Booze bans the wrong idea with the right spirit
If you’ve ever wondered what the famed 6 o’clock swill sessions of the 1960s looked like, you won’t have to wait too much longer for a modern day version.
The NSW Government’s decision to introduce a blanket ban on shots, doubles and RTDs (ready to drink beverages) after midnight in the Cross is a sure-fire way to artificially change drinking behaviour. With a new midnight deadline, drinkers will take on a last drinks mentality in the half hour before midnight. It won’t make a lick of difference to the drinkers who can carry on drinking the usually cheaper alternatives of beer, wine and cider but you can bet one thing; you’ll see more dangerous drinking and faster intoxication, all before midnight.
A midnight swill is surely not what the Government intended but that’s why experts call such things an unintended consequence.
The NSW Government is rightly intent on trying to reduce the level of violence and anti-social behaviour around Kings Cross. And apart from the singling out of spirits, the range of other regulations they’ve announced should be supported by all of us who want to see an end to the abuse of alcohol.
The long developing situation in Kings Cross demands active co-operation from Government, venue owners, police, the liquor industry and patrons. The violence and other anti-social behaviour in Kings Cross have gotten out of hand – action needs to be taken.
It must be remembered however that the problem in Kings Cross right now are the people who participate and perpetrate violence and anti- social behaviour. This occurs at anytime in the Cross.
The singling out of just one product category as the cause of the bad behaviour is very like the Federal Government’s tax hike on alcopops. The ban on shots, doubles and RTDs simply won’t work. It’s not the type of drink that causes very stupid and dangerous behaviour and violence; it’s the drinker, their beliefs about alcohol and attitude to drunkenness, and how fast they drink. It doesn’t matter if it is beer, wine or spirits. In case policy makers haven’t realised it, alcohol is alcohol.
Premier Barry O’Farrell announcement makes it clear that the measures that directly target the problem drinkers will be the most effective. ID scanners at all Kings Cross venues and improved transport options to make it easier to leave the precinct will go a long way to improving the situation.
But let’s look at the hard facts for a moment. By singling out shots, doubles and RTDs above 5 per cent ABV (alcohol by volume) as the only products specifically banned from being served after midnight you’d have to expect a shift in consumption. Presumably most of these drinkers will go on to buy bottled wine – at 10-14 per cent alcohol instead of 5-7 per cent alcohol RTDs. Or go for a beer and cider.
That’s just the opportunistic substitution.
There’s still the issue of timing - those people inside a venue who essentially pre-load on spirits heavily before the midnight ban. Or if on their way to the Cross, they simply pre-load even more then they had intended on distilled spirits before they reach the precinct. It’s a sad reality that drinkers intent on drinking excessively will find another way to do so, only now they’re forced into drinking harder and faster before midnight.
We’ll do our bit to continue to work with the Government and venue owners to ensure that the measures in Kings Cross are continually monitored to ensure that only the problem drinkers are targeted and not those that are behaving and drinking responsibly.
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