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Harawira: Alcohol Advisory Council Amendment Bill

Alcohol Advisory Council Amendment Bill 2007
Hone Harawira, Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau
Tuesday 04 March 2008

Last August I went out on night-patrol round the town camps outside of Alice Springs, with the Aboriginal equivalent of the Maori Wardens, people with no police powers, but dedicated to helping whanau try to help themselves.

It was a sobering night in many respects: sobering to see the commitment and the patience of the night-patrol; sobering to know that these patrols and other initiatives were going to be disbanded under the racist Australian Northern Territory Intervention Plan; and sobering to see the extent of alcoholism in indigenous communities.

And folks, while I’ve done the serious ‘party hardy’ scene all over the country in my day, I can tell you that I have never, EVER, seen the level of alcohol abuse that I saw that night on the night patrol.

It blew me away, but it also opened my eyes to the way in which we’re NOT dealing with alcoholism in this country, including this Bill to amend the Alcohol Advisory Council Act 1976.

Because it’s important that we as parliamentarians know, that while we pitter patter around the periphery of the problem of alcohol abuse with Bills like this, we’ve already passed legislation to allow the sale of alcohol in supermarkets, the sale of alcopop to our teenage kids, and the extension of opening hours for clubs and bars …

leaving our poorer communities to deal with the trauma of the drunkenness, the assaults, the alcoholism, the poor-houses, the night patrols, the soup-kitchens, the health problems, the domestic violence, and all the needless tangihanga, all fuelled by the easy access to alcohol; while those liquor and alcohol outlets that we have given sanction to, drain poor families, suck out desperately needed food money, and profit from the addictions of the poor.

And so today, we come here to consider how best to support ALAC in their job of encouraging responsible use of alcohol, and minimising its misuse.

And that’s got to be a good thing, because ALAC’s been around for 30 years, since the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the sale of liquor, and battling through the time since the Sale of Liquor Act 1989 deregulated the liquor industry, increased trade flexibility, removed restrictions on drinking alcohol, and relaxed the sale and supply of alcohol, ALL of which led naturally to – a greater consumption and abuse of alcohol.

ALAC knows more than anyone the effects of alcohol consumption, so when they call for resources to deal with alcohol abuse in Maori society, the Maori Party hears what they’re saying, and when ALAC calls for research on the impact of alcohol and liquor advertising on Polynesians, we hear that call too.

Today’s Bill aims to provide ALAC with levies based on the level of alcohol in a drink, which will enable them to continue with their work.
And that’s OK too, but in truth, it’s just a nothing against the tsunami of alcohol abuse raging through fully 50% of all teenagers in Aotearoa.

Fifty percent of all 12-17 year olds in Aotearoa - Maori, Pakeha, whatever, are boozing it up big time - a horrific statistic that we simply cannot ignore any longer.

And while surveys tell us that non-Maori kids drink more often, it also tells us that Māori kids are binge drinking at 2½ times the rate of non-Maori.

And it’s these kinds of statistics, these scenarios of horror that challenge us in this House, to take responsibility for the health of our nation’s future.

Like Sir Apirana Ngata, who was petitioned by Ngāti Porou women, to use his parliamentary powers to stop the further sale of alcohol on the Coast, which unwittingly gave rise to the great haka, Poropeihana, opposing the prohibition of alcohol. And yet here we are, nearly a century later, still trying to deal with the destructive effects of alcohol, in Maori communities.

And so, while we support this Bill, our greater interest is still, in the changes that we need in legislation to deal with alcohol abuse.
Like when we find that more than half of all teenagers who binge drink say they get their alcohol from their parents, and how there’s no adults around when they’re getting off their face, maybe we should be spending less effort on bangin’ the kids, and more on sorting out the parents.

Like focusing on efforts to turn whanau around, by giving them positive options in life, like a decent education, decent housing, decent kai, and a job for example, rather than more police, more laws, more jails and more misery.

Like parliament setting an example, by cutting back on alcohol at it’s own functions, and MPs being better role models than those dickheads who get drunk down town and make fools of themselves in public.

Anyone who goes out on night patrol with the cops in Aotearoa, will see cells filling up with over-intoxicated young people every weekend, as if the police don’t have better things to do with themselves.

How many tangi could we prevent if we took a harder line on alcohol abuse? How many fights, how many court referrals, court cases, convictions, CD, PD, Home D, jail?

These are the real questions to consider, and they are also the targets we should be setting ourselves.

And yet we sit here and kid ourselves, that we’re serious about dealing with these issues, while we allow the liquor industry to continue to promote it’s mind-bending products on national television for heaven’s sake!!
I’m nobody’s hero, but I do take pride in being a non-drinker, non-smoker, and drug-free – because I know that Maori people respect those who walk their talk, and I also know that 60% of Māori inmates point to drugs and alcohol as major factors in their offending.

There’s a lot that we need to do …
We need research to back up our fight against alcohol abuse (but not too much – we’ve already got heaps).

We need to put restrictions on the availability of alcohol.

We need to put the brakes on binge drinking.

We need more focus on education, sport and culture.

And we need to put real energy into giving people positive life choices, instead of the dead-end lifestyle that sees us lose 22,000 people every year to Australia.


Alcohol is still the most damaging drug in our society, bar none.

It’s scary enough knowing that from the time you turn 18, it’s legal.

But the real frightening thing is that fifty percent of our kids are already into it, before they even make that 18th birthday.

We here in this House, have the power to change that. The question is, do we have the courage?

ENDS

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