Last Friday's Truth column:
The alcohol reform debate is boring. New Zealand has been agonising
over alcohol since Adam was a boy. Parliament has tried to control
its sale and consumption since the 1800s. Then, lobby groups like
the Salvation Army pushed abstinence; today, an alcohol tax hike.
Dealing with lives ravaged by alcohol they forget most drinkers do
not have a problem. To the contrary. People are now able to enjoy
New Zealand-made boutique beers of international quality, visits to
vineyards, wine and food festivals and economic benefits - like jobs
- that vintners and brewers provide.
Yet all we hear is bad news about 'booze'. Particularly young
drinkers. Which is somewhat forgetful of those doing much of the
moaning - the middle-aged. Look back to their heyday to find a far
worse culture of drink-driving for instance. In 1990, 139 15-24
year-olds affected by alcohol/drugs were involved in fatal crashes.
Twenty years later the number had fallen to 54. After-match drinking
was chronic and flat 'parties' were frequent. Drunken youth weren't
as obvious because the 'Courtenay Places' didn't buzz all night. But
young people using and abusing alcohol is no new thing.
Ironically, it is much harder for teenagers to purchase alcohol now
than it was in the seventies and eighties yet lobbyists and
legislators still aren't satisfied. Some want the purchase-age put
back to twenty, sales from convenience stores banned, trading hours
cut and excise lifted.
As parents we want our kids to learn from our mistakes.
Unfortunately human nature is such that they need to learn from
their own. We hope and pray they survive those mistakes - the vast
majority do. And they grow up in the process. But as a country, are
we growing up?
Next month parliament will probably raise the purchase-age and
impose further restrictions. Yet another exercise in punishing the
responsible for the behaviour of the irresponsible. Par for the
course in New Zealand I'm afraid.
NZ Herald’s influence reaches far
4 minutes ago