Friday, October 20, 2006

Drinking Age Bill is back

The Sale of Liquor (Youth Alcohol Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill has been reported back by the Law and Order Committee. As the original bill addressed two different functions, they've divided it into two: the Sale of Liquor (Youth Alcohol Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill [PDF] and the Sale of Liquor (Youth Alcohol Harm Reduction: Purchase Age) Amendment Bill [PDF]. The first bill contains the provisions on restricting liquor advertising to after 10pm, with clarifying amendments. It is likely to be a party vote, and it will probably pass. The second part would raise the purchase age to 20, and reintroduce the host of exceptions that prevailed under the previous law. At the same time, it would remove clauses criminalising supply to minors, and retain the ability for parents to supply at private social gatherings (which is both desirable, and yet at the same time one of the key problem areas. We've all seen the media reports of teenage parties which have turned into drunken near-riots fuelled by parentally-supplied booze, and the committee’s position means no-one could be held accountable for it). This bill will be a conscience vote, most likely on November 8th. As for how it will go, 28 of the MPs that voted on the first reading have now left Parliament (19 of them voted for, the rest against). However, that still leaves the bill with 60 votes in favour, without even considering the views of new MPs (at least two of whom - Tau Henare and Eric Roy - voted against lowering the drinking age in 1999). While some of those who voted in favour will have done so simply to let a select committee examine the issue, those wanting to see the bill defeated face an uphill struggle.

I suggest that those wanting to see the bill defeated, and particularly those who are under 20, but over 18 now or who will turn 18 before the next election contact their MPs and remind them that while they may no longer be able to drink if this bill passes, they will still be able to vote, and that they will be judging those MPs and their parties on how they vote. I particularly suggest targeting those MPs who voted to reduce the age originally, but also voted to raise it. These are:

  • Shane Ardern
  • Nick Smith
  • Wayne Mapp
  • Maurice Williamson
  • Jim Anderton (though he's probably a waste of effort)
  • Murray McCully
  • Rick Barker
  • Steve Maharey
  • Mark Burton
  • David Carter

I also suggest targeting new MPs. Full contact details are here.

Oh, and for those who are interested, details of the bill's first reading, and of the 1999 Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill (no 2) are in the CommoNZ conscience vote database.


Pity they won't put the drinking age down to 16 and the driving age to 18 like in civilised European countries. I guess that's the price we (continental) Europeans have to pay for the inability of the Anglo-Saxons to hold their ale.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/20/2006 01:54:00 PM

The only people who should be permitted to vote on this Bill would be frontline A&E medical staff.

The abuse of alcohol is costing this nation billions every year. If you factor in the direct medical cost , the direct damage costs, the direct crime that results....and then all the indirect human misery and loss of opportunity ...the bill for all this is probably in excess of $20b pa. More than enough to fund the tax cuts that the media keeps moaning about.

I doubt that raising the drinking age is going to fix the binge drinking culture that is so deeply embedded in NZ, but frankly the current situation is simply not better either. Probably the only way we are going to get an actual change would be to eliminate the drinking age altogether, subsidise alcohol to very low prices, supply it free in vast quantities to children of all ages...and then in the aftermath of the catastrophe that results, the population MIGHT just be ready to actually deal with the problem.

OK so I'm being facetious...but it is a fair question to ask. Just what the hell WILL it take for us to get real about alcohol in this country?

Posted by Anonymous : 10/20/2006 04:12:00 PM

As Hans points out, in much of Continental Europe the drinking age is 16 (for beer) and you can sell alcohol with no special license. And there are a lot less pissed people.

I think that treating alcohol as part of this magic "getting pissed" ritual, rather than a nice thing to drink in moderation, is probably the cause of a lot of problems. "Stopping" kids from legally participating in the ritual until 21 is just likely to make it more exiting.

(On a semi related subject, why is it that all drink-driving propaganda, without exception, is directed at the westie/bogan types? I've often heard that the worst group for drink driving are middle-aged, middle-class people driving home from the golf club.)

Posted by Rich : 10/20/2006 10:05:00 PM

The answer to Rich's question is the middle class, middle aged, white guy is a hardened market less suggestable to change than young hoons and are a 'lost cause'. That in itself says something. Also, out traffic campaigns are really long term, look at seat belts.

Posted by Bloodrage : 10/20/2006 11:54:00 PM

J4LC3: I think you're right about the long term strategy. At the same time, I can't also help but think that the people who commission and design these ads tend to be middle-aged and middle-class, and of course would never think that respectable people such as themselves would drink and drive or be a danger to society.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/21/2006 12:40:00 AM

I think it's pretty wierd that a lot of people are saying "Yeah, putting the age up won't do much, but we should do it, cos we gotta do something!"

There are bugger all remedies available to deal with pissed people. If police could slap idiots with a fine or do something else to ruin thier fun, maybe they'd stop stumbling around town running onto the roads.

Right now the police and ambo can't do much unless they're swinging punches or drunk enough to be endangering themselves.

I've really got to enjoy beer as a complex and enjoyable drink (read: not Tui). It ain't just young people who have a "culture problem", how about the example set by many 30/40 year olds who still glorify getting smashed?

Posted by CD : 10/21/2006 11:29:00 AM

I think alcohol advertising is a big factor in teen drinking, I'd like to see that banned. Likewise cheap sweet alco-pops targeted at the youth market is a problem.

I think the labels on bottles saying how many standard drinks they contain is excellent. I'd also like to see more low alcohol beers and low alcohol versions of premixed drinks aimed at grown ups.

More education for kids about binging - which is basically a form of legal drug use and it should be advertised as such. And more education for older people about alcohol abuse. I'd also like to see public drunkeness stopped and serving drunks illegally really policed.

And well, since alcohol related problems have worsened since the age was dropped, we should put it back up since while it's not a great solution, dropping it has just caused more problems.

Posted by Muerk : 10/21/2006 06:05:00 PM

OConnor intends to vote for raise

Posted by Anonymous : 10/22/2006 10:33:00 PM

I found it stunning that there is so little attention place on the ethics of this decision.
Should we as a society be able to ban a group of people (who are legally treated as adults) from doing something as innocuous as drinking a glass of wine in a cafe?
We can send a 19 year old soldier to Afghanistan or the Solomons but when he or she returns we will deny them a beer at the pub?

Posted by Anonymous : 10/23/2006 09:33:00 AM

Anonymous number 9, I'm not saying I support the bill, but the age of majority in New Zealand is 20. There are plenty of things a 20 y.o. can do that a 19 y.o. cannot, for example:

* gamble in a casino
* own real property
* be admitted as a lawyer
* serve as a trustee
* drive a car with a breath alcohol of between 150-400 mcg of alcohol per litre of breath etc.

One could also respond: we can send 17 y.o. soldiers to Afghanistan but when they return we deny them beer in a pub?

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 10/23/2006 10:31:00 AM

The problem with trying to discern the consequences of lowering the drinking age is that it is impossible to see that one event in isolation from increased availability of liquor with 24 hour supermarket sales; The proliferation of shoe box off-licences; The relaxing of licencing laws that means you can now drink in bars, clubs and pubs practically 24x7 if you so desire in the larger centres; And liquor advertising, where (particulary on T.V.) a truck and trailer are driven through the so-called advertising standards with seeming impunity by the advertisers.

I've had extensive experience in the liquor and entertainment business, and to me the biggest culprit for encouraging binge consumption has always been all of us, that is adults and those responsible authorities we rely on for enforcement and mature judgement in our society. The liquor industry - after all, they want to make more money - has a corporate culture with zero social responsibility or ethics, and gets away with it. The cops will usually refuse to take seriously their duty to enforce the drinking age no matter what age it is set at, generally preferring to turn a blind eye or allow "self-regulation." Funnily enough, the people most likely to haul you up on age are bouncers and barstaff. Rasing the drinking age is a total cop out for an abject failure by our wider society to take its responsibilities to its young people seriously, and we should have a good hard look at ourselves before we decide to embark back down the rediculous path of re-criminalising the social activities of people we otherwise allow to sleep with who they please, vote, drive, fight for their country, raise children, and engage in practically every other meaningful adult responsibility.

Posted by Sanctuary : 10/23/2006 12:34:00 PM

Presumably if this passes 18-21 year olds won't be able to work in bars (or even licensed shops if they're supervisors) and will have to be sacked.

What happened to their rights to work?

BTW, I didn't realised that under 20's couldn't own property. What's the justification for this? If you're 16 and your parents get killed are you dependent on a trustee to keep living in your family house?

Posted by Rich : 10/23/2006 07:56:00 PM

Rich: nope. As I said, it would eintroduce the host of exceptions that prevailed under the previous law. So, teenagers will be able to serve alcohol, but not drink it; they'll be able to entertain people in pubs in a band, but their mates won't be able to go and see them.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/23/2006 08:51:00 PM

I'm not entirely sure what the justification is, but the age of majority has to be set at something... and yes, reliant on a trustee

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 10/23/2006 08:59:00 PM