By Ian Neubauer
The nation’s seven police commissions have called for a national approach to change Australia’s ‘drink to get drunk’ culture and make people take responsibility for their own actions.
However, most of the recommendations set out within the joint commissioners’ press release target liquor retailers and licensees, with SA Police Commissioner, Mal Hyde, telling News Limited that liquor retailers see their licences as a “licence to print money”.
The wide-sweeping changes proposed by the commissioners include the abolishment of late-night trading, happy hour and the sale of shooters, the refurbishment of licensed premises with layouts that encourage slower alcohol consumption, and the introduction of new offences for simply having intoxicated people in licensed premises.
AHA director of national affairs, Bill Healey, said the only way to promote substantial social change is to place the onus on offenders.
“It seems here that everyone else is to blame except the individual. But the only way to have substantial social change is to make individuals accept their responsibilities,” he said.
Healey also levelled criticism at suggestions that licensees should be fined for having intoxicated persons in their premises.
“In some cases we think it is better to keep that person on our premises than put them out on the street. Often when we do remove these people, that’s when problems start,” he said, calling for stricter fines for intoxicated persons.
NSW Police executive media adviser, Tony Ritchie, said it was unfair to suggest the Commissioners failed to address the issue of personal responsibility.
“The intention of the press release was for Commissioners to generate public debate,” Ritchie said, adding that the points offered were proceeded by “comments that go straight to the heart of personal responsibility — the notion that many people are choosing to ignore the consequences of drinking too much.”
Ritchie also inferred the SA Commissioner’s position on the irresponsible nature of liquor retailers was not shared by NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione.
“Mr Scipione [has] repeatedly maintained that only a small number of premises were at fault. He praised the vast majority of venues who work with police and ‘do the right thing’,” he said.
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