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The House: New Drinking Age Set

MPs have voted to introduce a new minimum drinking age of 18 by the narrowest of margins.

The debate on ‘Issue One’ in the Sale of Liquor Amendment (no2) act, was taken second so that members would be aware of the ID requirements the legislation would be working under. (See earlier coverage).

There were impassioned debates on the options before them.

These were:

Option A - A minimum legal drinking age of 18 in licensed premises or to be sold/supplied liquor , but persons may be younger when accompanied by a guardian, parent or spouse over the age of 18.

Option B - A minimum legal drinking age of 18 in licensed premises or to be sold/supplied liquor, but persons may be younger when accompanied by a guardian or parent over the age of 18.

Option C - The status quo ie. legal drinking age of 20 with a number of exceptions.

Option D - The status quo, but with less exceptions for instance a person over 18 could not go to a licensed premise and consume liquor as part of a meal unless they were accompanied by a parent, guardian or spouse.

Option E - The status quo but with only one exemption, that is a person under 20 can be sold or supplied liquor if accompanied by a guardian or parent.

There were two amendments introduced by Lianne Dalziel to options A and B that would allow no exceptions to the age of 18. Ms Dalziel said that it was the exceptions in the current law that were causing the problems and standardising the law around the age of 18, which was the de facto drinking age, would tidy up the law. Under the amendment which was passed the only exception would be people under 18 could be supplied alcohol by a guardian, parent or spouse over 18, but not have it sold to themselves under any circumstances.

The vote on Option A wasdefeated, but option B with the Dalziel amendment was agreed to by 60 to 59.
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Some snippets from the drinking age debate

There was much passionate debate about the dangers of alcohol abuse amongst young people as well as the contradictions and open flouting of the present law.

Michael Cullen said in effect that the current law was an ass as it allowed people to marry at 16, but not drink at 18 and the responsibilities and dangers of marriage were far greater than going to the pub.

Phillida Bunkle pointed out that the law did cover drinking age, but the age that liquor could be sold or supplied to in licensed premises. She said many families introduced younger people to alcohol and education in moderation was they key.

Phil Goff said that the move would increase drinking problems amongst youth and would create a de facto minimum age of 16. He said it was opposed by all public health groups.

Jenny Shipley said that she and probably every member had been in a bar when they were underage. Mrs Shipley said the present law was a muddle, unenforceable because of the number of exceptions and confusing to young people and their families. She said setting an 18 year old age limit would create a sensible law and this would allow moderation to be taught.

A number of people said that if the law did not catch up with the reality of 18 year olds drinking in bars, then it would teach contempt for the law.

Some spoke in favour of making 20 the standard drinking age with no exceptions and supporters of the move to 18 said they would also support a Lianne Dalziel amendment creating no exceptions with a minimum age of 18.

Tuku Morgan and number of Maori colleagues said there was strong opposition amongst Maori because of the impact of alcohol abuse on Maori Youth.

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