Editorials 28 April 2010

All four are on the proposed alcohol 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 drinking age 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 Law Commission’s recommendations, one very supportive and two somewhat cautiously in the middle – pro doing something, but not everything.

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