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Alcohol bans could be removed

Premier Campbell Newman vows to push ahead with a review of alcohol bans in indigenous communities, saying the bans are a "policy of discrimination"

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A leading Aboriginal activist has rubbished Premier Campbell Newman's claims alcohol management plans are "discriminatory", arguing the victims of alcohol abuse are being ignored in favour of winning votes.

Indigenous academic and director of Cape York Institute, Marcia Langton, said the Aborigines campaigning for AMPs to be lifted were doing so only because they wanted to drink. *

"The human rights of an individual to drink, and that is a highly debateable right, have to be balanced against the rights of others, women and children, the elderly, the vulnerable, whose rights are regularly abused by abuses of alcohol," she said.

Professor Marcia Langton.

Professor Marcia Langton. Photo: Maxine Chaplin

Professor Langton said through domestic violence, women made up the majority of alcohol abuse victims, and they were "absolutely" being ignored by politicians.

AMPs are in place in 19 Queensland Aboriginal communities and vary from total bans, to restrictions, to regulations on what types of alcohol and how much can be brought into towns.

AMPs were introduced in 2002 and there is still debate about whether they benefit communities.

Some critics say it is still too early to tell.

Professor Langton said Aboriginal communities did not have the social resources to build up alcohol comportment and make it socially unacceptable to be intoxicated to the point of falling over or starting fights.

"It's pretty clear what they're [politicians] doing is using the promise of removing alcohol management plans to get votes," she said.

"[The consequences of lifting AMPs will be] a massive increase in violence and dysfunction in communities."

Eddie Mabo's widow, Aboriginal activist Ernestine Mabo, did not want to comment directly about AMPs but said she did not drink alcohol at all.

"I grew up with a lot of people drinking alcohol around me and bad things happened," she said.

"It's not good stuff."

The debate about AMPs erupted again on Wednesday when Prime Minister Julia Gillard used her Closing the Gap address to warn the Queensland and Northern Territory governments against making policy changes which would let "rivers of grog" flow again in indigenous communities.

Queensland is currently reviewing its AMPs.

Premier Campbell Newman responded to Ms Gillard by saying Australia had an alcohol problem and it was not just confined to indigenous communities.

"I simply say the policy of discrimination against Aboriginal people is not appropriate," he said.

"We need to tackle alcohol abuse issues across the board."

According to the last government report card, AMPs had produced mixed results in their aim to increase school attendance, lower alcohol-related violence and reduce hospital admissions.

While some communities recorded reductions in hospitalisations caused by assaults, others recorded no change.

School attendance figures went up and down across the communities covered by AMPs.

* CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Professor Langton as Professor Marcia Langford.