Editorials 28 April 2010

April 28th, 2010 at 2:20 pm by David Farrar

All four are on the proposed law reform. First up the Herald:

Against earlier indications and its better judgment perhaps, the Law Commission has recommended a drastic reversal of 20 years of liberal liquor regulation. …

f Parliament takes the commission’s advice, the minimum purchasing age will be restored to 20 without previous exceptions. A reasonable suggestion that 18 might remain the minimum for licensed premises, with 20 for off-licence purchases, has come to nothing.

Students and other 18 and 19-year-olds will lose the right to drink in bars and clubs unless MPs take a more realistic view. …

Communities ought to be able to decide the character and scale of their liquor supply.

That goes for inner city nightlife districts too. The commission’s proposed prohibition on all-night bars is needless. While a 4am closure would be late enough for anybody most of the time, there is self-evidently a demand for all night services in the central city and they should not be prohibited without good cause and proven benefit.

The past 20 years might not have made us more civilised but previous experience suggests the proposed regime would be a retrograde step, destined for regret.

I like the comment one journalist made to me about the proposed regime. They said they tried to thing of a single thing short on outright prohibition that Sir Geoffrey did not recommend, and they couldn’t think of any.

Next The Press:

There will be support for raising the purchase age to 20 years at all venues selling alcohol, because the experiment of lowering the age a decade ago has been a costly failure.

As critics feared, the age when teenagers begin drinking has percolated down, with many as young as 14 years heavily imbibing, and there is growing evidence of the harm alcohol does to developing brains.

Raising the age should make it harder for under-age drinkers to buy alcohol and less likely for older friends or relatives to purchase it for those as young as 14. The medical evidence also outweighs complaints from older teenagers that it is unfair to raise the liquor purchase age when they can drive or marry at a younger age.

I hate such fuzzy logic. Advocating that the solution to stopping 14 year olds getting alcohol is to make it illegal for 19 year olds to go to a bar or have wine in a restaurant. They also ignore the evidence most under age alcohol supply comes from parents.

While much attention will centre on the purchase age and the proposed increase in the alcohol excise tax, even though the latter is unlikely to be implemented, the commission’s recommendations should be regarded as a coherent package, with the focus on moderation and responsibility.

It’s a coherent package alright. Prohibition was coherent also.

The Dom Post:

The problem the commission faces is that, in seeking to deal with problem drinkers, it has also affected the majority, who believe they drink responsibly.

No-one wants drunks running amok in the capital’s party zone, but nor do they want to be told that they cannot buy a bottle of wine to take home from a supermarket after 10pm.

There are similar reservations over the proposed rise in the to 20. Whatever the science – and recent research indicates that the effects of alcohol on young brains have been underestimated – convincing the public that people old enough to vote, join the armed forces and marry are not mature enough to buy a cold beer at the end of a hot summer’s day will not be easy.

More particularly, politicians who want the age to rise will have to tell a sizeable chunk of their voters – the 18 to 20-year-olds – that a right they previously had would be taken from them. In the face of a promised organised campaign by young people, including the youth wings of major parties, to keep the age at 18, that is asking for a lot of political courage.

The talk of political courage reminds of of the Yes Minister episode when teh sure fire way to scare a Minister off doing something is to tell them doing so would be brave or courageous :-)

And the ODT:

Our most recent experiment with liberalisation has proved to be a fatally attractive combination for our youth in the sale of wine and beer in supermarkets and the reduction of the minimum age of purchase to 18 years.

No doubt mature and sensible drinkers have welcomed both innovations – supermarket sales statistics would seem to bear out that presumption – and the State has certainly benefited from taxes on alcohol, for excise tax alone produced more than $900 million in 2008. …

To some extent, the additional recommendations of the commission – restrictions on who can supply alcohol to minors and in what circumstances; increasing the ability of local people to influence how and where alcohol is sold in their communities; a civil cost recovery regime for those taken into custody when grossly intoxicated – may have a greater long-term impact than simply increasing the purchase age. …

The way I count it is one editorial pretty hostile to the thrust of the ’s recommendations, one very supportive and two somewhat cautiously in the middle – pro doing something, but not everything.

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19 Responses to “Editorials 28 April 2010”

  1. lastmanstanding (1,297 comments) says:

    Governments can make all the laws in the world around this issue and it wont mean diddly squat

    Its all about education and changing behaviour and as pollies and civil servants have no way Jose of achieving this they will just continue to do the same old same old.

    Like all matter children it starts and finishes with the parents.

    Good parents Mum and Dad working together as a team Chances are children will grow up to be responsible adults.

    Bad parents incapable of working together as a team. Chances are children will grow up bad.

    Aint rocket science.

    How to achieve.

    Leave children with bad parents get bad children.

    Just like with H&S remove from hazard to safe place and get good children.

    Dont have the balls to do the right thing

    Then expect to get more of the same dimbulbs

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  2. menace (402 comments) says:

    that’s right LMS society is a product of society.

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  3. menace (402 comments) says:

    and no alcohol sold to “miners”

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  4. Danyl Mclauchlan (1,069 comments) says:

    More particularly, politicians who want the age to rise will have to tell a sizeable chunk of their voters – the 18 to 20-year-olds – that a right they previously had would be taken from them. In the face of a promised organised campaign by young people, including the youth wings of major parties, to keep the age at 18, that is asking for a lot of political courage.

    It’s not that courageous – as a demographic they have the lowest turn out on election day.

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  5. Pete George (23,560 comments) says:

    Putting the purchase age up from 18 to 20 will mean that retail outlets that follow the law now will exclude some more customers, and those outlets that don’t try and abide by the law will keep doing what they are doing now.

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  6. Bevan (3,924 comments) says:

    I like the comment one journalist made to me about the proposed regime. They said they tried to thing of a single thing short on outright prohibition that Sir Geoffrey did not recommend, and they couldn’t think of any.

    Sounds like that journalist is an idiot – I hope they do not write opinion pieces. They could have raised the drinking age higher than 20 – that would still be tougher, but less than outright prohibition.

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  7. Fletch (6,387 comments) says:

    I saw Mike King talking on the Good Morning show today and he was talking about his alcohol addiction and depression. They also discussed it in a panel. I think it’s worth putting the age and the price up. As Mike said, “the young should be priced out of the market”. Hopefully in a few years, binge drinking will have the same stigma as smoking.

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  8. Le Grande Fromage (145 comments) says:

    What I hate is when journalists (as in the Dom Post editorial) get all noncey and talk about the potential inability of teenagers to puchase a cold beer at the end of a hot summers day.

    If that is all they were doing now we wouldnt be having this conversation. Unfortunately they buy two dozen Dr nobheads peach bum lickers and get all stupid.

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  9. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    Palmer sounded like a miserable old git on TV last night as he lectured us that people go out and drink in order to get drunk. So what? People enjoy it and for 99% of them it isn’t a problem. It’s like some moralising Green telling us that people are evil because they enjoy long hot powerful showers. Or a Christian telling us that sex is evil unless baby-making is the aim. Or a Green telling us that people just drive their cars around at the weekend for fun, regardless of the deaths and pollution it causes, and promoting a driving age of 20 and higher taxes on cars in order to dissuade people from frivolous driving.

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  10. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    I think there is a lack of balance in the arguments raised by those against the recommendations. There are relevant facts that are either ignored or glossed over.

    1. An (unrestricted) drinking age of 18 is not some long standing ‘birthright’ in this country – The vote to move from 20 to 18 was only made in 1999

    2. Prior to this change 18 year olds were only allowed to drink alcohol on licensed premises under the supervision of a parent or guardian. (I recall the same restriction applied with respect to alcohol at restaurants). To make statements that seem to imply rules that gave general and unrestricted access to 18 year olds under the previous law is disingenuous to say the least

    3. While an adult could buy alcohol for an 18 year old, the effect of other laws would result in that alcohol being for consumption only at a private residence. An 18 year old was not permitted to buy alcohol at an off license. That in itself provided a level of control that is no longer in place

    I think a fundamental and obvious truth here is that the social experiment of lowering the drinking age to 18 failed and we should all be adult enough to admit it. While I offer only anecdotal evidence I think the media over the past 10 or so years has shown a greater incidence of alcohol related violence and social issues among 18 and 19 year olds that was the case prior to the drinking age being lowered.

    As for the complaints over licensing hours, I fail to see how 4am is not anything other than exceptionally generous. The Commission could well have recommended an earlier closing time (although perhaps earlier than 12am would have been a little ‘backward’ in thinking.) I struggle to think that anyone could concoct an argument that being able to drink until later in the night does not correlate to greater at risk behaviours, or alcohol-related violence & accidents.

    Quite frankly 4am doesn’t represent much of a restriction at all.

    As for arguments about the Rugby World Cup and NZ looking immature and archaic to the world, the wialers seem ot forget that under previous licensing laws, exemptions and longer hours were able to be granted for special events. A return to that model would be enough to ensure the RWC and our image was not tarnished [any more than our current seeming penchant for violence and substance abuse doesn't already tarnish it]

    (As a side note to #3 above. While I acknowledge that a return to that model may simply drive many of the behavioural issues and violence back to the suburbs and home, it is also an environment of smaller groups (generally speaking) and therefore less likely to result in the large scale violence which we are so blessed with in the news all too frequently. It wouldn’t solve all ills by any stretch, but an improvement is a good thing and we certainly shouldn’t not do anything on the basis that we cannot fix the entire problem.)

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  11. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    Fletch>As Mike said, “the young should be priced out of the market”.

    Unless you have different prices depending on age, that isn’t going to happen. What you might achieve is pricing poor people out of the market. And maybe that isn’t a bad thing? Friday nights in town would be a lot better if you didn’t have to mix with manual labourers, shop assistants, and other riffraff.

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  12. k.jones (210 comments) says:

    John K is, to coin a phrase, “getting closer to god in a tight situation”. He cant not do this stuff because the public has so shifted on the issue. On the other hand, when he does, it’ll annoy the bejezus out of you “bluer than blue” types….

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  13. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    Or a Christian telling us that sex is evil unless baby-making is the aim

    davidp, Are you kidding? Our baby-making days are loooong gone and the sex just keeps getting better. If you had said “Christian’s telling us they think it’s not ok to screw anyone and everyone” then you’d be closer :)

    Back on topic, why does Palmer says everyone who drinks does so to get drunk?. I drink plenty (a red wine aficionado), but I choose not to get pissed. Same goes for most of my friends.

    Palmer should shuffle off quietly. He’s bringing the aged into disrepute.

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  14. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    This policy suggestion just makes no sense, as usual. Questions that need to be answered before anything is done:
    – what is the problem we are trying to solve?
    – is that problem any worse than it was in the past?
    – will the proposed policy make any difference to the problem?
    – what will the side effects be?
    – what is the net result.

    So far as I can tell, there are three supposed problems.
    1. Drunk people causing trouble at night
    – is it any worse than before? I suggest no. Is there any evidence it is?
    – will the policy make any difference? Closing hours probably will, lowering drinking age I think not – we just have slightly older people being drunk and disorderly. Remember also our previous belief that our relatively high drinking age led to binge drinking, where countries like France who let kids drink young have a healthier attitude to alcohol – arguably going to a higher drinking age increases our binge drinking culture
    – side effects: increasing price and reducing availability of alcohol to very many people who weren’t causing a problem
    – net result – I’d call it negative

    2. Underage drinking
    – raising the drinking age likely to have little impact on underage drinkers – if you can get beer at 14, changing the age from 18 to 20 won’t change your ability to get beer
    – the other restrictions I don’t think were targeted at nor will impact underage drinking
    – I doubt the problem is any worse than before we changed direction 5-10 years ago
    – I doubt the policy change will make any difference
    – as above, considerable side effects
    – net, negative

    3. Health effects of binge drinking
    – reducing availability, increasing cost of alcohol to reduce binge drinking
    – increasing drinking age increases unhealthy attitude to alcohol
    – doubt problem is any worse than in the past, I’d argue it is getting gradually better
    – net negative from policy change
    – plus side effects
    – overall, lots of negative

    I think the real problem here is that certain people have gotten older, and they’re acting like crusty old men: “look at all those young people having fun. In my day we didn’t behave like that.” Which is crap, because if you ask carefully you’ll find out than in their day they used to steal booze from the old man’s liquor cabinet, get drunk, and drive beaten up cars really fast. Kind of like the youth of today do. Changing the law isn’t going to change that.

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  15. backster (2,171 comments) says:

    The drinking age level can’t be raised to 20 unless the voting age is also raised to 20 otherwise Political suicide. Fancy having these highly paid labour appointed people wasting so much time doing irrelevant research and producing so much nonsense.

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  16. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    krazykiwi>Palmer should shuffle off quietly. He’s bringing the aged into disrepute.

    He is, isn’t he! I thought the FaceBook thing the other day was a classic. I can just imagine him banging on about how he didn’t have FaceBook when he was a boy. And if you wanted to take a photo of your friends out on the town then you had to set a camera up on a tripod, insert a glass plate, and hide your head under a fabric cover. In fact, if we banned FaceBook and digital cameras the we could eliminate anti-social behaviour overnight. They should be taxed! And restricted to people over 20 (*), or people who are married.

    (*) My sister warned me recently not to “friend” my 12 year old niece unless I wanted to subject myself to endless inanity. And how right she was! She “liked” 75 pages on Sunday alone. Hardly any of them were even slightly literate.

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  17. Fletch (6,387 comments) says:

    davidp, yes, I don’t get people joining these facebook groups with stupid names that they’re never going to look at again…

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  18. Scott (1,800 comments) says:

    I like the idea of raising the drinking age back to 20. When it was lowered to 18 there was a huge influx of drunken 18 year olds roaming the streets of Wellington and other cities. Lowering the drinking age has caused a problem.

    DPF has made the point in the past that responsibility should be with the local communities and local councils. That is fine up to a point — I wish local councils would do something about the huge problem but they seem reluctant to do it.

    I am unhappy about the idea of raising tax on alcohol. Philosophically I think this national government is far too quick to raise taxes (thinking of GST here) and should be lowering taxes. This should not be a revenue generation exercise.

    But if people want freedom, then people need to act responsibly. Freedom can only happen when we have virtuous citizens. Unfortunately, if this blog is anything to go by, we just have a bunch of scoffers and mockers who refuse to recognise there is a problem with alcohol abuse and don’t care enough to offer a solution.

    You want freedom — people need to act responsibly. The liberal policies of the past decade have been a disastrous failure and have contributed to the problem of widespread alcohol abuse. If the laws need to be tightened up — then I for one support them.

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  19. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    Scott: evidence please. I don’t believe that there has been a significant increase in drunkenness since the age change. The composition may have changed a bit – so logically there are more 18 year olds than there were, but there were still plenty of 20, 21 and 22 year olds before the law changed.

    As for responsibility, as long as the government keeps acting like it is their job to stop people from drinking, instead of enforcing the existing laws that prohibit public drunkenness, then of course people won’t be responsible for their actions. If we locked people up whenever found drunk and obnoxious in public, then people would stop doing it.

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