Liquor Commission: Lawyer, social worker represent Alice

2518 Blair McFarland OKBy ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Alice Springs has two members, lawyer Russell Goldflam and long-time youth worker Blair McFarland, on the new 12-member Liquor Commission announced today, which will be headed up by Acting Judge Richard Coates.

 

Mr Goldflam runs the local office of Australian Legal Aid and Mr McFarland was instrumental in the introduction of non-sniffable Opal fuel.

 

AT RIGHT: Mr McFarland addressing the Rotary Club of Alice Springs last night, on an un-related topic.

 

Pauline Reynolds, formerly an administrator of the Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programs Unit, is representing Tennant Creek.

 

Mr Goldflam spoke with the Alice Springs News Online this afternoon.

 

NEWS: Do you think take-away is the major aspect of the current problems caused by alcohol?

 

GOLDFLAM: About 70% of the alcohol drunk in the Northern Territory was purchased at a take-away outlet and drunk away from licensed premises. Take-away is certainly a highly significant issue. Licensed premises are, generally speaking, much more highly supervised than other places where people drink. The risk of someone getting hurt by a drunk is generally lower on licensed premises.

 

NEWS: What should be done?

 

GOLDFLAM: We have a road map, the review into alcohol legislation and policy by Justice Riley. The day that came out last year the NT Government committed to implementing all but one of the dozens of recommendations.

 

NEWS: That was the one stopping take-away on Sundays.

 

p2347 PAAC Goldflam etc OKGOLDFLAM: (At left, speaking at a People’s Alcohol Action Coalition meeting in August 2016) Yes. That’s right. But the review recommended a broad range of measures, some of which will be how the new Liquor Commission works and how other agencies and people will work. We now also have a Liquor Legislation Amendment (Licensing) Bill.

 

NEWS: What are the most significant initiatives suggested by the Riley Review?

 

GOLDFLAM: For the new Liquor Commission, the most significant is that there be assessment of applications for licences which includes an assessment of the community impact of that licence. This is new. It’s often called risk based licensing. It means that if people and groups in the community consider they may be adversely affected by a licence being granted, they have the opportunity to make that case. The commission will be obliged to weigh up the benefits of the licence to the community, against possible harms. That’s going to have an enormous effect on the way in which applications are determined, and on the conditions which are imposed.

 

NEWS: It seems banning of take-away is not likely, but is there merit in making access to liquor much more difficult, especially for those generally regarded as problem drinkers? For example, that take-away liquor can be obtained only through online orders which would require a computer, access to email, a credit card and a home address where the liquor can be delivered.

 

GOLDFLAM: Is that something that someone has proposed?

 

NEWS: Online sales is frequently mentioned when take-away restrictions are discussed. I’m seeking your views about measures that would make take-away less accessible.

 

GOLDFLAM: There is talk about getting grog online. But I’ve never heard it suggested, and the Riley Review doesn’t suggest it, to restrict take-away to online sales. So there is no point talking about that.

 

NEWS: The administration of the NT can make any rules it wishes about access to take-away liquor. What kind of measures would you prefer or suggest?

 

GOLDFLAM: In my new capacity as a member of the commission it is not for me to propose and suggest ways to regulate. My responsibility will be to be part of a body which receives, hears and determines applications. The skills I am bringing to this are those of a lawyer. This is a quasi judicial body which makes administrative decisions. Rules of natural justice [the right of people affected to be informed about the process] will apply. There is an Act to be implemented and administered. That’s what this is about. It is not a political body which is out there pushing for this or that. It is to administer a statute, and to ensure people are given a fair hearing when they seek a decision. The commission decides whether or not to grant a licence and under what conditions. If there is a complaint about a licensee it is brought before the commission.

 

NEWS: Do you see the commission being a source of initiatives, or a body that responds to propositions and applications that are made to it?

 

GOLDFLAM: Primarily I see it as a body which responds to applications which it receives, rather than being a source of initiatives. But we are in a period of major reform of the administration and regulation of liquor, with the new Act coming in. There will be bigger reforms to the Liquor Act, which the government has already announced, as part of the recommendations of the Riley Review. The commission, this brand new body, will have a lot of work to do, creating the new framework. To some extent the Liquor Commission will be involved in new policy, the new era in regulation and licensing laws. But fundamentally the job of the Liquor Commission is to make decisions that are brought to it to make, rather than go out into the community and agitate for one policy or another.

 

 

Chair of the new Liquor Commission prominent legal practitioner Richard Coates “brings more than 40 years of legal expertise to the position, including experience as the NT Director of Public Prosecutions and CEO of the Department of Justice”, said Justice Minister Natasha Fyles today, announcing the appointment.

 

She also said: “There’s too much alcohol fuelled crime and violence in the Northern Territory and this Liquor Commission is the first step in tackling that.

 

“The former CLP government scrapped the Liquor Commission, locking Territorians out of a key decision making process relating to liquor licensing in their neighbourhoods.”

 

The Commission will operate as an independent statutory authority with extensive powers to regulate liquor licensing while the NT Liquor Act is being overhauled, she said.

 

A detailed response to the Riley Review outlining proposed changes to the Liquor Act is expected later this month.

 

 

 

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14 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 February 26, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    Well said Alex Nelson, Russell and Blair are great additions to the Liquor Commission.

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  2. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted February 26, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    A drastic solution? Build camps for drinkers only and let them destroy themselves as long that there are no children in those camps.
    Drastic maybe, but we are living drastic situations and good people are suffering and get punished by the actions of few.
    Let us build “cities of refuge” for alcoholics where only health and police departments will have free access.

    View Comment
  3. Gammon
    Posted February 26, 2018 at 8:33 am

    Janet, the majority of Indigenous people are being punished for the actions of a few. Do you support that or should law abiding citizens be allowed to consume alcohol in their own homes?

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  4. David
    Posted February 25, 2018 at 10:52 am

    About time the Liquor Commission was reinstated.
    Are there any Aboriginal members on this new commission, the people who are subject to and affected the most by grog? Should have seen Q&A the other week.
    As far as online ordering of grog, Aboriginal people have adapted quite well to modern communications technology and use it to good effect like everyone else.
    It is known grog has been ordered online. The Chrisco Christmas hamper to name one.
    The new commission has a job ahead of it not just to listen to people but act in the best interest of everybody.
    Grog running is a scourge that needs greater attention and much harsher and realistic penalties. This being inflicted on people by black and white grog runners.
    These are just some of many things the new Liquor Commission may be confronted with once they have found their feet.

    View Comment
  5. Heather Wells
    Posted February 24, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    A friend of mine rang the LLC several months back to complain about the lack of control of the service of alcohol across the town.
    He was advised to take videos of the offending venues and send to them.
    I can tell you that he told the person on the phone that they should be doing their job and going around and just watching the bar staff and security personnel, not the general public doing their job.
    Hopefully this new group will control the sales to both take-away customers and venue goers.

    View Comment
  6. Janet Brown
    Posted February 24, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    Russel has made it clear he supports the BDR. He also supports [Dr John] Boffa.
    I was sitting next to Russel, me on the right in the photo. Were else would I be?
    He supported removing police from bottle shops.
    These positions should not be given to persons who have a desire to implement floor pricing. That will affect those who do not have a drinking problem. They have no answer to fix the problem drinkers. So they attack the rest of community.
    Russel is okay, his big pay packet can cope with extra cost. What about the working people in Alice?
    Just making ends meet with high rents and electricity cost and the rest of extra costs due to living here in Alice.
    That’s right. Just attack them again in the wallet that is nearly empty already.
    I am sick and tired of this punish he majority for the minority. Bad choice in my book.

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  7. Posted February 24, 2018 at 11:04 am

    It’s easy to be cynical and, yes, there have been many reviews, reports, commissions and the like into alcohol abuse, anti-social behaviour and crime, and associated morbidity over not just years but decades, indeed, long before we got self-government.
    I was in my early years in primary school when the Member for Alice Springs, Bernie Kilgariff, initiated two major inquiries in the NT Legislative Council – one for the liquor industry, the other into the NT Police. That was in 1972-3.
    The liquor industry inquiry was the first major one of its kind in the NT, and also the first to investigate the impact that alcohol abuse was having on Aboriginal people.
    Its findings were appalling, especially for Alice Springs; and one of its many recommendations was the creation of a Liquor Commission to take primary responsibility of this problem from the NT Police. Bernie Kilgariff introduced the Bill for this initiative too but it didn’t come into force for several years.
    Given the scale of the problems we continue to face to this day, which has generally increased commensurate with population growth in the NT, one has to question the efficacy of any measures that have been tried and failed over the years.
    Where I take heart with the return of the Liquor Commission is the calibre of the new appointments to that commission, certainly those from Alice Springs.
    Russell Goldflam and Blair McFarland have the runs on the board, and both have had to endure heavy public criticism at times for their stances.
    They have the right qualifications, first-hand knowledge and experience.
    They are eminently suited for their new roles; and, if there was such a thing, they would both be worthy recipients already of the Graeme Ross Award for Social Welfare (anyone who’s been here any length of time would know what I mean).
    If their new colleagues on the Liquor Commission are of equal merit then I think there is at last some cause for confidence. We at least owe them a chance to make the changes all decent members of our society crave.

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  8. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted February 23, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    Michel Dean,I agree with you, it looks like a lot of talk, paper work etc but no action. I start to believe that those who govern us want to be popular, with next election in their vision, and fear to take drastic decisions.
    While great leaders can do everything possible to behave in a constructive and compassionate manner, they must also understand that there are those who find meaning in destroying others while destroying themselves.

    View Comment
  9. James T Smerk
    Posted February 23, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    Maybe I’m a sceptic but this seems like just another misdirection so people think something is going to happen, but any actions will take months and probably not result in any noticeable changes.
    Please prove me wrong.

    View Comment
  10. Chiara Maqueda
    Posted February 23, 2018 at 9:24 am

    At last an approach that will include community input, and a commission that is not loaded with supporters of the liquor industry. It’s unclear, however, whether the commission will have the power to punish liquor takeaway licensees through suspension of licences and the like.

    View Comment
  11. Surprised!
    Posted February 22, 2018 at 8:43 pm

    The commission will have its work cut out for them.
    Having two Alice Springs people and a former Alice Springs person Pauline Reynolds, will assist in at least us getting some local input.
    It is more than apparent that the commission won’t win any popularity contests, but hopefully they will provide some much needed guidance to the policy makers.
    In the end we may have a safer place to live.

    View Comment
  12. Chris2
    Posted February 22, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    It beggars belief that Mr Goldflam is not required to have a view on reform but to simply consider chaotic input and reflect. Let’s hope his remuneration is proportionate to his workload.

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  13. Posted February 22, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    Two of the worthiest individuals in our town I can think of to be appointed to the new Liquor Commission. I’m delighted by this news.
    Both Russell Goldflam and Blair McFarland have been battling away on the intractable issues of alcohol abuse and related harm for many years, and very much deserve the opportunity they’ve been given to make a difference.
    It will be very interesting to see how matters progress but I think this news is a very promising start.

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  14. Michael Dean
    Posted February 22, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    Maybe it’s just me, but I am starting to get really sick of hearing about reports, reviews, statutes, legislation, commissions and stakeholders.
    Will somebody just do something. Anything (insert sound of wind and tumbleweeds).
    You are paid to govern, so just do it.

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