Sunday, November 28, 2010

NSW Drinking Age

Today’s news carries the suggestion that NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally, that she believes we should have a public discussion about raising the drinking age in NSW to 21. It is currently 18, has been since the early 1900’s.

So, should the state, or Australia as a nation, raise the drinking age to 21?

For Against
Medical reasons: many doctors suggest that the teenage brain does not cope well with anything more than small amounts of alcohol Effectiveness: it is unclear how effective the measure would be. It could just shift binge-drinking 18-20 year-olds into parks and residential streets
It could reduce violence near trouble spots. Violence could be shifted to parks and residential streets
Reduction in vehicle accidents & deaths Does this simply cause a corresponding shift in the ages where injuries & deaths occur to 21-24, instead of 18-21?
NSW, and Australia, has a high rate of alcohol abuse (binge-drinking) and alcohol-related violence, especially among young people 15-24. Earlier lock-out (no entry) & closing times have lead to a reduction in violence, without lowing the drinking age.

There are more arguments if you want to do an Internet search.

Other Considerations that might affect the rate of alcohol abuse & related violence, and which we should also discuss in public forums:

  • If the drinking age is raised, will in be in 1 step, or staged over 3 years, with a 1-year increase in the legal drinking age each year?
  • If we go for a “Lora Norder” (law and order) response:
    • does it include earlier lockout & closing times for pubs & clubs, as SUCCESSFULLY trialled in Newcastle?
    • does it include more police licencing operations?
    • does it include police action every Friday & Saturday night in known trouble areas, such as George St and Oxford St Sydney?
    • how many extra police will the law and order response need, and what will be the cost?
    • how much more are you prepared to pay in state taxes to fund the law and order response, or what extra state taxes will you pay?: higher GST, higher licencing costs, higher car registration, other? This is important because you will have to pay more. An increase in the rate of GST would require approval of all States & Territories.
  • Should alcohol advertising be banned?
  • should we consider reintroducing the offence of “public drunkenness”? (it was decriminalised in March 1980, but police do still have powers to detain a drunk if they present a danger to themselves, or others. Apparently they are used only in more extreme circumstances, to prevent overloading police resources.) See points 4-5 under “Lora Norder” above.
  • Should future licencing consider the density of licenced premises, the total number of patrons who could be served, the alcohol-related history of the area, and the likely effect on the number of alcohol-related incidents?
  • Should political donations from alcohol (& tobacco) interests be prevented from pedalling political influence by donating to political parties? mmm… for that matter should we have publicly-funded elections, with no organisations being allowed to donate and strict limits on personal donations? The alcohol industry, in particular pubs and clubs associations are significant donors to the political parties that will make the decisions.

More reading:$File/Young%20people%20research.pdf

I do hope our politicians

  • declare a conflict of interest, since most of them will have received election funding from donations from the alcohol industry, and pubs & clubs associations, in particular.
  • don’t just come up with electorally popular, but ineffective, tough-talk. I do hope they determine what will be good policy, in the interests of NSW, and run with that, even if it costs electoral donations to their party.