Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 

The Alcohol Non-Reform Bill

The Alcohol Non-Reform Bill

The Alcohol Reform Bill will begin its final reading in Parliament today. This Bill represents the National-led Government’s long awaited response to the Law Commission’s comprehensive evidence-based review of the liquor laws which occurred during 2009/2010.

The Bill has already been talked up by the government’s PR machine as a ground-breaking piece of legislation that stretches Parliament’s influence to change the heavy drinking culture in New Zealand, but it is just a disappointing damp squib.

Even on cursory examination of the new Bill, the multiple tinkerings it contains are overshadowed by the lack of substantial reform, making it unlikely there will be any appreciable change in the heavy drinking culture of New Zealand as a result of its adoption. The current economic recession has been much more effective in decreasing heavy drinking in New Zealand than everything in this weak new Alcohol Reform Bill combined.

But it is worse than weak; the new Bill is shocking. It is inexcusable that the government is too timid and too captured by the big alcohol-related businesses to tackle the real problem driving the heavy drinking culture in NZ – yes, the vested interests of a powerful alcohol industry which will continue to enjoy relatively unregulated free market conditions to push their drug products at New Zealanders if the Alcohol Reform Bill is enacted as is.

There are eight main new things in the Bill. Four of them are general measures and four relate more specifically to teenagers. The four general measures are:

1. Allowing councils to establish local alcohol plans. This has been promoted as a centrepiece of the new Bill in which local communities will have the power to determine the number and placement of liquor outlets and hours of trading in their region. But this will require ordinary citizens, who are concerned, highly motivated and have the spare time, to square off against the Foodstuffs, Progressive Enterprises, and Hospitality Associations etc with all of the latter’s legal and financial resources at the ready, at the multitude of hearings that will be necessary in every region of New Zealand. The government meanwhile will be standing on the side-line, hand in hand with the alcohol industry, bashfully saying they are unable to get involved because it is a local issue for local people to determine.

2. Changing the current 24 hour trading hours to a default involving a ban on alcohol sales from 4am in the morning (from on-licences) to 7am (off-licence). This “reform” is so feeble it is laughable – a so called Alcohol Reform Bill that bans alcohol sales for three hours around dawn. A government committed to alcohol reform would set new progressive trading hours that would make a difference, such as 10am – 10pm off-licence and 10am – 1am on-licence, and then if local communities are so deranged as to want to increase alcohol-related harm in their region by increasing alcohol commercialisation, they would have the choice to liberalise these hours in their local alcohol plans.

3. Cutting down on excessive alcohol promotions at the point of sale. Sounds good but this is a minute change compared with what is needed in terms of dismantling the broadcast advertising of alcohol and alcohol sponsorship of just about everything, that maintains the industry’s portrayal of alcohol as a normalised and glamourised essential product in the life of NZers (just like tobacco was 40 years ago).

4. Defining more stringently what a supermarket is for the purpose of alcohol sales. This will end alcohol sales in some convenience stores, which is good, but this is simply closing a loophole in the previous legislation which did not intend convenience store sales.

Half of the main things in the Bill relate to youth drinking; despite the fact that of the 700,000 heavy drinkers in New Zealand (using a standard WHO definition of heavy drinking), less than 10% are under the age of 20. Over 90% of NZ’s heavy drinkers are 20 years and over.

The four youth measures are: limiting the alcohol content of RTDs, limiting advertising to young teenagers, strengthening parental supervision requirements for young teenage drinkers and raising the purchase age for liquor stores and supermarkets to 20.

This final measure is the most substantial element of the entire Bill in terms of potential to reduce alcohol-related harm. But it only goes half-way unless National’s Hamilton West MP Tim Macindoe can persuade enough of Parliament to adopt an R20 purchase age across the board as recommended by the Law Commission. An R20 purchase age was supported by 78% of the general public over the age of 15, according to the latest Health Sponsorship Council scientific survey. Only 13% supported “keep it at 18”. The best scientific evidence available on alcohol policy demonstrates the effectiveness of a higher purchase age, but the half-way measure of a split age has not been shown to reduce drinking or harm.

It will be a tragedy if Parliamentary debate is hijacked by purchase age. Not only would this focus unfairly on youth, it would detract from the importance of the reforms that are not in the Bill; those required to deal with the unrelenting promotion of alcohol, the unbelievably cheap price of alcohol, the extraordinary general availability of alcohol and the fact that people 20 years and over will continue to be able to drive around drunk and still be under the legal limit (0.08) for driving.

Expect the following PR lines to be used by the government to justify being spineless about alcohol reform:

“we are enacting 130 of the 153 Law Commission recommendations” (but ignoring the ones that would actually make a significant difference);

“this Bill represents the first time alcohol has had the brakes put on it for more than 40 years” (but failing to say that the Bill won’t change the damaging drinking culture; it may just prevent it from getting any worse);

“legislation can only go so far in changing the drinking culture” (this is a favourite line but is false; look how at how legislation has changed the smoking culture and the mobile-phone-use-while-driving culture);

“it would be unfair to penalize the majority to pay for the actions of a few” (these words are in fact carefully prepared PR words of the alcohol industry that appear to have been unconsciously picked up and used by government ministers and other MPs over the past two years to justify the lack of any real steel in the new legislation – raising the price, for instance, won’t impact significantly on moderate drinkers and dismantling the advertising wouldn’t impact on the pocket of any drinkers).

Over the next few day we are likely to see the alcohol industry’s own massive PR machine in concert with the Business Roundtable and advertising industry in close support, massaging the government message that this limp Bill represents a monumental change in the way alcohol is going to be supplied and sold in NZ. There will also be comments reported about the negative impacts on the industry and therefore on NZ as a whole.

These are dark and shallow times in which “all business is good business”, and we don’t yet clearly differentiate businesses that promote health and civil society from those consumption-based addictionogenic enterprises that threaten it, including the gambling, sex, junk food and alcohol industries.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Democracy 2.0: NextElection Partners With Scoop For Exciting Democracy Tech

NextElection, a technology platform empowering democracy and Government accountability, and Scoop Independent News have partnered to strengthen citizen participation in the 2020 New Zealand General Election, set for September 19th.

Scoop’s ambition for bringing NextElection to NZ is to use it to strengthen and expand Scoop Citizen activities under the auspices of the Scoop Foundation for Public Interest Journalism.

The nextelection.nz platform has been populated by the project team with channels for all the 2020 General Election candidates and political parties. It also features up to date geolocation data based on the latest electoral boundaries. More>> Joint Press Release: NextElection, Scoop.co.nz, ScoopCitizen





       
       

      Election 2020: Labour Launch

      E ngā mana e ngā reo Ngāti whātua ngā mana whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau, e tika te kōrero Ehara taku toa he toa (taki tahi) he toa (taki tini) No rēira tātou e huihui mai nei, ka ‘Hoake tonu tātou’ Thank you for that welcome. And thank ... More>>

      Gordon Campbell: On Political Twins, And On Labour Extending Its Wage Subsidy Scheme

      A quick quiz for the weekend. Which political party currently represented in Parliament issued a press release yesterday that contained these stirring passages: “[We have] long supported a free trade and free movement area between Canada, Australia, New ... More>>

      ALSO:

      Parliament Adjourns: Adjournment Debate: Speaker Trevor Mallard

      The 52 Parliament has sat for the last time before the September Election. It sat for 245 days... More>>

      ALSO:

      E-Cigarettes: Vaping Legislation Passes

      Landmark legislation passed today puts New Zealand on track to saving thousands of lives and having a smokefree generation sooner rather than later, Associate Health Minister, Jenny Salesa says. The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) ... More>>

      ALSO:


      National: $4 Billion Investment To End Wellington’s Congestion Woes

      A National Government will invest another $4 billion in transport infrastructure across Wellington, igniting the economy and delivering the congestion-busting solutions the region has long been crying out for, National Party Leader Judith Collins says. ... More>>

      ALSO:



      Covid-19: Poll On Management Approval

      New Zealanders’ overall trust in the Ministry of Health and Government to manage the COVID-19 pandemic is at 82%, down from 91% during April. Overall distrust that the Ministry and Government will manage it in ways which best protect themselves More>>

      Election 2020: National Releases 2020 Party List

      National’s 2020 Party List is a strong mix of experience coming up through our Caucus, and new and exciting talent joining our team from communities across New Zealand, Party President Peter Goodfellow says. “The National Party is incredibly ... More>>

      Horizon Research Limited: How Judith Collins Stopped The Bleeding

      Horizon Research includes questions on voting from time to time in its surveys – for both forthcoming referenda and general elections. More>>

      Your Vote 2020: Bringing Election Coverage To Viewers Across TVNZ Channels And Platforms

      As New Zealand gets ready to head to the ballot box this September, 1 NEWS is bringing voters comprehensive coverage and analysis of this year’s General Election. TVNZ’s coverage will draw on the depth of experience held across the 1 NEWS team, says Graeme ... More>>

      Economy: 30% Believe Households Worse Off, 298,000 Expect To Lose Jobs

      64% of New Zealanders feel the economic position of their households is the same or better than a year ago – and 30% think it is worse or much worse, while 298,000 think they will lose their jobs in the next 12 months. Households’ perceptions ... More>>

      State Services Commission: Findings Of Investigation Into COVID-19 Active Cases Privacy Breach

      Deputy State Services Commissioner Helene Quilter has today announced the findings of an investigation into a breach of privacy regarding sensitive personal information. The investigation looked into who or what caused the disclosure of the information, ... More>>

      International Security: New Zealand Suspends Extradition Treaty With Hong Kong

      The New Zealand Government has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and made a number of other changes in light of China’s decision to pass a national security law for Hong Kong, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says. More>>

      ALSO:


       
       
       
       
       
       

      LATEST HEADLINES

      • PARLIAMENT
      • POLITICS
      • REGIONAL
       


       

      InfoPages News Channels