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Australia

Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson calls for harsher alcohol restrictions as he argues NT and federal measures ‘missed’ the mark

Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson has argued the federal and territory government intervention is inadequate and does not address soaring youth crime.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese heeded calls to visit the town of 25,000 people on Tuesday, standing alongside Chief Minister Natasha Fyles and senior government ministers to announce fresh alcohol restrictions.

After the Stronger Future laws expired in July last year, crime has soared in the beleaguered town and forced both governments to further restrict alcohol sales.

Takeaway booze will now be banned in the town on Monday and Tuesday, with a restricted window of sales between 3pm to 7pm on the remaining days.

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Reacting to the fresh measures, Mr Paterson argued both governments did not go far enough in restricting alcohol and failed to address the wider issue.

He said the limitations would not be “well received” in the community as he called for a re-introduction of the Stronger Future laws, banning alcohol from town camps.

“I’ve always said there’s a reaction to every action, and I’m not sure this is the best action that the town was asking for,” Mr Paterson told Sky News Australia’s Peter Stefanovic.

“We had a system in place where we had Stronger Futures and town camps weren’t allowed to drink alcohol, that’s what everyone was asking to have back.

“It’s a pretty quick decision to make. I think there were some panic stations but I’m not sure this is the best idea.

“I don’t think the Federal Government or the Northern Territory Government are going to have any option (but reintroduce Stronger Futures).

“I’m not saying it has to be forever, what we’re saying is put it back in for now whilst we get ready for the changes whilst you can do all the consultation.

Rates of crime in the Red Centre have skyrocketed, including property offences soaring by 60 per cent and domestic violence up by 38 per cent in the past 12 months.

The staggering figures led the mayor and other community leaders to call for a greater police presence to address the scourge of youth crime.

But locals have also raised serious concerns over children’s safety over reports of domestic abuse rapidly increasing.

In an impassioned plea on Tuesday, local business owner Darren Clarke demanded greater care for the town’s youth, declaring: “These kids are not safe”.

The Alice Springs Mayor also said alcohol and youth crime were two connected but separate issues tearing through the town, with the latter not being addressed by the governments’ announcements on Tuesday.

“This announcement only really focuses on alcohol it doesn’t focus on getting the kids off the streets, that’s the piece that’s been missed here,” Mr Paterson said.

“That’s the scenario that the community’s pretty disappointed about.”

In another shocking revelation, Mr Paterson also claimed the territory’s Chief Minister directly ignored his calls on Tuesday for greater police presence.

Speaking to Sky News Australia hours before the announcement, Ms Fyles rejected suggestions territory police needed federal backing through the AFP or defence force.

“We have the resources. We need to talk to the Commonwealth Government about the needs-based funding for certain services,” she told Sky News Northern Australia correspondent Matt Cunningham.

“But I don’t believe we need federal intervention from police or military.”

Mr Paterson, however, categorically rejected the Chief Minister’s dismissal and said call-out response time of up to eight hours demonstrated the dire need for more officers.

Albanese spent ‘more time’ in private jet than ‘on the ground’ in Alice Springs

“I met with the Chief Minister yesterday and I said we don’t have enough police,” he said.

“I know that the Police Minister and the Police Commissioner might tell you that but I live in Alice Springs – I’m telling you right now we don’t have enough police.”

All newly announced restrictions will be put in place immediately for a period of three months.

A Central Australian Regional Controller – children’s welfare leader Dorelle Anderson – has also been appointed and has been tasked with preparing a report on the implementation and potential changes to alcohol restrictions.

The report will be presented to the Chief Minister and Prime Minister on February 1.   

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