Anthony Albanese reacts too slowly

And the new government inherited decisions made by the coalition during its nine-year tenure. Opposition leader Peter Dutton now speaks every day about threats of violence in Alice Springs, but he was a member of the federal cabinet when the previous government accepted the end of alcohol bans.

The alcohol controls were enforced through a federal law called Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory, imposed by the Gillard government in 2012 with a sunset clause on many of the measures. All sides knew that the bans were due to expire on June 30 last year.

It’s not just Congress that wants the bans to be extended. The top group of drug and alcohol agencies in the area, AADANT, also wants restrictions on alcohol sales. So does the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition. We know this because they reported it to the Senate inquiry into public safety in the area, which was due to report last December but is now due to report its findings in March.

The political turn around Alice Springs is evident. Dutton stresses the need for practical action on alcohol and violence while rejecting the proposal for an Indigenous vote in Parliament. This traces a wrong choice between practical and symbolic action. Indeed, the vote could be a practical change to give First Australians more say in politics and could be pursued alongside community safety measures.

NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles and her government bear most of the blame for what is happening in Alice Springs today. Belatedly and only after the Prime Minister decided to visit, Fyles outlined some changes to alcohol sales on Tuesday night.

But the bigger answer will have to wait until February 1st. Albanese shares responsibility because the bans were enforced through federal law. He avoided taking the rank at Fyles for seven months, but now he must finally do it.

Break through the noise of federal politics with news, perspective and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up for our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here. Anthony Albanese reacts too slowly

Callan Tansill

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