Grog sales still okay on Sundays - alcohol shakeup

SWEEPING CHANGES: Uniformed liquor licensing inspectors will be called in to help police.
SWEEPING CHANGES: Uniformed liquor licensing inspectors will be called in to help police.

There will be no bans on the sale of alcohol on Sundays, as had been recommended in sweeping changes to NT grog laws.

As well, uniformed liquor licensing inspectors will be authorised to help police monitor alcohol sales at takeaway outlets.

The NT Government will outlaw people driving boats with a blood alcohol content the same as motor vehicles.

The NT Government has welcomed the Alcohol Policy and Legislation Review handed to government by the Chair of the Expert Alcohol Panel and former Chief Justice of the NT, Trevor Riley.

At least one recommendation, like the Sunday ban on sales, has already been knocked back by the Government.

However, there will be an immediate ban on all new takeaway alcohol licences.

A floor price on alcohol will also be introduced.

There are just some of the recommendations which have already been accepted from the review.

Justice Trevor Riley’s report found: 

  • The NT has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in Australia. (It is among the highest in the world.)
  • The NT has the highest rate of risky alcohol consumption in Australia with 44 per cent of people drinking at a level that puts them at risk of injury or other harms at ‘least once in the past month’, compared with 26 per cent of people nationally.
  • We have the highest death rate due to alcohol of any Australian jurisdiction.
  • We have the country’s highest rates of hospitalisations related to alcohol misuse.
  • Four out of every 10 road deaths in the NT (40 per cent) involve an illegal blood alcohol concentration compared with less than 30 per cent in other jurisdictions.

The Attorney-General and Minister for Health Natasha Fyles said Territorians want and deserve to live in safe and vibrant communities and this review provides recommendations on how government can deliver that.

“The Territory has unacceptable rates of alcohol related crime, violence and death and that must be addressed in a systematic and coordinated way,” Ms Fyles said.

The review provides 220 recommendations on reforms to alcohol policy and legislation, after identifying an ad-hoc system that isn’t fit for purpose.

Minister Fyles said many of the suggested reforms would require extensive changes and have widespread impact on community and business.

One of those is that the “density” of liquor licences be taken into account when considering the public interest and community impact.

Katherine has 21 liquor licences.

“These (recommendations) need to be examined at length before a detailed government response can be delivered,” she said.

The  Government has given support in principle to:

LIQUOR ACT - overhauling the Liquor Act to provide a robust framework for industry and community. This will likely include changes to license categories and fees including risk based licensing

LIQUOR COMMISSION - reinstating an independent Liquor Commission to increase transparency, with decisions to be made based on a new public interest and community impact test.

DENSITY - focusing harm reduction measures on the density of liquor licences and volume of alcohol sales. This is a policy shift away from floor size restrictions and will require the repeal of 400m2 legislation. This means that any application, including Dan Murphy’s, will need to be considered by the Liquor Commission and satisfy the public interest and community impact test.

FLOOR PRICE/VOLUMETRIC TAX - implementing a floor price on alcohol products to prevent alcohol related harms and continue to lobby the Federal government for a volumetric tax.

ALCOHOL & VESSELS – legislating to make it an offence for a person to operate or navigate a vessel with a breath or blood alcohol content equivalent to the levels in the Traffic Act.

POSI/TBL – POSIs/TBLs will remain a tool for police. Police will continue to lead POSI/TBL’s and uniformed licensing inspectors will be authorised to assist police.

ALCOHOL UNIT - establishing a central unit in the Department of the Chief Minister to drive reforms.

The Attorney-General will today enact a complete moratorium on all new take away licenses including greenfield sites.

The Government has ruled out banning the sale of take away alcohol on Sundays.

Minister Fyles said a key driver in commissioning this report was to reduce alcohol related harm.

“That’s why we provide in principle support to recommendations around FASD, Early Childhood and Education, Treatment and Sobering up Shelters,” she said.

“While the government supports a number of reforms in principle, considerable consultation and work will be needed to establish what form these reforms will take and how they will be rolled out in the Territory context.

“We promised Territorians we would listen and take action and that is what we are doing.”

Minister Fyles said the report is a significant piece of work that will help guide the future of the NT’s approach to alcohol harm reduction.

“I want to acknowledge the many hours of work put in by the expert panel, with their balance of skills and expertise to produce this report,” she said.

“I would also like to acknowledge and thank the community groups, businesses and individuals who made submissions, survey responses, or attended in person one of the many public forums across the NT. Your contributions have been so important.”

The Government will now reconsider its alcohol policies in line with the review recommendations to deliver a road map for change.

The detailed response to the report is expected to be complete by early next year.

For a full copy of the report click here.

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