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Time for political consensus on alcohol

MEDIA RELEASE

NEW ZEALAND DRUG FOUNDATION

6 August 2008

Time for political consensus on alcohol

The Drug Foundation is urging all political parties to support a new alcohol bill announced by the government today, saying the bill addresses key weaknesses in our current liquor law through amendments which shouldn't be politically contentious.

"We welcome the bill. While it's been a long time coming, it covers a range of incredibly important issues which will help families and communities tackle New Zealand's poor drinking culture," said Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell.

"Typically, alcohol law is treated as a conscience issue by most political parties. This is usually because the minimum purchase age for alcohol is being debated. The purchase age isn't included in this bill, which is probably very smart politics by the government, and because of this we can see no other issue which would trip up politicians' consciences."

"Greater community say in liquor licensing, the development of local alcohol plans, and strengthening parental responsibility on the supply of alcohol are not political issues. We therefore call on all political parties to support this bill, and not abdicate responsibility to individual MPs."

"Cross party support will be needed to get this bill to select committee stage before the election. Because the government has taken this long to introduce the bill, it might require urgency to get the bill firmly on Parliament's agenda."

The Drug Foundation says the bill doesn't go far enough on alcohol advertising. It will be recommending a total ban on all forms of alcohol marketing in recognition of the influence advertising has on New Zealand's drinking culture.

"Unfortunately the bill is also silent on the price of alcohol. We know the ready availability of cheap booze is a key factor in our poor drinking culture. Cheap alcohol not only influences young people's drinking, especially of cheap, sweet alcopops, it also encourages all other drinkers to consume more."

The Drug Foundation notes the price of alcohol will be addressed by the Law Commission review of liquor laws, also announced today.

It has welcomed the review saying, as with New Zealand's drug law - which the commission is currently reviewing - our alcohol law hasn't kept up with the rapidly changing alcohol market and trends in drinking. The review's terms of reference gives the commission wide scope to examine the complexity of alcohol policy and law.

"The Law Commission review provides a great opportunity for New Zealanders to think hard about our drinking culture, and to discuss the best ways to create a culture of moderation and to support people who choose not to drink."

ENDS

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