The Northern Territory’s wide-ranging alcohol review has got some in the Top End’s fishing community up in arms about what has become one of the most controversial recommendations of the independent policy review.
Before former Chief Justice Trevor Riley handed down the Northern Territory’s Alcohol Policies and Legislation Review on Thursday, there was no maximum blood alcohol limit for boat skippers drinking on the water under Northern Territory legislation.
But that’s all about to change.
“The person in charge of a vessel in motion should be below .05, we thought it was a reasonable suggestion,” Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.
“We do it on land and now we’re doing it at sea.”
But skippers who have their boats at anchor or moored do not fall foul of the law, he said.
“It you’re out and you want to pull up stumps for the night, throw the anchor out, that’s not what we’re interested in — purely if the vessel is in motion,” Mr Gunner said.
“I’ve had a few [people] contact me and say they feel relieved knowing that if their out on the river or in the harbour and there’s a vessel coming at them, it’ll be driven by someone who is sober.”
Penalties for breaking the alcohol limit are yet to be determined and the Chief Minister has also indicated that random breath testing on the water will not be used to catch drink-drivers.
The introduction of boat licenses and registrations has also been ruled out.
“We are not interested in boat licenses or boat regos,” Mr Gunner said.
“I don’t think they are necessary as part of this.”
‘More questions than answers’
The recommendation has received considerable backlash, particularly because some believe there was no evidence to support the need for change.
The Amateur Fisherman’s Association of the Northern Territory has demanded answers.
“It doesn’t quote any figures,” AFANT’s executive officer David Ciaravolo said.
“It acknowledges there are no figures. It seems to suggest that because they can’t think of a reason not to do it, they based a recommendation on it.
“We really do need to talk to the Government more about that, but at this stage we have more questions than answers.”