FEDERAL Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch is pushing for immediate action on improving law and order in Cairns, saying the safety of residents and visitors, and the city’s image, were being threatened.
Speaking on John McKenzie’s talkback show on 4CA Radio on Monday morning, Mr Entsch commented that the situation “seemed to be getting worse in recent months”.
He highlighted several recent examples including;
- driving down Sheridan St on a number of occasions and seeing people camping and drinking alcohol in Munro Martin Park;
- the case of a young girl being king hit by a “drunken imbecile” who knocked her over, resulting in her hitting her head on the footpath;
- walking through City Place last Friday afternoon at 2pm and seeing a large group of intoxicated people under the trees, being very argumentative and abusive to passers-by; and
- soon after, witnessing a group of half a dozen individuals sitting outside Woolworths on Lake St, openly pouring rum into bottles of Coca Cola while listening to a nearby busker.
“Why should people have to walk on the other side of the road to avoid them? And what sort of image does it create for our city?” he asked.
Mr Entsch highlighted a number of factors that have contributed to the situation, including;
- the failures of the Federal Government in closing down highly-effective rehabilitation centres such as Douglas House in Cairns and Rose Colless Haven in Mareeba, along with the “debacle” that was the mismanagement of Lyons House and the ‘Struthers’ Solution’;
- the Alcohol Management Plans (AMPs) imposed on indigenous communities in Cape York by the previous Bligh state government, which have driven people with alcohol dependence to the city; and
- the lack of assistance for people who have come to Cairns for medical treatment but then find it too expensive to get home once that treatment is completed.
“This isn’t about opening the floodgates, it’s about providing appropriate detoxification centres, treatment and healing facilities on country for people who need it,” Mr Entsch said.
“It’s also about not penalising responsible members of the community who should be able to come home from work and have a glass of wine or a beer.”
Mr Entsch said Cairns residents who were concerned about law and order should not blame the police, who were “doing the best they can with the resources available to them”.
“The police are also copping it, they’re frustrated with being a revolving door for these people who get drunk, offend and then are back on the street,” he said. “They need help as well.”
Mr Entsch is keen to work with new state members Michael Trout, Gavin King and David Kempton, as well as new Cairns Regional Council mayor Bob Manning and councillors, to find solutions.
“Things are as bad as I’ve ever seen it – there’s no way I would walk down an unlit street in this area, particularly where there are a large number of people hanging around,” he admitted. “We need some urgent action.”