Much less drunken violence an early Christmas present

 

25110 John Boffa OKLETTER TO THE EDITOR

 

Sir – The Emergency Department (ED) at Alice Springs Hospital has been transformed by a combination of important alcohol policy measures.

 

The continuation of the successful combination of changes means Alice should have a much happier time this Christmas, and hopefully for good.

 

Since October 1, when the Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors (PALIs) started covering take-away outlets during all, or almost all, opening hours, and the legislated floor price of $1.30 a standard drink started, there has been a major reduction in presentations to the ED.

 

The Banned Drinker Register, the policing of secondary supply and the active policing of on-licence drinking are all no doubt helping as well.

 

The long-term average of around 150 presentations a day to ED has reduced by a third to 100 presentations a day.

 

Domestic Violence presentations to ED are down a massive 87%, which is the largest impact on this major problem we have seen.

 

ED is no longer dealing with the stabbings or high level of other serious assaults that it used to see regularly, and is no longer full of heavily intoxicated people. This means it is a very different place.

 

Alice Springs residents will find that if they do need to go to ED they will be treated in a more timely manner as a result.

 

We know all this thanks to the information presented to last week’s meeting of the Northern Territory Clinical Senate.

 

The Senate is a selected group of clinical experts appointed by the NT Government to provide the CEO of NT Health with advice about improving both patient safety and the clinical quality of health services across the Northern Territory.

 

I am a member of the Clinical Senate, which is chaired by Dr. Stephen Gourley, head of Emergency Medicine at the Alice Springs Hospital.

 

I am also aware that this major progress is matched by equally significant changes in police data.

 

The Clinical Senate also heard that police protective custodies are down from 800 to 150 a month in Alice Springs. That alone is a Christmas gift worth having.

 

Police should be commended for the work the PALIs are doing on the alcohol outlets, the tougher approach that sworn officers are taking to drinking on premises and for their continuing efforts to apprehend sly grog runners.

 

I am sure that everyone in Alice can see the difference in our town. Fewer drunken people and less violence can only make Alice a more caring and safe community this Christmas.

 

The changes must of course be sustained over time, and the reforms properly evaluated.

 

The proof will be in the pudding, but at the moment, it seems we have the right ingredients and the NT Government’s combined package of alcohol reforms is off to a great start.

 

Dr John Boffa (pictured)
People’s Alcohol Action Committee (PAAC)

 

 

 

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11 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. Steve Brown
    Posted December 18, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    Vicki: PAAC certainly never has backed off from arguing from an elitist patronising and paternalistic point of view for simplistic, token measures which they believe with all the smug superiority in the world will save us all from ourselves while completely ignoring input from the wider community which says otherwise.
    In setting out to save the world Vicki you must first ascertain that the world wants to be saved.
    And if it doesn’t why it doesn’t. When you introduce a supposedly socially beneficial measure, such as raising the floor price of alcohol in direct opposition to community feelings on the issue, it comes from an assumption, or should I say arrogant belief, that you know better than the general population.
    Look at the measure from a common-sense angle: Firstly it has no effect at all on problem drinkers as they find a way, even if it takes ram raiding a pub.
    But in tough times with struggling families and pensioners it certainly does affect ordinary mums and dads, the ones without an alcohol problem. It is especially cruel on pensioners and even where there is over consumption, it simply takes more money from the family budget for things other than alcohol.
    The real effect of the measure, the real consequence, which certainly does relate back to alcohol abuse, is to community mental health.
    It does that in two ways, firstly there is the money, of course for most people the amount is piddling but then there is the principle.
    The message sent, the clobbering of those struggling along doing the right thing being penalised by ill-considered measures aimed at those who are not.
    The effect Vicki is to breed anger and unhappiness on both sides of the measures, it creates division!
    These superior kinds of measures directly affect the mental health of our community, exacerbating community feelings, the kind of thinking that leads to alcohol abuse, this in turns leads to retaliatory thinking and behaviour the inevitable outcome … worsening the situation!
    And no, Vicki you don’t need evidence of this effect all you need is to be “human”, have some humanity, to understand it!
    I have battled against PAAC for many years because its ideas and actions are always aimed at Aboriginal people, pompous patronising and racist, dividing our community and exacerbating the very things you supposedly wish to resolve.
    There is no such thing as positive racism! Only racism!
    I am still a very active member of the CLP, I do not however speak for it.
    PAAC never lobbies us and would be wasting its time if it did.
    The government withdrew police from liquor outlets because they believed your propaganda about the Banned Drinkers Register … more fool them!
    While enjoying that Christmas cheer spare a little thought for those families making with just a little less this year, all thanks to PAAC.
    Merry Christmas.

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  2. InterestedDarwinObserver
    Posted December 18, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Vicki, the courts allowing a policy under the guise of special measures is irrelevant to my comment.

    View Comment
  3. Posted December 17, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    Dear Anonymous: See here and here.

    View Comment
  4. InterestedDarwinObserver
    Posted December 17, 2018 at 8:25 am

    Vicki, I find nothing positive in any form of discrimination.
    This belongs to the philosophy of Reverse Racism, Special Measures and Affirmative Action.
    It is ignorance to think that Government could or should wield their power of discrimination without repercussions.
    All these things seek to discriminate, breed racism and remove personal responsibility and an individual’s right to self determination.
    As Newton theorised: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    View Comment
  5. Posted December 16, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    @ Steve Brown: PAAC has never backed off from arguing for what works, and has supported the presence of police, and now PALIs, outside bottle shops for a long time – based on evidence. The sporadic presence of police in the past couple of years has been the result of police decisions.
    The posting of officers at bottle shops has at times depended on who was in charge. PAAC has not held back from lobbying the police and the government about this erratic presence. You can find numerous media releases on our website – or Google.
    The current Government took the position that TBLs or POSIs were an operational matter – a separation of powers argument if you like, and the result was certainly very frustrating at times. Thanks to the Riley Review and its implementation, we now have PALIs doing this work.
    The BDR is not useless. There are currently around 2500 people on it in the NT, but the residence-based inquiries of PALIs certainly work. There is no doubt that the scheme is discriminatory, but arguably it is positive discrimination.
    Not sure if you have made much constructive contribution to this debate in the past Steve, either as a town councillor, political candidate, or individual, but we are happy to be pointed in the direction of any references.
    PAAC is a lobby group, and it pursues whoever is in government, whether the ALP or your old party, the CLP. We also lobby the Police Commissioner and respond to the police union – the NT Police Association – which has strongly opposed the use of sworn officers outside take-away outlets.
    There are several factors contributing to the ongoing reduction in consumption, and it is true that the legislated floor price is unlikely to affect Alice as much as Darwin, which has sadly seen little in the way of reforms over the years. Our supermarkets have led on voluntary pricing, as you would, or should, know.
    PAAC isn’t hanging its head in shame, and it doesn’t seek to take full credit for beneficial change. But we are pleased that we finally have a combination of measures which, when evaluated, will hopefully show what has the best effect and what is the benefit to the community.
    We also have some progressive changes to the Liquor Act, including the power of the Police Commissioner to suspend trading (available to police in WA for some time), and an onus on licence applicants to meet a community interest test.
    These are very interesting times for alcohol reform in the NT, and it is worth reflecting on how far we have come in the past twenty years. It’s a complex issue, and supply reduction is certainly not the only solution, but it helps a lot. Check out Opal fuel.
    So, no head-hanging, no shamefulness. Let’s be thankful for the changes in ED presentations, and here’s to peace on the streets and food on the table. Merry Christmas.

    View Comment
  6. Local 1
    Posted December 14, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    A combination of measures? Would be interesting to see if the PALIs were removed for a week, what would the spike be?
    I think that the primary measure for this reduction is the PALIs. I do not think that the floor price makes much difference at all, yet it is one thing that costs all of us, I believe unnecessarily.
    Anybody game enough to try the removal of PALIs, then drop the floor price rubbish for a week, and see which one really makes the difference?
    Interesting both measures rolled out almost simultaneously so a comparison was unable to be made? Either way, a nice change.

    View Comment
  7. HM
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:32 am

    Good article.
    Meanwhile …
    Pub found in breach of liquor laws over ‘dangerous and disturbing’ drinking levels.

    View Comment
  8. Michael Dean
    Posted December 12, 2018 at 5:56 pm

    Dr Boffa, you can see fewer drunk people around town … if you don’t look for them.
    If everything is so great, please explain why the crime rates are up.

    View Comment
  9. Watch'n
    Posted December 12, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    Great result.

    View Comment
  10. Steve Brown
    Posted December 12, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    Once again the police on bottle shops has proved to be the “Only effective measure”!
    But then again, we already knew that didn’t we?
    However giving way to pressure from PAAC the NT Government went right ahead introducing completely ineffective, [now proven] bureaucratic measures such as the Banned Drinkers Register and a floor price on alcohol, then allowed police to walk away from the bottle shops for most of the term of this Government!
    As a direct result, once again subjecting our community to all the drunken bedlam that we had previously resolved by, putting police on the bottle shops.
    And now Dr Boffa and Co would like credit for the reintroduction of police to bottle shops, and the resulting downturn in general mayhem!
    Really, from where I sit, those who orchestrated that amount of cruel social experiments on our community should be getting not thanks, but their backsides kicked because clearly they should be held responsible for the past two years of mayhem!
    And rather than congratulating themselves on finally returning us to what amounts to the status quo ante, the situation before they interfered, they should hang their heads in shame!
    Thank you so very much.

    View Comment
  11. Interested Darwin Observer
    Posted December 12, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    Where is the long term daily average of 150 presentations? Perhaps my data from myhospitals.gov.au is incorrect, but from what I gather, average daily admissions are as follows (equating to 123 average daily admissions over the last seven years)
    Year – 2011-2012- Average daily ED admission = 116
    Year – 2012-2013- Average daily ED admission = 113
    Year – 2013-2014- Average daily ED admission = 120
    Year – 2014-2015- Average daily ED admission = 122
    Year – 2015-2016- Average daily ED admission = 124
    Year – 2016-2017- Average daily ED admission = 130
    Year – 2017-2018- Average daily ED admission = 137
    It should be noted that the above figures fail to take into account population decline. If the data were to be converted into a “per 100,000” data set it would reveal that comparatively to this years 17/18 average daily admission of 137, 12/13 would read 104, 13/14 would read 112, 14/15 would read 117 and so forth.
    But again, my data may be wrong, after all it is only published by the Federal Government via the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) with date provided by the NT Department Health.
    I eagerly await the latest release of police data.

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