NATIONAL:The politics of backing grog bans despite scant evidence they actually work.
With changes of government in both Queensland and the Northern Territory recently, alcohol restrictions in Aboriginal communities have been hotly debated in mainstream media. But ironically, the government’s seeking to relax grog bans are both conservative, the traditional political home of those who support government control of black lives.
CHRIS GRAHAM* delves into the politics of grog, and the reasons why some still support grog bans, despite strong evidence which shows they don’t work.
In the annals of silly things said by silly politicians, former South Australian Labor Treasurer and Deputy Premier Kevin Foley’s recent contribution to the debate around alcohol bans in Aboriginal communities raises the bar. No mean feat in the current political climate.
“Some pretty ugly and worrying politics dressed up as policy have been unfolding in the north of Australia in recent months,” Foley told Adelaide Now readers in his regular column earlier this month.
“The crushing victory of Campbell Newman’s LNP in Queensland saw the party win a large number of seats with a high proportion of indigenous voters.
“In the NT, Labor was swept aside after an unexpected loss of support in their country – and mostly Indigenous – seats, which they had obviously been taking for granted.
“What’s occurred since those elections should be setting off alarm bells in Canberra and Australia-wide.
“Long-held bipartisan policies of supporting mandatory alcohol bans within Aboriginal communities have been ditched in favour of allowing these communities to decide whether to maintain the bans.
“The violence and hopelessness that alcohol has bought to Indigenous Australians is well-known. The violence towards women and children from drunken men in these communities was at a level unimaginable in non-Indigenous Australia.
“Strong Indigenous leaders, together with government support, saw bans enforced years ago, with a dramatic decline in violence.
“It’s no secret men within Aboriginal communities are massively influential and dominate decision-making.
“I believe adding alcohol back into these communities will be a dangerous and explosive move.
“Indigenous leaders such as Noel Pearson and leading academic Marcia Langton have gone public with their dismay and opposition to allowing booze back. Why then are these two governments rolling back a successful and bipartisan moratorium? Simple.
“It’s both a reward and a continuing chase for support from an electorate previously shunned by conservative politicians. The blokes get their booze back; women are intimidated to remain silent and even vote the way their husbands tell them to.
“A clear differentiation with Labor is struck. A vote for the CLP or LNP is a vote to get grog.
“A vote for Labor is forced sobriety.
“This is a disgraceful development in Australian politics. It cannot be explained any other way.”
Well, it can actually. But we’ll come back to Mr Foley’s theory a little later, because the facts are a little more important.
Grog is a problem in some Cape York Aboriginal communities. Grog is a problem in some Northern Territory Aboriginal communities too. Indeed grog is a problem in many Aboriginal communities around the country.
And as anyone whose spent five minutes in Kings Cross knows, grog is also a problem in Sydney. A big one.