Australia 'should follow NZ on alcohol' - expert

Photo / Northern Advocate
Photo / Northern Advocate

Australia should follow New Zealand's lead and take a tougher stance on alcohol abuse, Australian expert David Templeman says.

New Zealand announced a liquor law shake-up on Monday, with 126 proposed changes to tighten rules on where and when alcohol can be bought and drank - and by whom.

Mr Templeman, chief executive the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, said the proposals out of NZ were "progressive", but Maree Teeson from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) in Sydney said the Kiwi reforms didn't go far enough to curb the binge drinking culture that spanned both nations.

NZ's proposed reforms include splitting the legal age for purchasing alcohol - leaving it at 18 for drinking in bars, and raising it to 20 for buying alcohol in supermarkets and other outlets.

The government has also suggested people supplying alcohol to minors at private functions must get permission from parents or guardians of that individual.

Mr Templeman said Australia should "take a lead from" its trans-Tasman neighbours.

"We, like New Zealand, really need to seriously engage and get some rigour around this issue of access and the availability of alcohol," he said.

"The laws that (NZ) are suggesting would be significantly far ahead with what we have ... in Australia.

"I would suggest that if we're going to make the same headway ... we have to go down a pathway that's taken by NZ."

Prof Teeson, the acting director of the NDARC, described the reforms as "lightweight".

"Australia and NZ have some of the highest rates of alcohol abuse in the world," she said.

A major study of the impact of alcohol misuse in Australia, released on Tuesday, put the annual cost of excessive drinking at A$36 billion ($45 billion), along with a massive human toll.

"When you have that sort of social problem and the culture of drinking you really need a policy sledgehammer, Prof Teeson said.

"I looked at those reforms and they're like a feather."

"There's a lot of `we'll do more research', `we'll think about this', it was very, very gentle."

The reforms follow a Law Commission report which made 153 recommendations on reducing the harm caused by alcohol.

Prime Minister John Key said the government was taking the problem seriously, and had adopted most of the Law Commission's recommendations.

The reforms will be included in a bill due to be introduced to NZ's parliament next month.


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