Anthony Albanese says local solutions needed for public safety …

Anthony Albanese says local solutions needed for public safety …

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Mr Albanese and Ms Fyles blamed the former Coalition government for allowing alcohol bans under the Stronger Futures policy to expire. The prime minister said alcohol was only one contributor to the surging public safety crisis.

“It is quite clearly a factor. It is not the only factor, but it is a factor,” he said, calling domestic violence a scourge.

Indigenous leaders urged leaders to reintroduce tough alcohol bans in Alice Springs during talks with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. Chief executive Donna Ah Chee told Mr Albanese the removal of some alcohol restrictions in mid-2022 had led to the law and order breakdown.

“There’s absolutely a crisis and something needs to be done immediately and we know what that is, we know what works, we know what’s caused this alcohol-fuelled crime and so we need to put back in place the restrictions that were lifted on July 17 last year,” she said.

“I have never felt this unsafe and frightened in the 36 years I’ve lived in Alice Springs.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton called for the reinstatement of alcohol restrictions on Tuesday, questioning the government’s focus on the Voice to parliament proposal while local authorities in Indigenous communities struggled to maintain order and public safety.

Mr Dutton slammed the withdrawal of alcohol bans in the NT and said federal Labor had badly misjudged the effect on families of removing the cashless debit card, the income management system used to stop welfare recipients from purchasing alcohol.

“It’s not a race thing, it’s a law and order and a crime problem, and we want those kids to grow up in a safe environment. The prime minister has the resources, has the ability and should show the leadership to deal with this issue.”

Crime statistics paint a worrying picture for authorities in Alice Springs. In the year to December, property damage offences soared by nearly 60 per cent in the town, while commercial break-ins and alcohol-related assault offences were up by more than 55 per cent.

Domestic violence assault offences were up by nearly 54 per cent and house break-ins by more than 22 per cent.

Northern Territory Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said on Tuesday about 800 arrests had taken place in the past eight weeks, with more than 500 fines issued by police, as visitors arrive in Alice Springs from remote communities as far away as South Australia and Western Australia.

Commissioner Chalker said the end of restrictions on alcohol purchases in the middle of 2022 had put significant pressure on parts of Alice Springs.

“I can’t literally arrest more people with the resources that we have. We’ve already filled the jails. We’re hosting remand prisoners in our police watch houses,” he said.

Indigenous businessman and referendum No campaigner Warren Mundine called the latest spate of alcohol-fuelled violence a “perfect storm” triggered by the end of the cashless debit card system and the lapsing of tough alcohol bans, which had both eventuated despite community opposition.

“They need to put these things back in place and start listening to people on the ground, because what [Anthony Albanese] is doing and the only voices he’s listening to are the nightmare voices,” Mr Mundine said.

Northern Territory Chamber of Commerce chief policy officer Stephen Goodall said the deteriorating situation was a major concern of the top end business community.

“There’s a whole range of other reasons why you’re getting six, eight and 10-year-olds out on the street at midnight destroying property and threatening people in their own homes,” he said.

Mr Albanese defended his focus on the Voice proposal, saying it would allow communities to speak directly to decision makers about social pressures in their communities.

“What I will continue to do is to engage on this issue in a way that leaves the door open as wide as possible, for as broad a support as possible for the Voice to parliament.

“I won’t engage in the sort of politics that we’re seeing, that people can draw their own conclusions on.”

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