Days before the Law Commission tabled its final report in Parli' />
What is it about this country that we can't enjoy a game of rugby without booze?
Days before the Law Commission tabled its final report in Parliament on alcohol law reform, panic set in. Would the rumoured return to temperance make us the "laughing stock" of the world during the Rugby World Cup because no one would be able to get a drink after 2am?
Auckland Mayor John Banks, who last time I looked didn't drink anything stronger than lemon tea, said tougher liquor laws would not "fit with Auckland's role as host city".
Let your imagination run free, and picture Auckland as host to the Venice Biennale, a major contemporary international art exhibition first held in 1895.
I know it won't eventuate, but just pretend. Can you imagine art fans being outraged because they couldn't buy booze all night?
I expect if the impossible occurred, and Auckland did host such an exhibition, the liquor laws would be the last thing to occupy the organisers' minds.
But when Sir Geoffrey Palmer's report was released, Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully said the tournament was "safe".
From what? Threats to alter our perceived right to go out after a game of rugby and drink ourselves into oblivion? Trash the streets, make as much noise as possible, vomit everywhere, pass out, then expect the police, emergency health services, council workers, friends, family, anyone else but you, to clean up the mess so you can go out and do it again?
That's what we call personal responsibility.
Where else in the world do they look at a full beer can and think, mmm, that's a good weapon to biff at the back of an innocent stranger's head?
As it turned out, the Law Commission recommends bars close at 4am, but even that seems to be too early for some.
In fact, closing or opening times are immaterial. New Zealanders can't drink in a civilised manner. We're part of that Anglo-Saxon heritage, which includes English and Australians, who drink to get totally wasted.
I supported lowering the drinking age in 1999, but I was wrong. Jenny Shipley had good intentions, but we're not French or Italian. We can't sit around sipping and chatting.
Don't believe me? Visit Wellington's Courtenay Place after 11pm, quaintly called "party central" by Mayor Kerry Prendergast, or visit Auckland's Queen St.
Why is New Year's Eve in this country always a return to the dark ages of warring clans?
Sir Geoffrey must be in despair, after pouring so much effort into his 500-plus page report, only to have the Government immediately bin the most striking suggestion - hit problem-drinking youth in the pocket.
This was strongly recommended by Professor Doug Sellman, director of the National Addiction Centre, and Dr Paul Quigley from Wellington Emergency Department, who said from 10pm to 8am, 60 per cent of injuries are alcohol-related.
Speaking as a wine producer, it's not in my interest to have a 10 per cent tax increase on alcohol, but it's in the country's interest to have more residential rehab centres, like the sorely missed Queen Mary Hospital.
Sellman is correct to call this Government "gutless". As a former MP, I know how powerful the alcohol lobby can be - the fridge in my office was constantly full of free beer.
Sir Geoffrey's report is not a return to temperance; it has some very good recommendations.
It's time parents were forced to take responsibility - if they supply under-age kids with booze, why not whack them with a $5000 fine?
The police spend 18 per cent of their budget on alcohol-related crimes - why not spot-fine drunks $250 to sober up?
It won't happen, but the purchase age for off-licences should go back to 20, because it's not in bars and restaurants where kids get trashed. They fuel up at home first.
But who sets an example? Senior cabinet ministers promise, come Rugby World Cup, they'll ensure booze will flow all night, even if a special World Cup Empowering Bill is passed to make it easier to obtain a licence.
It won't be our licensing laws shaming us internationally Mr McCully, it will be the drunken behaviour down at tent city.