Australia needs a national summit to tackle alcohol-related violence, according to its peak medical body.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) wants radical changes and by harnessing public sentiment, their chances have never been better.
After a series of tragic deaths, state and federal politicians are paying attention.
AMA president Steve Hambleton proposed the summit, and if you take a look at some of the areas the group wants examined, Australian’s could be in for even tougher alcohol-related legislation.
“We have a major national problem that requires a major national solution,” Hambleton told Fairfax.
“The NSW Government has this week introduced some very tough and very welcome new laws to address alcohol-related violence on the streets of Sydney, and we now have to look at the broader harmful effects of alcohol misuse in every corner of the country.”
Here’s the thing: not everyone thinks they’re welcome.
Something needed to be done in NSW. After two teenagers were tragically killed, and the city’s two newspapers both campaigned on the issue, the O’Farrell government didn’t have much of a choice.
People were outraged when Thomas Kelly’s killer Kieran Loveridge received a four-year sentence for the manslaughter of the 18-year-old, who died from a single punch to the head on his first night out in Kings Cross in 2012.
But as legal experts have pointed out, mandatory minimum sentences leave little room for circumstance to be considered.
Many people also feel like they’re living in a bit of a nanny state, considering they now won’t even be able to go to a bottle shop after 10pm.
Now the AMA wants the summit to look at nationally-consistent approaches to alcohol marketing, pricing and taxation as well as venue licensing and opening hours. And you can be sure which way they want laws to move.
Many Australians will agree that some intervention is required. But it’s worth keeping in mind that, given the current political appetite and media coverage, that a major crackdown could be pushed through.
I can only speak from the perspective of someone in their mid-20s, who lives in NSW, with the reaction of people I know in mind. But everyone who I spoke to after the NSW Premier announced the new measures was, to put it bluntly, pissed off.
They come from a variety of backgrounds, and industries. One of the only things they have in common is that they can get really drunk without wanting to punching a bystander.
They all thought alcohol-related violence was an issue, and weren’t angry that the NSW government acted. Rather, they couldn’t see the measures actually making much of a difference when it comes to stopping people being bashed while enjoying a night out.
Many felt the rules impinged too far on their own liberties, developed as a knee-jerk reaction to public outrage, which is, at least in part, media-driven.
Not being able to buy six-pack after 10pm and not being able to get into a bar after 1.30am won’t prevent the fact – summed up very well in this column by David Penberthy – that some people are just dickheads.
There are a variety of sociological issues for this, which I won’t try and explore here, although one comment, by a friend who’s been a part of these conversations, is telling:
“They can make all the new rules they want, but there are still going to be the guys laughing at kick boxing training on a Tuesday about all kids they belted.”
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