It wasn’t long after alcohol restrictions were initially put in place in the Northern Territory that the various Recreational Fishing lobby groups threw up their arms in indignation, with the NT government firmly by their side:
Look, a fisherman having a beer in the boat on the Daly River as he goes about his normal business is not going to make any difference to the way in which Aboriginal Australia is going to develop. That’s, you know, they’re not really related.
Chris Makepeace [from the Amateur Fisherman’s Association]
Apparently the tourism industry in the NT would collapse if the myriads of Grey Nomads weren’t allowed to down a XXXX Gold while letting that barra get away. Incidentally, I wouldn’t argue with that: Incidentally, I find fishing so mind-numbingly boring that I too, would have to be absolutely soused to endure it.
The result back then was the concession that recreation fishermen-or-women would be allowed to drink alcohol on a boat on a river within the confines of aboriginal land (roughly speaking), where alcohol would otherwise be completely banned. Since that original fine-tuning, we’ve seen some more exceptions to the original ‘blanket’ bans on alcohol, all of which were driven by the tourism industry.
Yesterday, five camp grounds in Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Parks were exempted from alcohol bans for tourists, however I can’t find any information on whether or not the alcohol bans would still apply to members of indigenous communities, though I’d assume they do. As for white residents, it’s probably considerably more hairy. Surprisingly, the NT government licensing bodies, regulators and lobby groups were critical of the changes, except that their criticisms aren’t about the laws themselves, but the way in which they themselves have been left out of the loop:
The changes were made this week, but there is concern that Mr Brough did not inform key regulators and industry representatives of the changes until after they were applied.
Northern Territory Licensing Minister Chris Burns says his department, who administer the laws, were kept in the dark until late yesterday.
One would hope that they’d be even slightly critical of the laws on the basis that indigenous groups have been similarly kept ‘in the dark’ with respect to just about everything. They went on to accuse Brough of legislating ‘on the run’, something that I and others have been charging him with since the very beginning:
The fact that the plan lacks detail or even any long-term goals and targets (Howard on NT Stateline last night) and the fact that the government has already back-pedalled on a few aspects, both make it overwhelmingly clear that the plan is little more than a knee-jerk reaction.
(June 30, 2007)
I have two further points to make on this. First of all, it’s quite frankly appalling that the interests of tourists are given this much more weight in the decision-making in Darwin and in Canberra than those of indigenous people – by far the most disadvantaged demographic in the country. It’s sufficient, so it seems, for a tourism or fishing lobby group to cry foul for Brough to move Heaven and Earth to protect their birthright to intoxication. If nothing else this sends the message that black people in this country still have no voice.
Secondly, I would posit a hypothetical: Suppose a big mob of Wagiman people went for a drive up the road to Gunlom, one of the exempted camp grounds, which is Mayali country and not Wagiman country, and proceeded to crack a tinny.
Are they considered tourists?