Nyunggai Warren Mundine has called for action over alcohol-fuelled violence and crime in remote communities, saying the current crisis plaguing Alice Springs is “just the tip of the iceberg”.
Mr Mundine made the comments as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese arrived in the Northern Territory on Tuesday to meet with community leaders about the surge in crime rates.
Some experts are pointing to alcohol as the driving force behind the spike in violence after long-term liquor bans were lifted across dozens of Indigenous communities in July.
“The numbers are not only frightening, they are just too frightening,” Mr Mundine told Englishheadline host Cory Bernardi.
“You’re looking at alcohol sales going through the roof.
“You’re looking at violence going through the roof and crimes going through the roof.
“Alice Springs is just the tip of the iceberg, you go across Northern Australia, you go to Townsville…and you have the same thing happening.”
Restrictions on alcohol were imposed by the then-Howard government and later replaced by Labor’s Stronger Futures laws in 2012.
The Albanese government chose not to extend the legislation beyond its July expiration, meaning the NT government needed its own laws to regulate alcohol consumption.
The NT government passed legislation last May allowing communities to “opt in” if they want liquor bans in place, but the lifting in restrictions meant residents in some areas could buy alcohol for the first time in 15 years.
Mr Mundine said no one could “justify” what the federal and NT government have “done” in Alice Springs.
He said key issues impacting Indigenous communities need to be addressed, including the use of the cashless welfare debit card to reduce alcohol-related harm.
“We made sure everyone who was on the dole, in those welfare areas – if you’re black, white, pink, green, purple – whatever colour you are you were on that card,” he said.
“That ensured kids got lunch, breakfast and dinner, they got proper groceries and veggies and fruits, they got school uniforms and transportation to school, they got a whole lot of things that focused on kids so they could be safe and have a normal life like the rest of Australians.”
Mr Mundine said there also needed to be a focus on investment and jobs in remote communities, as well as ensuring children have access to education.
“And how you get jobs and investment is by having businesses that are profitable and commercial who will hire people – and you need to get kids to school,” he said.
“If you get those together that’s like an umbrella for all the other issues, you know you’ve got skilled workers, you’ve got healthy people.
“As I’ve said this is not rocket-science, this is 200 years of what tells us what lifts people out of poverty and lowers crime rates.”
On Tuesday afternoon the Prime Minister and Chief Minister Natasha Fyles announced a number of measures to curb the surge in crime in Alice Springs.
“These are measures to reduce the amount of alcohol in our community. It is a decision that police fully support and by reducing that amount of alcohol we will reduce the harm,” Ms Fyles told reporters.
Takeaway alcohol will be banned on Mondays and Tuesdays, and will only be permitted between 3pm and 7pm on remaining days.
Each person is limited to one liquor purchase per day, with the restrictions to come into effect immediately.