Submission: Mandatory Alcohol Treatment in the Northern Territory

In a submission to the Northern Territory Government, the HRLC has expressed concern that draconian new powers to tackle alcohol misuse will not be effective and breach Australia's human rights obligations.

The Alcohol Mandatory Treatment Bill (2013) proposes to introduce short-term involuntary residential or community-based treatment in cases where a person’s alcohol misuse is a risk to the health, safety or welfare of the person or others and the person could benefit from a mandatory treatment order. The operation of the Bill is automatically triggered when an individual is apprehended and taken into custody for public intoxication for the third time in two months.

The HRLC is concerned that the Bill raises significant human rights issues in relation to:

  • freedom from arbitrary detention;
  • the right to a fair trial;
  • the right to health and freedom from forced medical treatment;
  • freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and
  • the right of equality and non-discrimination.

The HRLC is concerned that strong empirical evidence has not been provided by the NT Government to demonstrably justify the potentially severe limitations on the above rights and that the measures contained in the Bill are not reasonable, necessary or proportionate.

In the absence of strong empirical evidence to support the effectiveness of mandatory treatment for alcohol misuse, the HRLC recommends that the Bill be withdrawn and strongly urges the NT Government to focus instead on the provision of comprehensive and coordinated voluntary alcohol treatment programs.

A copy of HRLC submission is available here.