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Progressives release drug and alcohol policy

Hon Jim Anderton

Progressive Party leader

18 October 2008 Media Statement

Progressives release drug and alcohol policy

* Increase age for buying alcohol
* More community control over liquor outlets
* Reduce driving blood-alcohol levels.

The number of deaths and injuries involving young people has increased substantially since the legal age for buying alcohol was reduced.

That's why the Progressive party is promising to force a vote on increasing the alcohol purchasing age in the new parliament, Progressive leader Jim Anderton says.

He today released the Progressive Party policy on alcohol and drugs calling for the legal age for buying alcohol to be increased to twenty.

Jim Anderton says anyone who points out New Zealand's alcohol problem is sneered at with terms like 'fun-police', but lowering the age at which alcohol can be lawfully purchased has led to more deaths and injuries among young New Zealanders.

"If the road toll among 15-29 year olds had fallen by the same amount as the general population since 1999 there would have been twenty fewer deaths on the road last year.

"In 2000 there were 4,079 15 to 29 year old car and van drivers involved in injury crashes. Last year, there were 6,538 - an increase of sixty percent.

"That's why Progressives intend to force a vote on the drinking age in the new parliament."

In addition, Progressives are calling for the blood alcohol level for adult drivers, set at 80mg/100ml in 1978, to be reduced to 50mg/100ml. The lower level is in force in Australia, Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Peru,, the Philippines, Portugal, South Africa, Switzerland and Venezuela.

Jim Anderton says the Progressive policy gets tough on the causes of crime and other harm.

"Alcohol is estimated to cause between $1500 and 2400 million of harm each year. In recent years New Zealand has made alcohol much more available. Predictably, the harm caused by alcohol has risen as well.

"If you are against crime, you have to get tough on alcohol. Over half of police time is linked in some way with alcohol. Up to 61 per cent of people the police deal with as offenders have been using alcohol prior to the offence."

The Progressives want more help for communities to reduce the proliferation of liquor outlets and to intervene against premises that breach their licence conditions.

"At the moment police have to wait until a licence comes up for renewal before they can ask to have it shut down or restricted for persistent licence breaches. They should be able to step in when they are needed.

"Police comment about the number of outlets in a community should also be mandatory considerations when licences are issued, along with operating hours and levels of alcohol-associated crime in the vicinity. Then we wouldn't have so many episodes of alcohol-fuelled violence as we have seen in South Auckland this year."

Progressives want alcohol advertising on TV restricted to late at night and a review of pricing laws to focus on the growing practice of offering discounted alco-pops targeted at teenagers.

The policy also calls for a network of detox centres, where police and other social agencies could take people to help them recover safely, instead of using police cells.


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