Northern Territory bottle shop; liquor bill

NT passes controversial “Big Brother” liquor bill

August 14, 2019
By Alana House

Dissension has erupted following the Northern Territory Labor Government passing the Liquor Bill 2019 through the Legislative Assembly.

Robyn Lambley MLA, Member for Araluen, has slammed the legislation, issuing a press release stating “I do not support this Bill.”

“The Liquor Bill 2019 is another step in cementing the Gunner Nanny State,” she added.

“This bill is the epitome of over regulation, over reaching and unnecessary social control. What is missing in this legislation is actually targeting drunks and promoting personal responsibility.”

Lambley is a former Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory. 

The Bill is a complete rewrite of the Liquor Act 1978, and adopts 70 recommendations from the Riley Review, including:

• A risk-based licensing scheme, which rewards responsible licensees and punishes licensees who do the wrong thing.

• Establishing a dedicated Director of Liquor Licensing who will exclusively manage liquor compliance and enforcement.

• Setting response timeframes for Licensing NT and the Liquor Commission for applications and complaints, which will reduce red tape and provide certainty.

The bill follows NT establishing a minimum floor price for alcohol in August last year.

Robyn Lambley, NT liquor bill

Lambley (above) is particular concerned about a provision in the bill for police to be notified if customers made “suspicious transactions” involving large quantities of alcohol.

In a speech to parliament on Tuesday, Lambley said the provision was “very, very concerning”.

Lambley said while she was “certainly not a drunk” she planned to buy up to four cartons of beer a day to test the legislation for herself.

“I intend to make many, many suspicious transactions, I’m going to be buying lots of alcohol for one reason, not necessarily to drink it all at once but to find out what happens when I make a suspicious transaction,” she said.

Lambley said the new act did not define who was a problem drinker and “assumes that we all are”.

“Underlying this bill is the presumption that we can’t make good choices, we’re all drunks, we’re all hideously out of control, we can’t take responsibility for our own behaviour and we need to be told when and how to behave,” she said.

Lambley added in her statement: “The Government has created legislation in which everyone in the liquor industry as well as everyone who enjoys a drink is the culprit. The broad brush approach to trying to stem alcohol abuse is ineffective and offensive to 99% of the adult population who don’t have a drinking problem.

“There is no focus on what the Government is doing to identify and help those people with actual drinking problems. Apparently we all need to be saved from ourselves.

“Good alcohol policy and legislation targets the problem drinkers by promoting rehabilitation, enterprise and personal responsibility. This Bill does none of this.”

Northern Territory Government praises reforms

The Northern Territory Government said that its alcohol reforms are having an impact on cutting violent crime in the NT through a reduction in the supply of alcohol through the Banned Drinker Register, a new Police alcohol unit and 75 new Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors.

It noted that its tough alcohol measures have led to:

• A 22% reduction in alcohol related assaults across the Territory, including a 13% reduction in Darwin and a 38% reduction in Alice Springs.

• A 24.5% decrease in alcohol-related emergency department presentations in Northern Territory hospitals between September–December 2018, compared to 2017. That trend has continued in the first quarter this year with a 22% reduction.

• More than 17,000 litres of alcohol ear-marked for illegal secondary supply have been seized by police since the creation of the Alcohol Policing Unit.

Attorney-General Natasha Fyles said: “For too long alcohol-fuelled crime and violence has had a devastating impact on our communities, homes and businesses.

“The Territory Labor Government’s alcohol reforms are working and there has been reduction in alcohol fuelled crime right across the Territory.

“We have reduced the supply of alcohol to problem drinkers through measures like the Banned Drinkers Register, a new Police Alcohol Unit and 75 new Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors.

“While these measures are beginning to make a difference, we must continue to invest in programs and people that cut crime now and in the future.”

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