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One-sided approach will not fix problem drinking in the Territory

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 7 May 2011

The Australian Greens are concerned that newly passed alcohol laws in the Northern Territory focus on only one side of the problem – by getting tough on drinkers while ignoring the rivers of cheap grog that flow through the NT.

“I am wary of focusing too much on drinkers and not enough on restricting supply,” Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal Issues said today.

“The Northern Territory has the highest per capita rates of alcohol consumption in Australia, and some of the highest in the world. This is in great part because of the huge number of licensed premises, many of which are inappropriate,” said Senator Siewert.

“The current approach focuses entirely on ‘cracking down’ on individual problem drinkers through the justice system, but international evidence suggests that in isolation forced rehabilitation orders are unlikely to prove effective.

“A more comprehensive approach that includes both demand and supply-side measures to tackle head-on the hard-drinking culture of the Territory is likely to deliver better and more sustained results.

“The history of drug and alcohol policy implementation in Australia provides a clear message that community health strategies that focus on harm minimisation and cultural change are more effective than populist law and order measures.

“If introduced with the backing of the community, a floor price on alcohol and reduced access to takeaway sales are effective ways to reduce alcohol related harm.

“An encouraging next step would be to reduce the number of inappropriate liquor licences in the NT, particularly those in known problem areas. Other measures, such as take-away free days should also be considered.

“As it stands, a lot of social harm occurs within the boundaries of ‘legal’ alcohol consumption. This is why we need to take steps which reduce the accessibility of low cost alcohol and change the culture of drinking to excess.

“It is encouraging to see the NT Government take action to reduce alcohol-related harm, but we need to be mindful of the fact that stronger alcohol laws alone are unlikely to produce results.

“Ultimately we also need to alleviate the underlying factors that contribute to alcohol abuse,” Senator Siewert concluded.

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