The Prime Minister is visiting Alice Springs in the Northern Territory today amid concerns about alcohol-fuelled crime.
The local Federal MP, Labor’s Marion Scrymgour, has called for restrictions on alcohol access, something the NT Government has rejected.
The town’s mayor, Matt Paterson, has called for a “heavy-handed” law enforcement response but NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker has warned against trying to “arrest our way out of this”.
Here’s what’s happening.
Northern Territory police statistics show a sharp rise in several offences in Alice Springs in 2022 compared to 2021.
Alcohol-related assault in Alice Springs has increased 55%, domestic violence has increased 54% and break-ins, vehicle theft and property damage have also increased. Sexual assault is the only crime category to have fallen over this period, by 10%.
Federal MP Marion Scrymgour, who lives in Alice Springs, has suggested the problem in the town is fuelled by access to alcohol.
The Federal Government restricted alcohol access in the NT in 2007 under a policy called the ‘Intervention’. Federal controls expired in 2022 and the NT Government replaced them with an opt-in alcohol ban.
Scrymgour, who was previously NT Deputy Chief Minister and the first Indigenous woman elected to the NT Parliament, opposed the Federal Intervention but criticised the NT Government for having “no plan” to replace the restrictions, which she says led to “open slather”.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has called for renewed Federal intervention, arguing the situation in Alice Springs is “completely beyond the capacity and resources of the NT Government”.
NT Police Minister Kate Worden said last week the Federal Intervention had “infantilised” Indigenous people and the Government would instead ask alcohol retailers to voluntarily restrict sales where necessary.
The Federal Intervention has drawn widespread criticism, including from the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson has called for a “heavy-handed” crackdown in the town and to include the Australian Defence Force in the response.
This suggestion was strongly rejected by NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker, who said: “We’re not going to arrest our way out of this.”
He suggested the problems had their roots in “fundamentally broken” policies in a range of areas and stated a significant portion of the crime spike was from visitors to Alice Springs.