The legal drinking age in the Northern Territory should be raised to 21, and the rest of Australia should consider doing the same, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians says.
The NT Government should also ban alcohol advertising on public transport and during sports events, and set a minimum price per drink, the college's president, Dr Catherine Yelland, said.
The NT Government has published 74 submissions — including those from health and legal professionals, and clubs, bars, and hotels — on its Alcohol Policies and Legislation Review.
Dr Yelland said doctors who treat alcohol-related diseases and children affected by their parents' drinking would like to see the legal age raised, potentially across the country.
"Starting drinking at an early age is associated with more risk of harmful behaviours while the young person is drinking, and also long-term effects from lifelong harmful drinking," she said.
"If you start earlier, you're likely to continue."
NT's alcohol consumption in world's top 10
Alcohol harm in the NT is the highest in the country, said the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).
"If the NT was a country, its per capita consumption would place it in the top 10 drinking nations in the world," its submission read.
Of Territorians aged over 12, more than a third consume alcohol at rates that place them at risk of short-term harm, and more than one-in-four people drink at levels that place them at risk of long-term harm, including chronic disease and illness.
FARE made 53 recommendations, including setting a minimum price that rises with wages, prohibiting shopping docket promotions and extreme discounting of alcohol, and introducing a boat licence that requires operators to have a blood alcohol limit of less than 0.05, the same as for driving a car.
Political donations from alcohol industry 'completely unethical'
FARE also called for a ban on political donations from the alcohol industry and its representatives.
In the NT, the Australian Hotels Association (AHANT) has recently been the largest donor to both major parties.
"There is a prominent conflict between the interests of the alcohol industry and those of the public. The financial success of the alcohol industry is dependent upon the consumption of alcohol, that is, the more alcohol consumed, the more money the alcohol industry makes," FARE stated, saying that was at odds with public health.
This position was backed by independent Member for Araluen Robyn Lambley, who was formerly health minister with the Country Liberals Government.
She said the current Labor Government had "already been seduced by political donations" from the alcohol industry, and recommended that it ban all political donations from the sector.
"This practice must stop. It is completely unethical that any political party or candidate be sponsored by the alcohol industry," she said.
'There are problem drinkers everywhere'
In her submission, the Alice Springs-based MLA argued against a floor price for alcohol, saying that Central Australia already had a system in place to deal with problem drinkers.
Ms Lambley also said Darwin had for years escaped "extreme" alcohol restrictions in place in regional and remote areas across the NT.
"This is clearly unfair and illogical when you consider alcohol is no less of a problem in Darwin than in other parts of the Territory," she said.
"It is time that Darwin led by example, and a fairer and more consistent alcohol policy is developed for the whole of the NT ... There are problem drinkers everywhere."
She also criticised the NT Police Association for complaining about temporary beat locations patrolling bottle shops in Alice Springs, saying there had been a 16 per cent reduction in alcohol consumption locally as a result.
"As a community we accept that alcohol is at the core of our social problems and we accept that it must be addressed through often radical policy," Ms Lambley said.
"Attention should always be given to constantly tweaking and checking to ensure that problem drinkers are not finding ways of eluding the system."
Industry pushes back against restrictions
NT hotels, clubs, pubs and bars have pushed back at any substantive changes to alcohol policy, in particular rejecting any suggestion of introducing annual liquor licensing fees, or risk-based licensing fees, which could see a nightclub with a capacity of 350 people paying over $25,000 per year, if the ACT model was adopted.
The accommodation branch of AHANT made a submission, supported by 33 hotels, that it "strongly opposes" any new fees, and supported the status quo of all current trading hour conditions, and pointed the finger at public drunkenness, which it said was damaging the tourism industry's reputation.
"Unfortunately there is a real problem of public drunkenness that is impacting our tourism industry in all major NT towns during all hours of the day and night," its submission read.
It said it was concerned about the "seemingly ease of access and oversupply of liquor from liquor outlets to often homeless or displaced people congregating in the streets and parks [of main towns]".
The Alcohol Beverages Group said the Government should focus on a "bespoke, targeted program", rather than the community-wide approach advocated by health groups.
A final report is expected at the end of September.