The Law Commission proposals on alcohol

April 22nd, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

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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71 Responses to “The Law Commission proposals on alcohol”

  1. adamsmith1922 (890 comments) says:

    A 50% increase in taxes, would up the CPI, cause many bars/restaurants to go out of business and raise unemployment as well as hitting many law abiding people totally unnecessarily. It will negatively impact tourism if bars/restaurants close. It is to be hoped that Key will recognize this as a huge vote loser, but do not hold your breath.

    This report exemplifies the elitist approach of people like Palmer, who no doubt drinks Chardoonay and can well afford any price increase unlike the majority.

    So if Palmer gets his way you will be able to drive and have sex at 16, marry. Vote at 18, die for your country if in the armed forces at 18, but not be able to legally drink.

    What a crock!

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  2. berend (1,699 comments) says:

    I’m from a neighbourhood that probably likes to see a 6pm ban on selling alcohol, but I agree with DPF why would this have to be a nation wide ban? Absolutely unnecessary.

    Anyway, John Key isn’t rushing out that he would never ever implement this. Which he does for anything else that even reeks of economic liberation. So we can safely bet he’ll happily support it.

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  3. David Farrar (1,883 comments) says:

    The report has not been released yet, so we don’t know what the Government’s position on it will be.

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  4. Michaels (1,318 comments) says:

    Why is Palmer a Sir??

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  5. Michaels (1,318 comments) says:

    The 50% increase in excise tax reminds me of those good old days when we would go out the night before the budget and fill up our car with petrol, buy some grog and top up with fags as without doubt, they were always included.

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  6. Jeff83 (743 comments) says:

    Total fail, and what a surprise Palmer is a bit of a bore. Yet again proof that I am against government regulation on drugs full stop, they cant help them bloody selves.

    The only one I am partially ok with is the tax one, as this mainly targets binge drinkers (difference on exercise on a nice bottle of wine not notisable, but when you get to bulk) as this would help pay for increased costs that are caused by alcohol.

    But other ones I mean seriously. Idiots.

    For example closing at 4am. Hamilton has a 3am version of this, what it results in is chaos, people waiting for taxis etc and often this is when trouble starts. Same for restricting entry till before 2. Dont we want people away in establishments rather than the fricken streets?

    What they do want to do is start enforcing more strictly bars not serving people who are hammered. BUT that is the law as iti s now, they just got to enforce it.

    Bla.

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  7. Brian Smaller (4,007 comments) says:

    That will make ‘Party Central’ a pretty depressing place to be at 2am after the World Cup Final.

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  8. scrubone (3,091 comments) says:

    Hm, maybe we could just have anyone coming into hospital drunk pay full cost for their care.

    50% seems a bit high, but the others don’t go far enough IMHO.

    Experience has shown that those who opposed the repeal of the old drinking law (which had numerous exceptions for those 18-20) were absolutely 100% right in their predictions.

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  9. goonix (140 comments) says:

    If true those proposals are absolutely disgusting. Take his knighthood back!

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  10. Jack5 (5,014 comments) says:

    Even if NZ wasn’t such a welfare state, it would be hard for health insurance and accident insurance to recoup alcohol’s huge costs to society.

    Alcohol is by far the most devastating drug in NZ, and excise should be raised to help recoup some of the costs to the health, welfare, and justice systems. As for the present effects of excise, look at the bargain prices of beer in supermarkets. Often it’s as cheap or cheaper than soft drinks.

    The supermarkets contributed to alcohol’s surge. They said they would only stock cheap family wine, and implied it would be a minor item. Now it’s probably their biggest or second biggest sales line. They have pushed into beer as well, and want spirits. Stuff them!

    When you see what alcohol’s doing to young people, the drinking age should also be raised. Alcohol’s damage to NZers is worse than that of tobacco, P, and all illegal drugs combined. Young people will drink a year or two under the legal age. With the present age limit, early-teens kids are hogging into alcohol.

    I’m no teetotaller. I would like a society than drank much less, though, and drank in a more civilised way.

    In the meantime if it’s a choice between DPF being able to buy wine around midnight and the present drunken chaos, well I’m sorry DPF, you’ll just have to buy a wine rack and stock up.

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  11. Manolo (13,518 comments) says:

    Nothing less could be expected from a commission headed by a wowser and elitist like Palmer. As a good Labour socialist he proposes higher taxes and more controls.

    I look forward to the government rejecting and binning the report immediately after reception. Will Simon Power have the balls?

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  12. GPT1 (2,116 comments) says:

    As part devil’s advocate what is the major issue of a 4am closing? I can see it affecting some hospo staff and the like but here’s my question for the assembled kiwiblog brains – how many times have you drunk past 4am and got true utility from it? In my life time I can think of two occasions both when I was younger. Frankly on the odd occasion I push into the 4am area in town I could have done with being home a lot earlier. In other words although a forced 4am closing is idelogocially impure does it practically matter?

    [DPF: I've sometimes been in town at 4 am, and still enjoying it, and not causing any violence or crime. Also note that by that time one is often drinking water and dancing the alcohol off, so forcing people out at 4 am may actually result in worse outcomes]

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  13. goonix (140 comments) says:

    “I look forward to the government rejecting and binning the report immediately after reception. Will Simon Power have the balls?”

    They’d better or they will lose the last shred of respect I have for them.

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  14. goonix (140 comments) says:

    Re: 4am closing – lots of people are out at that time. Just because you aren’t doesn’t mean that other people shouldn’t be able to be. What should the state have to do with that?

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  15. redeye (628 comments) says:

    Jack5, very well said.

    I doubt very much if any of this will be implemented. After all Key completely trashed the Law Commissions drug recommendations, ironically just after he called the call for a ban on smoking on beaches “too nanny state”.

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  16. Kris K (3,570 comments) says:

    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.

    1) Disagree STRONGLY – increasing excise tax just penalises everyone, especially responsible drinkers.

    2), 3), 4) I think these are good common sense measures, and will foster more responsible drinking.

    5) Agree STRONGLY that putting the drinking age BACK up to 20 is a good thing. Why it was ever lowered to 18 is beyond me. And youth alcohol related behaviour/crime bears out that lowering the drinking age to 18 was one of the more stupid things that was brought into law under Labour. Let’s hope Key overturns this bad, ill thought out law.

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  17. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    IIRC About 1/4 of 18-24 years olds who drink say they get drunk once a week or more. About 1/4 of 18-24 year old males say they have been assaulted by someone who has been drinking. About 10% of women 18-24 say they have been sexually harrassed by someone who was drinking and it’s not that much different for men.

    It’s not a small number of people causing problems. It’s not a small number of people being effected by other people’s drinking.

    Aren’t you of Russian decent, DPF? Are you sure you can be objective about alcohol issues?

    [DPF: Getting drunk is not a problem that needs to be banned. Doing bad things when drunk is a problem. You target those who cause the problems, not those who like to party late]

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  18. Gooner (995 comments) says:

    I could have written the LC’s report in four words:

    Ban, restrict, prohibit and tax.

    These are the usual responses to any problem in New Zealand.

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  19. Pete George (23,436 comments) says:

    Ok, what would address the huge alcohol problem we have in NZ then?

    [DPF: A drinking age, not just a purchase age. Criminalising irresponsible supply to minors. An infringement offence of drunk in a public place. Allowing local communities more flexibility with licensing conditions. Harsher penalties for assaults. A demerits system tied to a drinking license for under 25s. Compulsory breathalysers in cars for recidivist drink drivers.

    The test should be whether a measure will target those causing the problem, or penalise all drinkers]

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  20. Jack5 (5,014 comments) says:

    The “most ad hominem” comment of all ad hominem comments? MPledgert at 11.02:

    …Aren’t you of Russian decent, DPF? Are you sure you can be objective about alcohol issues?

    In fact there do seem to be some genetic predispositions to alcohol addiction. Scots and Irish, Scandinavians, Russians, Polynesians, North American “Indians” are among those who seem more at risk. Peoples who seem far less susceptible to alcoholism include Chinese, Jews, and perhaps Italians. Some speculate that this may be because they have had alcohol in their societies much longer. Those susceptible to becoming alcoholics in these very old societies probably died out long ago (before AA, State drying out facilities, and Geoffrey Palmer). This reduced subsequent genetic predisposition. If this is actually so, NZ has high genetic predisposition with its Polynesian, Scots, and Irish roots.

    I think from old posts, that DPF has some Jewish heritage. Even if this is Russian Jewish because of the ancient diaspora, I think MPledger’s ad hominem move on DPF fails.

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  21. ben (2,374 comments) says:

    I would like a society than drank much less, though, and drank in a more civilised way.

    Thanks Jack5. So basically coerce and punish the 90%+ of people drinking responsibly in the hope that you get one or two of the idiots as well.

    A couple of things:

    # the idiots are much less responsive to excise than moderate drinkers. All the wrong people stop drinking when taxes go up.

    # A Treasury study in 2002 showed that excise at the levels then already covered the external costs associated with alcohol. Cost is not a reason to raise taxes again.

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  22. MT_Tinman (3,102 comments) says:

    GPT1 (1102) Says:
    April 22nd, 2010 at 10:46 am

    As part devil’s advocate what is the major issue of a 4am closing? I can see it affecting some hospo staff and the like but here’s my question for the assembled kiwiblog brains – how many times have you drunk past 4am and got true utility from it? In my life time I can think of two occasions both when I was younger. Frankly on the odd occasion I push into the 4am area in town I could have done with being home a lot earlier. In other words although a forced 4am closing is idelogocially impure does it practically matter?

    When I first went to Queenstown to work, 1997, they had a blanket 03:00 closing policy.

    Every morning at about 03:10 the fights started when too many people fought for too few taxis.

    Carnage continued for about an hour or until the crowds dwindled.

    The answer is not more taxis, cabbies cannot make a living in one hour a day (nor can bus companies) but, as Queenstown did, allow the staggering of closing times thereby alleviating the crush.

    Palmer, who admitted when he was deputy PM he liked cowboy music, has almost certainly never experienced genuine nightlife – in fact as a career politician and then trougher, probably has never experienced real life.

    This report, based on DPF’s forecast, is simply yet another attempt by commynist wowsers to control even more of peoples’ lives.

    Resist it strenuously!

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  23. redeye (628 comments) says:

    Police statistic show it (alcohol) has played a major part in 30% of ALL crime?

    88% of violent crime reported on a Fri and Sat night is down to alcohol.

    According to NZDrugs, alcohol is responsible for 1000 deaths a year in this country.

    I’d go further and issue drinking licenses when you reach the legal age. You fuck up and you lose your right to drink or be drunk (at least in public) for a specified period.

    Too nanny state? Apply your same arguments to cannabis.

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  24. Jack5 (5,014 comments) says:

    MT-Tinman at 11.45:

    …This report, based on DPF’s forecast, is simply yet another attempt by commynist wowsers to control even more of peoples’ lives…

    You wouldn’t be one of those extreme libertarians, would you, MT? They are just as deluded in their Utopianism as the “commynist” Marxists were, and the anarchists, and the fascists. Libertarians seem to want all drugs legalised and all taxes abolished. They are mad.

    However, MT’s point about the violence in early-morning Queenstown is evidence of the problems fuelled by lax controls on alcohol.

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  25. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    The problem with these proposals is that they are regulations to control people who obey the law. The problem is not people who obey the law but people who do not. When I’m sitting in bed and kept awake at 2am by youths who are getting drunk and partying on the street I’m not thinking “if only they were taxed more”, nor am I thinking “if only bars closed earlier”, nor am I thinking “if only the drinking age was raised”. I’m thinking where the hell are the cops and why won’t they come after repeated calls and complaints? Raising tax will not stop the youths from drinking. They are not in bars they are on the street so closing bars will not stop them either, perhaps it will only increase the number of people who take to partying on the streets. Raising the drinking age will not stop them either as many of them are already underage yet manage to obtain their alcohol anyway.

    The problem with civil disobedience is not solved by increasing restrictions on alcohol, it is solved by implementing measures which actually deal with people who create such public disorder. If civil disorder is treated as a serious crime people will take it seriously.

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  26. Jack5 (5,014 comments) says:

    Re Weihana’s 12.01:

    The problem is that when young folk are pissed there isn’t much rational thinking, such as considering penalties for “civil disorder”. Consider the link below.

    Police, ambulance and casualty ward staff, those seeing the damage of alcohol on families are the people to listen to, not booze industry PR practitioners.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10640030

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  27. goonix (140 comments) says:

    “Too nanny state? Apply your same arguments to cannabis.”

    I agree that cannabis should be decriminalised at the very least, if not legalised outright.

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  28. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Jack5 – Libertarians are right that all drugs should be legalized. However, they should also be regulated and punishments for supplying minors should be severe.

    The very concept of prohibiting them is flawed and, whether or not the drug is alcohol or methamphetamine, the failure is the same. Prohibition creates a black market in such drugs which fund criminal organisations. The police, courts, prisons waste countless dollars investigating and punishing people for drug use, many of whom are completely non-violent. But worst of all is that for all this effort people’s habits remain largely unaffected. People who want to use intoxicating substances use them regardless of the law. A person’s values dictate whether or not they want to use certain substances and those values are not dictated to by the law.

    On the other hand there is an argument that changes in the law could affect the most vulnerable people in society, young people, whose ethics and values are in a formative stage of development. Certainly a society which treated drug use as a health problem, rather than a criminal one, would have to maintain a strong sense of social disapproval towards drug use and would have to treat supplying minors with alcohol or drugs as a very serious crime. Unfortunately, in a society where drugs are prohibited young people have easy access to the worst drugs sourced from people who are already committing a crime and therefore have no incentive to deny access to people who are underage.

    By any objective measure prohibition has failed. We have had it for decades and drug use appears only to have gotten worse despite increased efforts by the authorities. Why are such policies so immune from any analysis of their effects?

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  29. Viking2 (11,368 comments) says:

    criminalising 130,000 18 and 19 year olds if they buy alcohol.

    Now would that be the same criminalizing that parents are in fear of if they smack their kids?

    Seems to me to be the same. Didn’t like that and don’t think this will change a thing.

    On the basis of previous track record this will be adopted.

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  30. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Re Jack5 – “The problem is that when young folk are pissed there isn’t much rational thinking, such as considering penalties for “civil disorder”.

    I’m not asking drunk people to think rationally. I’m asking the police to arrest them and take them away. They routinely do not. Even when they appear to be consuming prohibited substances the police often just disperse them and threaten them without any real action. This tells youth that the punishment for creating disorder is to be dispersed by the police. In other words there is no punishment.

    This kind of treatment breeds disrespect for the authorities just as a parent who tells a child “don’t do that or else” but never follows through with the “or else” will never get that child to respect and obey their instructions. Drunk youths and young children may be irrational but they do respond to consequences. When there are no consequences the authorities will be treated with contempt culminating in the type of behaviour where partying youths throw bottles at police.

    Most people consume their alcohol legally and responsibly. It’s association with so much crime and health issues is not a fundamental characteristic of the drug, but in my view is a symptom of deeper problems. A wife beater blaming his actions on alcohol is just a man looking to lay blame anywhere but at his own door. Everyone likes to think they are a good person, even if it is only deep down. Thus murderers and other violent people will forever seek to blame their behaviour on alcohol, P or whatever. I think we owe it to ourselves not to buy into their delusions. While I’m not trying to say substance abuse does not contribute to behaviour I am saying that it is a symptom of a deeper character flaw that exists regardless of such substance abuse.

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  31. Grizz (592 comments) says:

    I feel for the police and the nightshift Emergency Department staff who have to deal with the many problems that result from alcohol consumption. Binge drinking in particular. It puts a huge strain on Emergency services, particularly when most people employed in these areas would prefer to spend such times asleep in their own beds.

    Unfortunately for drinkers, there is a cost to the state and all taxpayers for their actions and quite frankly binge drinkers are not taking enough responsibility for their behaviour. I have no reason to oppose increasing taxes on the sale of alcohol. If it were totally harmless then there would be no need for taxes. However, I would rather see the taxes in the form of ACC rather than general tax. For all their injuries, drunks claim ACC. You can be disabled though the actions of drunk drivers and you will get the full ACC treatment. However if you were to be disabled through a non-accident medical condition, you are on your own. Why then should drunks continue to get the full treatment when they do not pay for it. Besides, the more you drink, the more ACC you pay.

    Responsible drinking suggests drinking relatively less. So you would expect them to pay less. Binge drinkers ultimately pay more, and so they should as they are more likely to dumb things which cause injury.

    The problem with the drinking age is that it is not enforced properly. If it was raised, you will still have the same problems. 30 and 40 year olds can be just as irresponsible as 18 year olds. That said, to help enforce appropriate drinking culture it would be better to have on-license rights starting from 18 and off-license rights at age 20. Hence you can buy alcohol at restaurants and bars on turning 18, but not from liquor outlet until age 20.

    Closing bars all at the same time only leads to fights when patrons spill out onto the street all together.

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  32. menace (402 comments) says:

    Given the fact that alcohol does far more damage to society than all the illegal drugs combined perhaps these proposals don’t go even far enough.

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  33. menace (402 comments) says:

    All recent studies show that if alcohol were to be invented today that it would be categorized as a class B or class A drug. Should drugs be illegal or illegal? Our laws are confusing and contradicting.

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  34. menace (402 comments) says:

    In any case I do like a drink, sometimes I like the feeling of being heavily drunk even, I very seldom go out and like to distil my own, so as long as they are not hiking tax’s on sugar and yeast it doesn’t really effect me either way.

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  35. Short Shriveled and Slightly to the Left (786 comments) says:

    “lowering the drinking age to 18 was one of the more stupid things that was brought into law under Labour.”

    Wasn’t it a conscience vote under a National-led government?

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  36. tvb (4,326 comments) says:

    Sir Geoffrey Palmer is a plain stupid choice for this very complex social issue. His simplistic arrogance on complex social issues is breath taking. He should stick to whales and things.

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  37. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    I think I can agree with the idea that the state spends money on alcohol related expenses and so the most practical way to recover that money is by taxing alcohol. However, the pertinent question is whether current alcohol taxes properly account for the expenses undertaken by the state. The presumption appears to be that current taxation is inadequate to account for all costs. So I’ve had a look at the “Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use” report prepared for the Ministry of Health. http://www.berl.co.nz/874a1.page

    The report concludes that harmful alcohol use costs society an estimated 4.5 billion a year (2005/06). To my understanding alcohol taxation brings in about 900 million a year. Clearly not enough. But what are these costs exactly?

    Tangible costs: $3369 million
    Intangible costs: $1569 million

    Tangible cost breakdown:

    Labour costs: $1763 million
    Crime: $716 million
    Drug production: $342 million
    Health care: $343 million
    Road crashes: $204.5 million

    A large proportion of these costs are loss of economic output. Certainly society would benefit from such economic output but the loss of such economic output is not necessarily the same as an expense the taxpayer must be burdened with. For instance, if some genius invents some fantastic new machine he may increase economic output substantially. Alternatively he may decide to do nothing and get a low skill job. But the fact that he doesn’t create some amazing new machine which would benefit society doesn’t mean he owes society a debt. This appears to be the kind of logic being employed when they compare alcohol taxation with such “societal costs”.

    Just under half of the tangible costs are “lost output”. In terms of unemployment I can see that there would definitely be a welfare cost there, but for a large part there wouldn’t be a cost in terms of government expenditure. 300 million is also attributed to production of alcohol. This to is not a government expense. It is produced privately and paid for by the consumers. Surely they don’t need to be taxed again to pay for something they already paid for? Yes resources have been diverted but they have been paid for, so it doesn’t need to be paid for by an alcohol tax.

    Crime, healthcare and road crashes seem fair to consider, though I would caution that crime is often attributed as “alcohol related” but that does not necessarily indicate causation.

    Furthermore, of the 4.5 billion 1.5 billion relate to “intangible costs” such as loss of life and quality of life. Again, this does not equate to an expense the taxpayer is burdened with and therefore something that needs to be made up through taxation of alcohol.

    So although it does seem that alcohol costs a lot to the government, it seems the cost is being inflated to include things which are not relevant.

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  38. JiveKitty (777 comments) says:

    @Weihana: Is there any consideration of the benefits alcohol production and consumption may have?

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  39. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Re JiveKitty:

    IIRC they have explicitly excluded any consideration of the benefits of alcohol consumption due to the fact that the benefits are somewhat contentious. Not too fussed about that. I would imagine the benefits of consumption (in terms of health) are significantly outweighed by the costs.

    In terms of production no I don’t think they’ve really taken that into account but I may be misunderstanding their methods.

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  40. noskire (837 comments) says:

    Watch the sales of methylated spirits skyrocket if excise tax does increase 50%.

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  41. philu (13,393 comments) says:

    as a (now-clean/abstaining) addict…i can see/hear/feel yr pain..there..dpf..

    ..at 4.00am..in the groove..and asking/pleading .. ‘why must i stop..!”..

    ..i used to go on benders for days..(4.00am..?.meh!..on the second or third day..?..)

    ..how long since you had a ‘dry’ week..?..day..?.there..dpf..?

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  42. JiveKitty (777 comments) says:

    I wondered as yes, in terms of health, the costs probably significantly outweigh the benefits, but to fully ignore that alcohol does have some benefits suggests a methodology that is trying to lend itself to particular conclusions, particularly as many of those costs you’ve listed appear to be somewhat contentious in and of themselves, as you’ve noted with references to lost output and correlation not being equivalent to causation. I suspect if I looked further than the summary, the costs in the summary would be the high ends of the estimates?

    Regardless, I doubt the proposed measures detailed by DPF would really deal with the problems, but hey, they’d pay some lip service to people who are keen to impose their own values on others and make it worse for the majority who do imbibe and don’t cause trouble, so sweet, sounds like a winner on the government policy front. Both National and Labour can support doing that.

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  43. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    When I worked in the city ( young and stupid ) we use to finish at the foundry at 4am and then would go to the pub for a drink. I thought that our society was 24/7, just because you work night shift why should you not be able to have a drink after work.

    As for this idiot Palmer, should be stripped naked, covered in honey and pegged out over an ants nest. Failing that it looks like the still will have to get a serious dusting over.

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  44. Pita (373 comments) says:

    Rather than address the issues of a bloated bureaucracy and a welfare state that we can no longer afford this government seems determined to gouge the last nickel from the tax payers purse in order to prop it up

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  45. laworder (288 comments) says:

    Well to be quite honest I hope John Key picks this up and runs with it, especially the increase in excise tax. This Government is running a budget deficit and we are borrowing money. Rather than do that he should be looking for additional revenue, and this is a way of raising it that also has considerable social benefits as a side effect. Doing a double whammy with tobacco taxes would raise plenty of addtional revenue and also save the taxpayer a lot of health and justice spending down the line

    Regards
    Peter Jenkins

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  46. big bruv (13,686 comments) says:

    ” I promise a programme of ongoing tax cuts”

    Neville Key, 2008.

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  47. Michael (903 comments) says:

    We already have strong laws for dealing with intoxicated people in licenced premises. We just have poor enforcement and worse compliance by the premises. If Police started finding the last stop of every drunk they lock up to dry out and prosecuting when it’s a bar we would get much less problems associated with alcohol.

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  48. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    laworder: Perhaps cutting spending would be an alternative to the nanny state?

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  49. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Michael: I’m not really sure how fair that is. The simple reality is we have an industry set up around getting drunk. Venues are walking a tight line between someone having a good time and getting off their face. If the sign “We won’t serve intoxicated people” were true, then no one would be having more than one drink. The reality is that it is not always that simple to monitor how much people have had. They can look absolutely fine one minute and then be overboard the next. Liquor Licensing should certainly investigate venues which have a history of problems, but a simple solution like yours would seem rather unfair and would hurt the industry in my opinion.

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  50. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    so why not we make it illegal to be drunk in public?
    easy to test for.
    blow into this little bag sir…

    1st offence straight to jail and appear in the next court morning.
    courts run mon-fri so you sit all weekend if need be. tough.
    then you get fined, 1 month in jail suspended and bound over for 2 yrs. have to do a alac or similar course and pass!

    2nd time its dead easy.
    you go to jail for a month then go to court,
    you get 3 months jail suspended for 3 yrs, resit car and firearms licenses, have to do alcohol counseling for 6 months after you come out of jail for 1 month.
    Winz looks at your home situation.

    3rd time go straight to jail for 3 months, then go to court.
    All supervisory roles and entitlements you have or own are up for examination.
    6 months suspended for 5 yrs
    lose car and firearms licences.

    this is not hard.

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  51. Gavfaemonty (61 comments) says:

    Send out a 68 year old career lawyer / politician to find a solution to a youth issue and you get… an epic, epic FAIL. My older daughter is 13, just entering that period where she’ll be exposed to alcohol through her peer group and begin to drink herself. I was hoping that this extensive piece of thinking by a large group of clever people would come up with practical measures at the government end that would complement the measures I’ll be taking to guide / counsel / etc.

    So, how’s Geoffrey’s measures going to pan out in the real world of teenagers, as opposed to the fantasy land that he’s operating in?

    Let’s take the two measures that most affect teens.

    1 A massive 50% increase in the excise tax on alcohol.

    It’s already very expensive to buy alcohol in New Zealand. More expensive than drinking out in central London, and there’s hardly a bottle of wine to be had under $8. Add the low wages in NZ and it’s clear that price is not a factor in teens and young adults falling over drunk covered in sick in our town centres.

    Fact is it doesn’t take a lot to get a young teen drunk. One bottle of wine? 6 beers? So even if you double the price we’re talking $15 at the low end. An hour and a bit of work – trivial.

    Toi the extent that there is an effect it’ll drive more theft (from homes mainly). And more taking of alternatives. And more drinking will occur outside of licensed areas in less safe environments. And less money for the taxi home instead of the stagger through the dark streets.

    So, to the extent that this has any effect, it’s to make things worse. Well done.

    5. An increase in the purchase age for alcohol from 18 to 20.

    Where the hell did SGP go to universiry? Really. Does he really think for a second that this will stop 18 year olds drinking? Does he think it’ll stop 15 year olds drinking if they want to? As DFP says it’ll criminalise tens of thousands of kids. Great. It’ll also criminalise all the older brothers and sisters that do the buying instead, and the sales outlets that do the selling.

    I’d have thought that the direction should be about getting kids to take more responsibility for the consequences of their choices, not telling them they’re not qualified at 19 (19 FFS) to drink responsibly. And getting them into well-regulated premises where they can be kept safe, not getting them to migrate to parks.

    So, this can go on the pile with the Brash Report. DOA. FAIL.

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  52. Pete George (23,436 comments) says:

    One of the biggest problems is that much of our society thinks it is ok, many think it’s a reasonable aim, to overdose and poison yourself. It’s very common to joke about people getting embarrassingly pissed, and to laugh about how crook people are getting over their self abuse.

    Kiwi culture generally is quite sick when it comes to alcohol. How can that be changed? Just slapping on restrictions is not going to address it.

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  53. boredboy (250 comments) says:

    I doubt restricted hours of access would deal a big blow to the tourism market. During the course of the debate I have looked through international tourism marketing from many nations for one that prides itself on its lax liquor laws. I have found none. I would say that a foreign country with strict liquor laws would in fact be more attractive than one without such controls. Who wants to have to run a roulette of drunken yobs in a far-off land to get a jet-lag-induced 3am snack?

    The only groups who would be attracted by relaxed liquor laws are the $20-a-day backpackers. I would rather us try and entice the $500 a day holiday makers who are less likely to want to drink until the sun comes up.

    Secondly, high tax is a well-proven way to deter damaging and youth drinking. Without pulling up examples of studies (cos frankly I can’t be arsed) it is well-documented. While being basically centre, I think it is unfortunate that it is generally the left who support such integral and well-researched studies. Perhaps it is not in the business-oriented right’s interest to uncover some home truths?

    At any rate, higher taxes on liquor would only represent a few dollars here-and-there for mature / moderate drinkers. Worst case scenario if they’d have to buy a bottle a couple / few dollars down-market from their current choices and as a former hospo worker, I can tell you 99% of them wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference in a blind test.

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  54. boredboy (250 comments) says:

    And to Pete George:

    It is that easy to change a culture. Take for example drink driving and seatbelts (as separate examples). Fourty years ago, driving drunk and driving without seatbelts were an acceptable and encouraged part of Kiwi culture. Now they’re not.

    Wonder why?

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  55. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    So a person undertakes a perfectly legal activity in a public bar, steps onto the street to catch a taxi home to bed and is suddenly a criminal?

    I’d suggest more camera’s in public places, more cops on the street, and harsher penalties for people that breach the law. I think we already have the laws, we just don’t have the resources to enforce them properly on a zero-tolerance basis.

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  56. Pete George (23,436 comments) says:

    Drink driving and seatbelt attitudes have been changed substantially. They are reasonably easily detectable.

    I think the general booze culture is a lot harder to change, it is an attitude rather than an offence (although it often becomes an offence). They try and advertise about how getting trashed is far from glamorous, and can be severely damaging, but it doesn’t seem to have much impact.

    The saying goes that young people think they are bullet proof. Also, the more pissed they get the more invincible, sexy, better fighters etc etc they think they are, which is inversely proportional to reality, but you can’t reason with a drunk. A major addition to the problem is that older pissheads thinks it makes them younger too. Piss poor role models.

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  57. GPT1 (2,116 comments) says:

    [DPF: I've sometimes been in town at 4 am, and still enjoying it, and not causing any violence or crime. Also note that by that time one is often drinking water and dancing the alcohol off, so forcing people out at 4 am may actually result in worse outcomes]
    Good point and the more sinister part of this is that for a 4am closing time to work with a degree of safety would require a 2am one way door policy. And as MT-Tinman noted above chucking everyone out at the same time isn’t a great idea either.

    Criminalising public drunkeness is an interesting point. The difficulty is defining public drunkeness in such a way to avoid abuse by plod. It is a standard joke amongst defence lawyers that if a cop wants you drunk you are and if they want you sober you are. So if you are charged with obstruction or disorderly or the like then the evidence is “in my experience as a police officer I believed the defendant to be extremely intoxicated” (never just intoxicated) and if its a confession “in my experience as a police officer he was acting intoxicated but was in fact only mildly intoxicated”.

    That said I think it has merit I am just not quite sure how to appropriately police it. There really isn’t a great need for drunks to be clogging up our city streets. If you’re too pissed to be in a pub then really you are too pissed to be in town or in public (save for a visit to The Colonel on the way home).

    Would providing police powers to temporarily trespass people from certain high use areas for drunkeness work? Guess it could be an ass to enforce but does provide the move on element with little negative effect (same as getting denied from a bar – if they barstaff are wrong its just bad luck not a criminal offence).

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  58. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    boredboy – Was driving drunk and wearing seatbelts a part of NZ culture or were people simply too lazy to do the right thing? Drinking and getting drunk is a central part of people’s enjoyment when they go out on the weekend. Wearing a seatbelt and having a sober driver is an inconvenience to people but it doesn’t take away something they value as such. Changing the law is not going to stop people wanting to go out and get drunk on the weekend. They’ll adapt to the inconveniences of having to purchase at certain times etc. but they’ll adapt in a manner where the basic activity is unchanged: they are going out to get drunk.

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  59. Pete George (23,436 comments) says:

    Yes, for many the core activity is to go out and get drunk – or stay at home and get drunk – and however the law is tweaked they will still find a way of doing it.

    Some think getting drunk is necessary to have a good time, some think it will get them laid, some use it as an excuse to be nasty and try and bash others, some think it cures shyness, some think it proves they are grown up. It’s sad when you see how it really affects them.

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  60. alley42 (1 comment) says:

    I live in Taupo & it might affect the tourist dollar here.

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  61. philu (13,393 comments) says:

    and of all the drugs..alcohol is such a messy/low-rent/low-class/nasty one…

    (..almost as bad as speed..)

    ..with a horrible/dull/deadening low/high..

    ..and nasty hangovers..(not to mention the obesity..and other longterm effects..)

    ..and it makes people loud..and very very boring..not to mention aggressive..

    are you pissheads all masochists..?..or something..?

    ..go with the magic collie-herb .. man..!

    ..it gets you so nice and high..

    ..and no hangover/aggression etc etc..

    ..what is wrong with you..?

    ..are you crazy..?..man..?

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  62. boredboy (250 comments) says:

    OK then, why not have bartenders who actually invoke the Sale of Liquor Act in bars?

    Particularly the clause pertaining to serving intoxicated persons?

    Why don’t bartenders invoke the act and cut off drunk customers? Because their bosses would cut their shifts.

    That’s right! 99% of bartenders are casual workers and can be fired with 1 hours notice!

    Perhaps if bartenders had even an iota of job security and could not be dismissed for any reason at all (ie: not plying drunks with more booze than they can handle).

    Perhaps if bartenders were given the rights they deserve, considering the social responsibility they shoulder, then they would begin enforcing the law.

    Casualisation of this particular sector is a BIG PROBLEM in New Zealand I think.

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  63. tvb (4,326 comments) says:

    I would be happy if alcohol is banned except for a medical prescription and happily voted for prohibition everytime the opportunity was available to me.

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  64. Pete George (23,436 comments) says:

    It’s not just bar staff that are the problem – it’s very common to get tanked up on cheap supermarket or bottle store booze before hitting the streets.

    No matter where you squeeze the availability of alcohol, people will find ways of sourcing their cheap “thrills”. We are in an age of artificial quick fixes. The pop-a-pill and piss-up pandemic. The proposed law changes will do little if anything to change that attitude.

    I’m not against alcohol. I enjoy a glass or three reasonably regularly (a box of Hawkes Bay red should be waiting on the porch when I get home tonight), but I have learnt from hard experience – I now have an aversion to losing my faculties, and to feeling rat-shit afterwards.

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  65. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    PG
    So how do we change the culture is the adults won’t change and the leaders are too afraid to do so.
    incidentally I share most of your points of view.

    what is unacceptable, being pissed in public or being pissed in public and acting out?
    This is such a thin line or could be.

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  66. Murray (8,844 comments) says:

    “Details of the report have leaked out, and I can exclusively reveal some of these.”

    If details of the report have been “leaked”, how is it that you can confifdently cliam exclusivity? Unless of course you know a lot more about the nature and extent of this “leak” than perhaps you have revealed.

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  67. Crampton (215 comments) says:

    @Weihana: I spent more than a month last year completely eviscerating that BERL report. BERL’s report is wholly unreliable. A more standard economic approach has social costs roughly matching the excise tax take. Go here and scroll through for the full critique.

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  68. Crampton (215 comments) says:

    Better summary link now here

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  69. Andrew McMillan (50 comments) says:

    @Kris K

    1) Disagree STRONGLY – increasing excise tax just penalises everyone, especially responsible drinkers

    In general, responsible drinkers drink less than irresponsible ones. Increasing excise tax penalises drinkers in relation to how much they’re drinking. So yes, it penalises everyone but it does not penalise everyone to the same degree.

    To say “increasing excise tax just penalises everyone, especially responsible drinkers” is incorrect because responsible drinkers are not especially effected.

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  70. Crampton (215 comments) says:

    @Andrew: Recall, though, that heavy drinkers are less sensitive to changes in price. A 10% increase in price, by best estimates, reduces moderate drinkers’ consumption by 4.4%; heavy drinkers, by only 2.8%.

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