ABC Online

AM - NT politics targets public drinking

AM - Wednesday, 1 June , 2005  08:28:00

Reporter: Sarah Hawke

TONY EASTLEY: For the next two-and-half weeks politicians and political hopefuls will be knocking on doors and standing on soap boxes in the Northern Territory. With the election now set for June the 18th, candidates are targeting the economy and development as the dominant issues. But another, albeit smaller subject of debate is demanding attention: anti-social behaviour.

From Darwin, Sarah Hawke reports.

JOHN: We've been sleeping on the roads here…

ALICE: Mmm… on the road…

SARAH HAWKE: John and Alice have been living on the streets of Darwin for a number of years. They spent late last night like they spend many other evenings – drinking and hanging around in the public areas of central Darwin.

For John it's a way of life he's keen to maintain.

JOHN: We live around the street here, we drink, we drink, sometimes I get locked up in the (inaudible), watch house. I'm an alcoholic and I love my piss.

SARAH HAWKE: But there are larger voter concerns about public drinking. It reflects a wider Northern Territory problem of people coming into the major centres mainly from remote communities. Many can't get home and fall into a cycle of drinking and often antisocial behaviour in public areas.

A recent survey by the Chamber of Commerce identified this as one of the biggest concerns for business, with many saying customers are being deterred from coming into the shops.

It's a problem the major parties have promised to tackle, but just how far they'll go will become clearer during the election campaign.

The Labor Government already has a number of programs underway and on the wider issue of law and order has rallied behind the fact it's employed an extra 120 police. The Country Liberal Party has promised a zero tolerance approach to the behaviour.

Political Lecturer, Bill Wilson, says while the economy is the number one issue in the campaign the major parties will try to capitalise on votes by offering the best law and order options.

BILL WILSON: It's just the perennial problem, because it's very difficult to fix. You tend to move the problem from one area to another, but without the underlying causes being addressed it's extraordinarily difficult to actually fix it.

SARAH HAWKE: And when we talk about underlying causes what would be an example of that?

BILL WILSON: Oh, you've got a whole range of things from the consumption of alcohol in the Territory at a high rate, you've got people moving from dry communities, you've got people living in the climate that we've got here, and I'm not necessarily talking Indigenous people, you've got people who can live outdoors in relative comfort, and so they congregate in public areas.

TONY EASTLEY: Political Lecturer from Charles Darwin University, Doctor Bill Wilson, ending Sarah Hawke's report.

© 2005 Australian Broadcasting Corporation