Friday, March 28, 2008

Binge Drinking in Australia

There is a shared value in Australia that it is right and good to drink as much alcohol as you can, get plastered out of your brain and do whatever stupid thing comes to mind. A set of behaviours around drinking have been repeated so many times and over such a duration that values and attitudes have developed that this behaviour is OK. For example, when the Turks at Gallipoli complained about the behaviour of drunken Australian visitors at an Anzac commemoration, then Prime Minister John Howard said, 'You think that's bad? You should see Circular Quay in Sydney after a New Year's Eve celebration.' Hmmm.

One way to alter drinking behaviour would be to enact and enforce number changes to the laws govenring drinking. Here are some possibilities:
  1. Change the penalty for licensed premises selling to under age patrons from a the current slap on the wrist to a license revocation. 1 week for the first offense, 1 month for the second, one year for the third offense.
  2. Institute breath testing in Pubs and Clubs.
  3. Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) legislation: Increase the penalties for employees of licensed premises to sell or supply alcohol to a drunken person (BCA could be set higher than .05.) Start the penalty at $1000 and increase to $2500 and $5000 for 2nd and 3rd offenses.
  4. If a licensed premises has 3 RSA infringements in one year, that premises suffers a license revocation of one week and an additional week for each RSA infringement thereafter.
  5. Include Patrons in Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) legislation. Just as for licensed premises servers, make it illegal for a person to supply alcohol to a drunken person. Same penalties as for servers in licensed premises.
  6. Make it illegal to leave drinking litter (bottles, cans, cups, packaging) in a public places. Enforce this with on-the-spot fines of $500 for each person in a group that leaves drinking litter in a public place such as a street, park or beach.
  7. Severely tighten the laws and increase the penalties for drinking and driving.
  8. 0% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) to age 25 on penalty of suspension of license
  9. If over 25, automatic suspension of driving license for BAC greater the .05
  10. Automatic custodial sentence for second BAC offenses
  11. Strategies can be implementing in the workplace to reduce the consequences related to excessive alcohol use. One change could be for companies to stop re-imbursements for alcohol related entertainment expense.

There a many possibilities for using the laws to change behaviour. Once behaviour changes attitudes and culture will follow.

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