As a dirty foreigner from across the ditch, I feel as though I have free license to bag out Australia. It’s not as though we Kiwis have much else to do during the rugby off-season.
And when it comes to Australia Day, it’s pretty easy to find criticism. At no other time of year do so many Aussies so clearly conform to the negative stereotypes we’ve built for them – loud, obnoxious, a bit dim and very, very drunk.
An ex-Prime Minister of New Zealand, Robert “Piggy” Muldoon, once quipped that Kiwis emigrating to Australia were raising the average IQ of both countries. The tattooed yobbos who drape themselves in flags on Australia Day are the best evidence you could ever dream of for that proposition.
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A cocktail is to a regular alcoholic beverage what a top notch stripper stripping is to your Dad getting undressed. At the end of the day they are doing the same thing, but Christ what a difference.
Everyone needs something to believe in. I believe in cocktails. They are creative, attractive, potent, and they have a clear sense of purpose. Cocktails are about the details, and delight dwells in details.
A cocktail takes the familiar, say a lemon and some spirit, and turns it into something high impact, just like the stripper. An exotic name, a dash of bright colour and a well-thought out garnish are all part of the package, in both cases.
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The campaign by the Australian Hotels Association against small bars is a classic example of commercial self-interest dressed up as community high-mindedness.
In essence, the organisation that has a vested interest in plying us all with liquor is arguing that licensed establishments are now at a premium. This closed-shop mentality is affecting the quality of life for those Australian cities where drinking options are confined to the traditional pub or club alternatives.
It is kind of amazing that a city such as Melbourne, a cold windswept town unblessed by natural beauty, has transformed itself into an excellent place to be courtesy of a vibrant bar and restaurant culture. Yet other Australian cities which are trying to adopt similar policies are being held back, principally by the self-interest and influence of the AHA.
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How old were you when you first had a few drinks?
There’s a good chance that by the time you turned 16 you would probably have had a few beers and/or plastic pillows of cask wine. Chances are you got it from either someone like a sibling who was of drinking age or your parents.
Well, it was reported yesterday that the NSW government is stepping up a push to change teenage drinking culture. Targeting adults.
I’m *hick* having trooble righting this *hick* column because I’ve had too much to drunk. I can’t talk ploply, I’m photocopying my privates and bumping into lampposts like a pin-ball. But I’m Australian, so that’s funny, right?
Well, as funny as the behaviour of the three Welsh tourists who woke up in their Gold Coast hotel last week to find Dirk the penguin in their room. Though the men’s wrists will be slapped, our culture is incredibly accepting of alcohol-fuelled larrikins. But if you drink to the point where you can’t remember your actions, surely your hobby is nothing less than amnesia.
Dirk remembers and if Dirk could speak he too might have phoned in to the radio station I recently heard inviting callers to share the most unusual place they had woken up after a big night out. In prison, on the roof of a car and in the middle of a roundabout were some of the improvised beds the everyday Aussies had occupied. Park benches are only for full-time drunks it seems.
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I like beer. Beer is easily one of my favourite fizzy alcoholic beverages. Anytime is a good time for beer, but an especially good time for beer is anytime I’m thirsty.
I get thirsty when I play or watch sport, I get thirsty when I’m hot and I get thirsty when I eat delicious salty bar snacks like beef jerky and BBQ-flavoured corn nuts. God I love jerky and corn nuts. But best of all, I like beer.
Taking all of this into account, I am a ridiculously easy sell. All advertisers have to do to make me hit the bottle-o for a six pack of their product is make me thirsty. Simple. So why do so many of them fail?
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An Aussie winemaker has been named the world’s best. South Australia’s Peter Gago, who oversees the making of overseeing the production of icons like Grange, Bin 389 and Yattarna chardonnay, claimed the gong from the Institute of Masters of Wine yesterday.
Have you tried this bloke’s stuff? Are you a wine drinker, a beer sinker or a cider slinker? What’s your poison, folks?
It’s Wednesday. What’s on your mind?
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Can you hear a faint sort of teeth-grindy sound? No it’s not the rats in the roof gnawing the wires again, it’s just those thousands of lady drivers with the windows down as they motor past the bottle shop.
Even just four days into Febfast, the annual excruciating month of alcohol abstinence, the novelty will have well and truly worn off and we’re already down to the bare bones of resentment and “I know it’s for charity and all but what the feck was I thinking”.
All around Australia there are mild-mannered ladies cursing the leap year, too, as were it not for that stupid spare day, there would only be 24 grogless ones left. For many of us talented drinkers, when it comes to one’s consumption of alcohol there is the comfort of denial and “look over there, is that a rare orange-bellied parrot? (Yes waiter top me up)” for 11 months of the year, and then there is the long, hard look in the mirror that is horrendous February.
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Stepping out for a fun night and a few drinks sure isn’t as simple as it used to be.
In case you hadn’t noticed, an increasing number of Australian bars and clubs are introducing security technology that would be more fittingly encountered in a Police state than a casual night out for a drink in one of Australia ‘s cities.
In a dystopian display of modern surveillance technologies overtaking common sense, nowadays if you feel inclined to venture out for a dance in one of Melbourne or Sydney ‘s bars or clubs, you can expect to have your ID scanned into a computer. And in extreme cases, be prepared to have your irises scanned as a pre-requisite for entry. Talk about a party killer!
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It was when the Captain Matchbox Whoopie Band let fly with its dated fart joke interlude that I started thinking about drinking. Overcome by nostalgia, I went to see the Captain and his mates (they had amused many of us back in the 70s) in a far-flung tent at this year’s Byron Bay Bluesfest, which is now held on an old Tea Tree farm at Tyagarah near Mullumbimby.
It had been a very good Bluesfest, although a few standout disappointments (a clearly past it B.B. King, a headed towards past it Blind Boys of Alabama and Bob Dylan and his band sounding like week-old soup) took some shine off the event. But there was enough really great music – hunt down Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and his band, Avenue Orleans for starters – to make the five day a revelation and confirmation of the power of music.
Back to drinking. Sad Song Junkie, a new album by Boston singer-songwriter Dan Baker is a delight, bringing together a superb collection of tunes, including a love song to the martini – “When I was young/Just a boy/I’d eat my cereal/Juts for the toy/Not much has changed/For my little treat’s the olive/Way down at the bottom/Of my favourite drink”. It’s such a louche, sweet surrender that I found it hard to stop playing it, despite the power and beauty of the other sad and sorry songs.
Drinking has been a constant theme of song writing, sitting proudly next to love, lust and loss. So, with this new entrant at hand, let’s dive in and nominate the top 25 drinking/drunk songs.
25: Little Old Wine Drinker, Me by Dean Martin is for the devotee of wine (“I’m praying for rain in California/So the grapes can grow and they can make more wine”) by a man with a big reputation as a drinking enthusiast – helped no doubt by his vanity number plate DRUNKY. Martin also had a fabulous crooning voice.
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News today from The Daily Telegraph today that Australian cricket vice-Captain Michael Clarke and sometime opener Phillip Hughes were out at Crown Casino the night before the disastrous fourth day of the Melbourne Ashes Test.
I am rather comforted by this news. Hopefully Clarke and Hughes were hungover throughout the Melbourne Test as it could go some way to explaining their rubbish batting.
Perhaps it would help the country if a picture emerged of the entire squad downing shots tequila and snorting lines ketamine in an Oxford Street club the night before the Sydney Test. We would be reassured as a nation that Australia’s awful performances this summer did not just look drug induced.
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There was a single sentence in the news coverage of this weekend’s Byron Bay schoolies brawl which was buried at the bottom of the story, but could have been a story in its own right. “The schoolies congregated in the park because the lines to get into Byron’s four main pubs and clubs were 100m-plus long.”
The decision to get drunk and act like a jerk is a personal decision. But without excising personal responsibility from the debate, it is also worth examining the environment in which young people make the sort of choices which end up with them sleeping in their own spew in a park, sleeping with someone for the first time while bordering on comatose, sleeping in a police cell because they’ve punched someone for looking at them the wrong way.
It’s an environment which has been created by adults who have a massive commercial interest in Australia’s youth drinking culture.
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It being Melbourne Cup day yesterday you probably started drinking at about 10 am and missed this story, but in another shock horror study researchers have found that we as Australians are drinking more than ever.
Contrary to some studies that began to indicate a decline in our habit, the National Drug Research Institute has found we’re apparently putting it away like Brendan Fevola at Brownlow night. This increase has been attributed to the amount of wine that we’re drinking, because apparently we’ve just worked out how much alcohol the stuff has in it.
One might think that such a finding would elicit some kind of response from the Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon. Like an abusive PE teacher she frequently reminds us that we’ve been drinking too much, eating too much and we’re slob of a nation who will never make the athletics squad. It might even be an opportunity to look a bit further into something that every major health body in the nation and the Henry Review has championed: that is a volumetric tax on alcohol.
That’s it. We’ve arrived at what is officially termed the Dizzy Limit.
NSW Police, warming to their recent self-appointment as a freelance social policy think tank, trustee of public morality and holy rolling temperance society, have announced that Australia Day should be as dry as the Nullarbor Plain. Starting now.
They have reasonable cause. Shockingly, some people treat such occasions as an opportunity to get on the squirt and a small minority of those consequently get stupid and some proportion of those play up and a fraction of those become violent and commit felonies.
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If the legislation for the Orwellian-sounding Australian National Preventive Health Agency passes, then expect an avalanche of make-work exercises by the Agency all for the cause of making us healthier.
Armed with a budget of $133 million of your money over four years, the agency would get to work advising commonwealth and state health ministers about health issues surrounding alcohol and tobacco consumption and obesity.
It will look to create new policies about interventions in settings such as schools, workplaces and communities.
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Well another day and yet another useless decision on alcohol.
Victoria Police will today continue their blitz on drunks at races with the running of the Oaks at Flemington.
Now it’s great that police are targeting these people to stop alcohol fuelled violence, but I personally don’t believe it’s the right course of action.
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This week parliament will debate a bill to establish a national Preventive Health Agency, reminding of that classic Mark Twain observation: nobody is safe while the legislature is in session.
On The Punch Federal health minister Nicola Roxon insisted that she was no nanny statist, and that the purpose of the Agency was about saving lives and reducing health costs.
Most modern governments understand the follies of outright bans, such as the failed US Prohibition movement from 1919 to 1933. However, the Agency plans what it sees as the next best thing.
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Next week Parliament is set to consider legislation that is another first from the Rudd Government – Australia’s first agency dedicated to Preventative Health.
Currently the media abounds with stories about our obesity epidemic, rising rates of chronic disease and problems with alcohol and tobacco. This Agency will help us do something about those problems.
As much as some media outlets find the labels irresistible, this isn’t about creating a nanny state, or nagging people into being ‘good’. This Agency will be staffed with experts who will work hard to find the best possible ways to help us be healthier – and reduce our health bill as a result.
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With the current kerfuffle about binge drinking, you might be inclined to think that drinking copious amounts of alcohol is a fairly recent phenomenon. The truth is that the history of Western civilisation is soaked in alcohol.
In the spirit of informing the current debate — and helping policy makers and public health officials to see what they’re up against — The Punch presents the following comprehensive* history, spanning over 2500 years of drunkeness.
360 BC — Plato. The history of binge drinking in the West begins in Ancient Greece with the philosopher Plato who compared drinking parties to going to the gym. Just as going to the gym temporarily weakens you but makes you stronger in the long-run, drinking parties, he argued, can make you stronger.
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Things we should consign to the non-recyclable rubbish bin of a lost Australia.
Female tennis players winning Grand Slams. Babies christened Keith or Shirley. Bank branches in small country towns. Australian wine under ten bucks a bottle.
While you’re just as likely to bump into the Beaumont children as encounter any of the first three, there’s still an ocean of palate-numbing, environment-raping, image-trashing plonk out there and everything that is great and good about the Australian wine industry is drowning in it.
In having a gentle dig at US beer maven, food guy and legendary brewer Garret Oliver, Paul Colgan put his finger on what is the greatest obstacle to beer becoming anything other than a weapon of mass consumption for most Australians.
While it is OK – almost expected – for the urban sophisticate to have a touch of the wine tosser these days, if you show the slightest interest in what’s in your beer glass – or even ask for one when you order a beer – you are marking yourself as a twat of the worst order.
How things have changed. As a child in middle class suburbs of Brisbane in the 70s, I recall my parents going to parties where the dads all rocked up with a half carton of XXXX tallies and the wives with a four litre cask of Coolabah Moselle or Riesling.
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A new preventative health agency is set to be established in the coming months that will tell people what they can eat, drink and certainly not smoke.
It will also attempt to monitor how much of this bad behaviour we are indulging in by working out how fat we’re getting. It’s also likely going to aim to get us fit and exercising as “communities”.
So be prepared to be awoken by a megaphone wielding Nicola Roxon who will no doubt lecture you on why you shouldn’t be hung-over as she accompanies you to the local common for some invigorating star jumps.
The fat patrol are no longer vigilantes, they’ve been given their own agency.
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