darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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TACKLING UNDER-AGE DRINKING

March 21, 2011

The State Government is proposing new laws which would make it illegal for adults to provide alcohol to anybody else’s child visiting their homes, unless they gained permission from the children’s parents.

It may sound like a tough move but I support the concept as part of a broader strategy to change our drinking culture and reduce street violence.

We need to do more to tackle binge drinking and under-age alcohol abuse as part of a nation-wide approach to improving individual health and community safety.

Many Australians are drinking themselves to an early death and we need to change the culture of alcohol consumption from one of excessive drinking to a mature and controlled intake.

As someone who enjoys beer and wine on a regular basis I’m not a wowser but I’m concerned that our current approach to alcohol consumption is inconsistent in a legal sense, and unhealthy from a broader community perspective.

As it stands today, the legal age of alcohol consumption is 18 years but on private property, we have teenagers drinking to excess without any legal consequences. If a parent wants to teach their own child how to drink responsibly in the home environment, that is entirely reasonable, but when other adults provide alcohol to young people, we need to have more consistent laws.

We need to give police the tools to manage the growing culture of under-age parties where children are binge drinking on a weekly basis and causing personal injury as well as disrupting neighbourhoods. 

The excessive use of alcohol goes hand in hand with increased street violence, sexual assaults and vandalism – it’s time our community made steps towards changing that boozy culture.  We need to teach our children that it’s not OK to head out for the night with the aim of getting “drunk” and as adults, we have to work harder at providing a positive role model in our homes and at our sporting clubs and community events.

It’s not going to be easy and having more consistent laws is only part of the solution.

Any such changes must be supported by increased police resources, funding to install closed circuit television cameras in trouble spots, improve liquor licensing laws and other local solutions.

The State Government intends to launch a major education campaign to support its crackdown on harmful under-age drinking and the Federal Government also needs to do more.

The Federal Government should make more funding available to help communities find their own solutions to this growing problem. Funding to support crime prevention measures such as providing facilities and recreational opportunities for young people to socialise without alcohol will benefit us all.

Research has indicated that the misuse of alcohol is costing our nation $36 billion per year – it’s time for strong action with increased government funding to reduce that social and economic impact.

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