PM Anthony Albanese admits ‘all governments could have done better’ in Alice Springs as locals consider $1.5 billion lawsuit over inaction
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended the government after it allowed the alcohol ban in Alice Springs to lapse late last year, despite indigenous groups reportedly warning of a subsequent surge in crime.
The Labor leader was forced to travel to the remote town last week after the increased rate of youth crime made national headlines.
The Northern Territory government bowed to the pressure and re-imposed alcohol restrictions, including reinstating bans on the purchase of takeaway alcohol on Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as customer transaction limits.
On Tuesday morning, Mr Albanese admitted his government had to “do better” as reporters grilled him over claims indigenous groups had called for an alcohol ban to be extended before the legislation expires in July.
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“All governments could have done better on all these issues over a long period of time,” the Prime Minister told a press conference at Parliament House.
“The truth is a lot of these issues are intergenerational. They’re not things that came up in a day or a week or a month or a year. They span generations.
“That’s why we need complete solutions. That’s why we need to listen to communities about what their needs are.
“Funding for family support services in the Northern Territory was due to be cut in June this year. There wasn’t even ongoing funding in the budget we inherited. So all governments need to do better.”
Alice Springs councilor Michael Liddle agreed the lapse in Stronger Futures legislation had been disastrous for the local community.
“That ban on alcohol, I think they made the wrong decision by lifting it. Giving remote people access to alcohol didn’t work,” he told Sky News Australia.
“You pull the alcohol rope and you have some other bad negative elements that go with it and they’re all linked together.”
NT Police statistics show property offenses in Alice Springs have soared by 60 per cent in the past 12 months, while assaults have increased by 38 per cent and domestic violence by 48 per cent.
In addition to the increase in crime, the lifting of the strict alcohol ban has also increased the number of calls by paramedics in the Northern Territory since June.
According to St John Ambulance NT data revealed by The Australian, paramedics have seen a whopping 88.5 per cent increase in reports of assault and sexual assault.
Hundreds of local residents gathered at a community meeting on Monday to express growing concern about the crime crisis affecting their outskirts and to vent frustration at the lack of government action.
Event organizer and business owner Garth Thompson has led calls to sue the Northern Territory government over the $1.5 billion lost in local business due to local residents being afraid to leave their homes.
“I’m more than proud to stand here and say we, as a community of Alice Springs, are about to sue our government for $1.5 billion in compensation,” Mr Thompson said.
He argued that residents “deserve to be compensated for what the government has put us through”.
Although not all participants agreed with the lawsuit, there was a general call for a stronger police presence to combat the crime surge in the town and the subsequent fear that grips local residents.
Last week, the NT Government reinstated the ban on the sale of takeaway alcohol on Mondays and Tuesdays over the next three months as it works through long-term solutions.
Customers will be limited to one transaction per day in bottle shops and the sale of takeaway alcohol is limited to 3pm to 7pm.