NTG should release Alcohol Mandatory Treatment Act review

 

LETTER

 

 

p2142-John-BoffaNow that the NT Health Minister Robyn Lambley has come clean that the purpose of Alcohol Mandatory Treatment (AMT) is to get drunks off the streets, the Government should release the findings of its review of the Alcohol Mandatory Treatment Act that closed four months ago, and get rid of the inequitable offences of breaching either an AMT order or an Alcohol Protection Order.

 

 

It is high time that Minister Lambley released the results of a review of the Act. Minister Lambley told the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly’s Estimates Committee on June 11:

 

 

“There has always been the allegation that this focuses on Aboriginal people, and we accept that because, as you stated before, the strategy was designed to address the problem of public drunkenness. That was one of the main objectives of the strategy. Unfortunately, that does definitely target Aboriginal people because that is the case in the Northern Territory: Aboriginal people are over-represented in public drunkenness.”

 

 

So much for previous claims that the AMT scheme was intended to deal with health issues. It’s again been made glaringly obvious that the Government’s real aim is simply to create an appearance of order.

 

 

It is now very clear in Alice Springs that there has been a major decline in public drunkenness that is unrelated to mandatory treatment, but which has been achieved through a major alcohol supply reduction measure at the point of sale: the Temporary Beat Locations – TBL – strategy by the police.

 

 

Although there are many concerns about this approach it has made a large difference to violence, alcohol-related hospital presentations and public drunkenness. If this is what AMT was about then there is no need to continue with it in its current form.

 

 

The closing date for submissions to the review of the AMT Act was February 14. These have not been made available and we have still not seen any report. It’s time for complete transparency.

 

 

Meanwhile, the Government should do the decent thing on two counts to reverse its criminalisation of drunkenness through the AMT and Alcohol Protection Order (APO) legislation:

 

 

• remove the provisions that make leaving a treatment facility for the third time when under an Alcohol Mandatory Treatment Order an offence; and

 

 

• remove the offence of breaching an APO. Penalties include imprisonment even though being issued with an APO is not in itself an offence.

 

 

Like them or not, the TBLs, where police are stationed outside bottle shops in Alice Springs, and also in Katherine and Tennant Creek, checking ID and asking shoppers where they intend to drink, show how supply reduction can bring down consumption and associated harm such as assaults.

 

 

A Banned Drinkers’ Register coupled with a photo ID system can also have this effect. Charging people who abscond from mandatory treatment or putting additional charges on addicts for breaching APOs and putting them at risk of penalties that include gaol is ineffective, regressive and unnecessary and there are much better alternatives.

 

 

Dr John Boffa

for

People’s Alcohol Action Coalition

 

 

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2 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. Janet Brown
    Posted July 1, 2014 at 8:38 am

    There was a voice from the town camps to ensure they are dry zones. This voice was was carried by John Boffa and others now protesting about the refusal by police to allow persons living in town camps to buy alcohol.
    There appears to be a loss of direction by the likes of Boffa and his group about where they are going and how they will get there.
    The BDR was an absolute joke and ensured that the elderly and weak were under threat by those on the BDR. As they were forced to purchase alcohol for these thugs. Bring back the BDR and increase the violence into the lives of the vulnerable. Typical of the likes of Boffa who choose to ignore this violent result of the BDR. I am glad the BDR is gone and I believe the residents of the town camps need to decide on what happens there and take responsibility for their decisions.
    The blame game has to stop and the attitude to cause issues in everyone else’s life because of the inability of a few who suffer from alcohol abuse.
    Personal responsibility. Not public liability.

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  2. Hal Duell
    Posted June 24, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    While both the old BDR and its replacement the TBL restrict access to take-away alcohol, the BDR has it over the TBL in that it does not require the police to be stationed outside the bottle shops during trading hours.
    This frees the police to respond to calls-outs or to just run neighborhood patrols throughout the community.
    Better if we allow the machines to check the ID’s and allow the police to get back to policing. Alcohol is not our only problem.

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