Judge's plea on booze culture

By Derek Cheng

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Former Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright has made a plea to the Government to be bolder on alcohol reform, including raising taxes, the legal purchase age and reducing industry advertising.

Public submissions on the Government's Alcohol Reform Bill closed yesterday and the justice and electoral select committee released hundreds of written submissions.

The Bill is the Government's plan to reduce harm from alcohol and has provisions to, among other things, have a split purchase age of 18 in bars and 20 in supermarkets and liquor outlets, empower local communities to have greater control over local liquor outlets, and make it an offence to supply a minor with alcohol without parental consent.

But the Government has been criticised for ignoring recommendations for harsher restrictions on advertising and sponsorship, and for ruling out raising the excise tax on alcohol (though it is investigating minimum pricing).

"This may be the last chance for a generation to address the serious problems of abuse of alcohol," Dame Silvia, who is in Cambodia for the War Crimes Tribunal, says in her submission.

"I am aware that I am asking for leadership to be exercised in a difficult political field, but I am prepared to go on public record for the first time ever, and I hope that our political leaders will also find the strength to amend legislation for the benefit of those who are directly affected by alcohol abuse.

"In order to emphasise the depth my concern, I would like to state that this is the first submission I have ever made to a select committee when I have not had a professional reason ... I am writing this submission now because the Alcohol Reform Bill as it currently stands does not adequately address the heavy drinking culture in New Zealand."

Dame Silvia is one of 15 prominent New Zealanders, including Sir Paul Reeves, who last year signed a statement calling for a tougher Government response on alcohol reform.

The group joined 450 doctors and nurses to urge the Government to raise the legal purchase age to 20, raise prices, and reduce advertising and accessibility.

Dame Silvia said alcohol should not be sold in supermarkets.

"I urge the committee to propose legislative measures that will limit severely the ready availability of very cheap alcohol, and normalisation of its marketing to families."

Among the submissions was an objection to restrictions on the hours when alcohol can be served in a bar.

"We don't think we should have to apply for a special licence every time we get a small group in that wants a champagne breakfast," submitted the Crowded House Bar and Cafe, in New Plymouth.

- NZ Herald

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