The Law Commission proposals on alcohol

The Government is releasing a 500 page report next Tuesday from the which makes scores of recommendations of changes to laws and policy.

The report was commissioned by the former Labour Government, and the primary author is former Labour Prime Minister Sir – who is also the Law Commission President.

Details of the report have leaked out, and I can exclusively reveal some of these. They represent a mindset which I doubt even the last Government would have ever gone along with. It stops short of prohibition and six o’clock closing, but represents a huge step backwards. Fundamentally the report fails to propose measures that target the minority of people who cause problems of crime and violence when under the influence of alcohol, and instead it has gone for a one size fits all approach which punishes millions of responsible drinkers, and especially 130,000 18 and 19 year olds.

I understand the Palmer Report proposes:

  1. A massive 50% increase in the excise tax on alcohol. This would result in an extra $500 million of revenue to the Crown at the expense of everyone who drinks.
  2. Banning the sale of liquor at off licenses after 10 pm. So if you pop into New World at 10.30 pm to do your shopping (which I often do), you won’t be able to buy a bottle of wine.
  3. Forcing bars and nightclubs to refuse to allow people to enter after 2 am.
  4. A nationwide closing time for all outlets, probably at 4 am.
  5. An increase in the purchase age for alcohol from 18 to 20, criminalising 130,000 18 and 19 year olds if they buy alcohol.

As I said, this is nanny state unleashed. What is most disappointing is the failure to come up with measures that might actually target those causing the problems such as a (instead of a purchase age), increased penalties for alcohol related crime, and a one size fit all approach.

I would not necessarily be against allowing local communities through local Government able to (for example) set a closing time for their local neighbourhood.  But a nationwide closing time that treats Ponsonby and Courtney Place as the same as (say) Wainuiomata is a bad thing.

I am sure there are some useful recommendations in the Palmer Report, but its main recommendations represent the worst excesses of nanny state and punishes all New Zealanders, rather than targeting problem drinkers and the associated violence and crime they cause.

I hope the Government, and in fact all parties in Parliament, reject any wholesale adoption of the report’s recommendations.

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