favour of an ideological position.

There is a growing section of the populace who are petitioning Parliament for alcohol reform and one of the most effective can be found in the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) online petition to the Hon. Catherine King MP, Chair of the Australian and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council, which aims to hold the Commonwealth Government accountable for implementing a mandatory, evidence-based alcohol labelling regime in Australia, specifically, a pregnancy health warning, something which the alcohol industry has failed to do in the seven months since it was left to self-regulate.

Image: This postcard in June 2008 promoting the need of ID to buy booze is testimony to the protracted discussion of alcohol measures in the NT.

    8 Comments (starting with the most recent)

    NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
    1. Ian Sharp
      Posted August 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm

      Hal Duell’s last post is completely irrelevant … and very irreverent too. A good laugh, have a look.

    2. Hal Duell
      Posted August 17, 2012 at 1:33 pm

      I can’t resist adding the following to the comment mix on how to get going in the wrong direction.
      http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=510_1344196881

    3. Ian Sharp
      Posted August 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm

      Well said, Hal Duell. A big win today. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Big Tobacco.

    4. Hal Duell
      Posted August 15, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      Remember when Big Tobacco seemed untouchable?
      Well, plain packaging was upheld by the High Court today.
      I say beware Big Alcohol.
      You, too, are reachable.
      Lead the way, or be told.
      What’s it gonna be?

    5. Posted August 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      Thanks Russell for posting a link to our petition to encourage the Government to adopt mandatory warning labels for alcohol. Alcohol warning labels are just one piece of the puzzle in addressing alcohol-related harms. My organisation, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) is also working on policies that focus on the way that alcohol is priced, marketed and made available. This means increasing the price of the cheapest alcohol products, preventing prolific and harmful marketing practices, and reducing the massive oversupply of alcohol.
      It is naive to simply state that addressing alcohol misuse is solely the responsibility of the drinker. Our research into alcohol’s harm to others clearly demonstrates that alcohol misuse affects more than just the individual drinker, it also impacts on families and friends, employers and the general community. If the imperative to act and make hard decisions about the harms that alcohol makes to the drinker, then surely the harms made to those around the drinker are a greater motivation for reform.
      Michael Thorn
      Chief Executive
      Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education

    6. Hal Duell
      Posted August 13, 2012 at 9:48 pm

      I can’t comment on a floor price, but others certainly have a lot to say, both pro and con.
      Volumetric taxation means taxing the alcohol in alcohol. Seems to be a no-brainer to me. If the price goes up, the price goes up. Or lower the tax.
      But labeling with a suitably graphic warning regarding the risk of drinking while pregnant, especially in the first trimester, is without doubt a no-brainer. Make it as ugly and as scary as the tobacco attack ads. Foetal alcohol damage is forever.
      I’ll repeat that – foetal alcohol damage is forever!

    7. Janet Brown
      Posted August 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      Terry Mills and the CL party policy is based on fact not ideology that platform is the one you stand on. The Territory needs strong leadership and ministers that allow each individual take responsibility for their behavior. It is not up to governments to take that role. We have rules and laws for persons to know what behavior is acceptable or not. I find soap box preachers the greatest evil to everyday life for people so step off or down. You have been up there so long you have lost sight that not everyone has the right to oppose your ideologies.

    8. Steve Brown
      Posted August 13, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      Yeh, Editor, another load of one sided garbage from this bloke who has a complete inability to see the whole picture “Living with Alcohol”.
      Mankind has [used alcohol] for thousands of years. When alcohol is not abused, not overused, by purchasers of all colours as is the case with 95% of purchases made, then it is a perfectly healthy social relaxant that eases the day, many of its stresses, for many well adjusted healthy, long living, hard working people who like a little help winding down at the end of the day.
      In this role it serves, fills, a big part in helping to maintain community mental health. Alcohol also has a wonderful culture of its own, built around wines, brewing, distilling, wine bars, beer halls, pubs, restaurants, vineyards. It is collecting and so much more that broadens and enriches many lives. It is a massive employer providing our community alone with hundreds of jobs. It also provides the community with endless hours of life enriching enjoyment and just plain “fun” as a social stimulant. Sure, there are those who sometimes overindulge – more fool them. Lessons are usually learnt, prices paid, then of course there are those who form an addiction, just like people do with cigarettes, poker machines, chocolate, MacDonald’s and other fast foods. But do we stop the whole community eating because of the overindulgence of a few? I don’t think so!
      Our role is to assist those who need it to make some adjustments, take some responsibility, get some health care. That is our community responsibility. Not to join the ranks of Mr Guy’s Loopy Left Wowser Brigade that would remove all joy from life and leave the rest of us as miserable, frightened, misguided, followers of zealot propaganda that reflects more a failure to cope than anything in the real world.
      This ongoing campaign around floor pricing is just plain “bullshit”! It wont help alcoholics, they’ll get their booze one way or another. What it will do is make life just a little bit harder, just a little bit tougher, for honest hard-working struggling families and our senior citizens. It will help create for many what Mr Guy, and the wowser brigade really want for the world, for it to be as miserable as themselves! And the drunks? They’ll just carry on regardless! This article in all truth is just another blatant bit of Loopy Left Anti CLP propaganda, not even thinly disguised as “comment”! In closing and on a more appropriate religiously worded request for Mr Guy “for Gods sake give it a rest”!

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