The Government is considering making it unlawful for adults to give alcohol to young people without their parents' consent.

At present, under-18s can be given liquor without consent if they are in private homes or at private functions.

Justice Minister Simon Power says parental consent is one of the liquor issues he is looking at but stresses that a change is not a certainty.

"This is a really delicate balance because National is not in the business of getting into people's homes on issues like this and telling them how to run their lives," he said last night.

"But the sheer proliferation of outlets and the time that liquor is now available definitely changes the framing of this debate."

Mr Power said parents had asked for such a move to help deal with teenage drinking. "I do think there is starting to emerge a view from parents that they would like some more assistance from the law to be able to have a firmer view on how their children are supplied with alcohol."

The issue of adults supplying liquor to underage drinkers can be a fraught one, especially when dealing with teenage parties and after-ball functions.

If the law were changed, the consent would more likely be implied, rather than expressed, in an authorising note, for example.

Mr Power said one issue was: "When you are in effect stepping into the shoes of that young person's parents or guardians, what are the expectations society can reasonably have as to what level of supervision and/or care would be taken?"

Parental consent is one of many recommendations in the Law Commission's comprehensive review of liquor laws, but it said consent should be written or oral.

It recommended a maximum fine of $5000 for infringements, but said a parent should not be liable when the minor acted against their instructions.

Former Victoria University law lecturer John Miller said enforcing a law on parental consent would be difficult.

"The kid could carry a written permission just like a school note. But kids are always forging school notes, so how would you know?

"In another instance, you could be at a family gathering and it's your niece or nephew. You know from previous occasions that their parents would give consent, so there's implied consent," Dr Miller said.

The recommended maximum fine of $5000 could be viewed as over the top. "It just seems such a draconian step to take. But it seems high fines do change behaviours."

He said many people would consider such a law as very intrusive.

"A lot of people are probably wanting to teach kids better drinking behaviours, by giving them a civilised drink, stopping that behaviour of binge drinking."

The commission's recommendations would effectively also forbid the sale or supply of liquor to anyone aged under 20 at an event such as an after-ball.

It wants ticketed and fee-paying functions reclassified as public events rather than private, and the purchasing age for alcohol returned to 20.

Booze for minors
Some Australian state already have restrictions:
* Queensland law states parental consent is required before alcohol can be supplied to someone under 18 years of age.

* In NSW, it is illegal for adults to give liquor to children under 18 who are not their own. Those who do face big fines.

* In Tasmania, legislation restricts who can supply alcohol to minors.

What do you think?

Email your views to