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Focus on anti-social behaviour, not alcohol availability

Media release from Hospitality NZ

Focus on anti-social behaviour, not alcohol availability

Mike Keane, Associate Professor in human psychopharmacology and lecturer in public health at both Monash and Swinburne Universities, recently penned a hard-hitting column for The Australian newspaper titled “Don’t blame the booze, its zero tolerance on violence that’s needed.” National President of Hospitality New Zealand, Adam Cunningham, says Keane “is exactly right when he identifies individual responsibility as the key to resolving alcohol-related anti-social behaviour and violence, rather than yet more regulation.”

Mr Cunningham suggested that Kiwi politicians, Police, local councils and the legions of taxpayer funded health lobbyists read the thought-provoking and challenging article. In a key section, Keane wrote "it is of great importance that politicians not be seduced by the fool's gold of the availability hypothesis, about which our public health elite is so besotted. Proponents of the availability hypothesis believe that if only we enact ever more draconian laws to restrict everyone's access to alcohol then that small number of violent thugs will leave us alone. The idea is that it is all society's fault for allowing temptation." Mr Cunningham follows this with the question, “when did laws, rather than education change any society? It’s time to stop managing people as a singular focus, and start expecting them to manage themselves.”

Keane’s main conclusion is that “even slight changes to the elements that control complex human behaviour can have a substantial impact: if we continually stress alcohol as the problem, rather than the need for individual responsibility, we may end up adding to the problem.” Hospitality New Zealand, the industry body representing nearly 2,500 Kiwi businesses, has consistently argued that authorities here are overly focused on the sellers of alcohol instead of ensuring people are held more responsible for their own behaviour.

Mr Cunningham said “we should crack down on the individuals who act irresponsibly rather than trying to make it more difficult for responsible Kiwis to enjoy a couple of drinks with friends and family. Hospitality New Zealand believes we should concentrate directly on the problem drinkers and their anti-social behaviour, rather than on excessive regulations and restrictions. In New Zealand it is perfectly legal to be drunk on the street but the second you step into a bar - the bar’s owner and staff are legally responsible for your intoxication, even if you have not purchased or drunk a drop on the premises. You however, are still not legally accountable. This is a ludicrous situation. We support bringing back the crime of public drunkenness and introducing a strict no-tolerance policy for violence and anti-social behaviour.”

“In our view, New Zealand could learn a great deal from Associate Professor Keane’s arguments. One of his key points is that we should be directly taking on the perpetrators of violence in our streets, not cowering away from them and blaming ourselves for allowing them access to alcohol,” said Mr Cunningham. He concluded that “we need to focus on the real issues. New Zealand needs to stop this single focus of “restrict to succeed” and take back some personal freedom. A true zero tolerance policy on violence and a greater focus on individual responsibility in everything, including drinking.”


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