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Scoop Audio - Keep It 18 Convenes

Scoop Audio: Keep It 18 Convenes

If there’s one thing student politicians will cross the party line for, it’s the right to party.

That was the message Thursday as the youth wings of Young Labour, Young Nationals, Young Greens and ACT On Campus banded together to protest raising the drinking age from 18 to 20.

Calling themselves the Keep It 18 coalition, the group refuted the findings of a recent Law Commission report on liquor law reform which recommended, among other policies, revoking the 1999 decision to lower the drinking age to 18.

The Commission’s “Curbing The Harm” report found one in three men aged 18-24 drank “enough to feel drunk” at least once a week, while offenders aged 17 – 19 were the most likely to have consumed alcohol beforehand.

But Keep it 18 spokesperson Jenna Raeburn said she disagreed with the Commission’s interpretation of the figures.

“The Law Commission defines binge drinking as someone who goes out and drinks four glasses of wine at a time – I don’t think that’s particularly fair.”

“The Law Commission looks at that kind of drinking as something that is negative and uses that information to then say a very large number of people are drinking in an irresponsible way,” she said.

Raeburn said there was a culture of binge drinking in New Zealand but young people were being scapegoated.

It was a minority of 18- and 19-year olds who were causing the problem, she said, and the government could not change the drinking culture by banning young people from drinking altogether.

“You have to encourage them to be able to drink in a positive way, and this report doesn’t even allow an 18- or 19-year-old person to go to a restaurant with their parents and having a glass of wine over a meal.”

Banning under-20s would reduce alcohol abuse, she said, but Keep It 18’s members were standing on principle.

“The thing you also do at the same time is criminalise 140,000 18- and 19-year olds who just want to go out and have a few drinks with their friends.

“If you take that argument to its extreme then you might as well ban it altogether,” she said.

The group did not take a position on other proposals such as advertising and minimum prices, but Raeburn said they favoured policies which promoted individual responsibility.

The 22-year-old law student floated a $250 fine for drinkers picked up by police as one option.

“If that happens, I think that’s something we’d all be willing to discuss,” she said.


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