Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Justice)
: I move,
That the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time I intend to move that the bill be referred to the Justice and Electoral Committee for consideration.
Firstly, I wish to acknowledge the previous Associate Minister of Justice the Hon Lianne Dalziel, for the work she did for the last Government in preparing this legislation. It is now timely to advance it.
Alcohol is a challenging issue for any Government, because any attempt to ameliorate the negative impact of alcohol abuse must be balanced against the freedom of the majority of the adult population to drink responsibly. Those who cast their minds back to the so-called sherry tax of 2003 will recognise that liquor reforms must be targeted and relevant if they are to help fix the problem without punishing the innocent.
However, the problems caused by excessive drinking are undeniable. In the area of criminal justice alone, it is estimated that approximately 60 percent of offenders were under the influence of alcohol at the time they committed their crimes. Police estimate that 50 to 70 percent of their work is associated with alcohol, including disorder, assault, criminal damage, family violence, drink-driving, taking drunk people home, or detaining them for detoxification. This bill attempts to address the problems associated with the availability of alcohol, youth binge drinking, and alcohol advertising, through amendments to the Sale of Liquor Act 1989, the Summary Offences Act 1981, and the Land Transport Act 1998.
A key provision of this legislation relates to the availability of alcohol in our communities. The number and range of outlets selling alcohol is much larger than what was envisaged by Parliament when it passed the Sale of Liquor Act 1989. Since 1990 the number of on-licences has more than tripled, and the number of off-licences has similarly tripled. In response to public drunkenness and alcohol-related offending, communities from Mount Roskill to Riccarton are protesting against the marked increase in liquor outlets in recent years. In this regard I wish to acknowledge the work of the Hon George Hawkins in bringing to the House a local bill that would enable his constituents in Manurewa to object to any application for a liquor licence on the basis that if granted it would have an adverse social impact.
The Government’s bill addresses all communities’ demands for more say in local liquor licensing decisions. At present there is nothing to stop a local council from creating an alcohol management plan, but that plan will not have a formal status in liquor licensing decisions. This bill will enable local councils to create local alcohol plans that must be given effect to in liquor licensing decisions. Local alcohol plans will be able to set restrictions on the number of outlets in an area, on the proximity of outlets to other community buildings like schools, and on hours of operation. In short, local alcohol plans will give communities greater control over where and when alcohol is sold.
This bill will also clarify Parliament’s original intentions for the types of premises that are eligible for an off-licence and the alcoholic beverages they can sell. In 1999 Parliament voted against allowing dairies to sell wine and beer, which may come as a surprise to those who have seen a number of shops that would normally be regarded as dairies selling alcohol. This bill will commence the argument to ensure that, except in very limited circumstances, grocery-selling stores will not be able to obtain a liquor licence unless they have a floor area of at least 150 square metres. Whether 150 square
metres is the best benchmark will no doubt be the subject of careful scrutiny at the select committee, and I encourage full and open debate on that issue.
The bill will also ensure that grocery stores and supermarkets continue to be restricted to selling beer, wine, cider, and mead. This is designed to avoid situations where spirits are sold by setting up a store within a store, or an immediately adjacent liquor store that sells a full range of alcohol. Again, I expect that the select committee will pay close attention to what constitutes an immediately adjacent store for the purposes of this restriction, and I welcome submissions and debate on this point.
I cannot overstate the importance of the second set of provisions in the bill—the provisions that address the harm arising from youth drinking. A recent study from Christchurch found that children as young as 4 were trying alcohol, and that the onset of drinking rises very steeply from the age of 12. Harm to minors is most significant when alcohol consumption is unsupervised, and most consumption is. The bill changes the current approach to the social supply of alcohol to minors, by making it an offence for adults to supply liquor to minors without the consent of their parent or guardian. A small but significant number of liquor outlets continue to sell alcohol to minors, so the bill will increase the penalty for managers who do that. The bill will also restrict the legal defences available to a person who sells liquor to a minor, by repealing the defence that a seller had a reasonable belief that the minor was aged 18 or older. This means that the only available defence will be that the seller viewed appropriate identification.
I have already mentioned the impact that alcohol use can have on offending, but, obviously, it can have a broader social cost. Inexperienced drivers are particularly at risk of alcohol related-crashes, so the bill amends the Land Transport Act 1998 to reduce to zero the allowable blood-alcohol content for drivers under 20 who do not have a full licence. In recognition of the need to address problem drinking as early as possible, the bill will also allow police to refer a minor to an alcohol intervention programme as an alternative to paying an infringement fee for certain offences under the Sale of Liquor Act.
Finally, the bill incorporates recommendations arising from the review of regulation of alcohol advertising. That review found a small but significant association between the level of exposure to alcohol advertising and alcohol consumption. The bill proposes to insert a new part into the Sale of Liquor Act that provides for a system of enforced self-regulation by setting out the principles of the proposed system, the roles of the body responsible for administering the self-regulatory system, and the new offence. These provisions require very close scrutiny by the select committee.
This bill tackles what can be done immediately to help limit the harm caused by alcohol. My intention is that it will be complemented by the Law Commission’s first-principles review of the entire regulatory framework for the sale and supply of liquor. I have asked the commission to speed up that work, so it is now planning to produce a discussion paper by the end of July, with a final report due by the end of June 2010. Of course, both that review and this bill deal only with the laws that govern the sale and supply of liquor. There are, quite rightly, limited laws in other areas. That is a product of our culture, the way we drink, and it will change only gradually, over time. But that does not mean we should not try. I commend this bill to the House.
IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North)
: I rise very much in support of the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill. This is another bill that I get to speak on that was originally introduced by the previous Labour Government. A lot of hard work was done then by Lianne Dalziel, as was acknowledged by the Minister of Justice, Simon Power.
The bill amends the Sale of Liquor Act 1989, the Summary Offences Act 1981, and the Land Transport Act 1998, to implement recommendations arising from the recent reviews of the sale and supply of liquor to minors, the sale of liquor, and liquor enforcement issues. It also introduces a new system of enforced self-regulation of alcohol advertising.
The objectives of the bill are to support a more moderate drinking environment and culture to reduce the normalisation of youth drinking, to enhance the responsibility of friends and adults who supply alcohol to minors, to increase youth responsibility and accountability, to improve compliance and responsibility of the industry, to increase community input into licensing decisions, and to clarify the types of premises that may hold off-licences.
The health impacts of the misuse and abuse of alcohol are wide ranging and deeply felt by our community. They range from injury to cancers to heart disease and several other health impacts. The costs in dollar terms are quite immense where they can actually be measured. In New Zealand we estimate that the alcohol harm costs somewhere between $1 billion and $4 billion a year. It costs the public health sector something like $655 million. In crime and related costs it costs $240 million. In social welfare it costs $200 million, and in other Government spending it costs $330 million. In lost productivity it costs about $1.17 billion. Those numbers are enormous, and drive the need to address the drinking culture in this country. It is something that we have talked about a lot, but finding some form of legislation to deal with it has been difficult. This is a good first port of call.
Labour introduced this bill whilst in Government because we take the issue of alcohol-related harm very seriously. Labour, of course, also initiated the Law Commission review of New Zealand’s liquor laws, and I look forward to the results of that review. As the Minister pointed out, it is timely that we take a look at our liquor laws, because it has been an extraordinarily long time since the last comprehensive review back in the mid-1980s.
One of the things that I think is most important about this bill is the opportunity it gives to communities to take ownership of the alcohol issue within their own community. The ability for local authorities to provide an alcohol plan, and for that plan to have some meaning, is a substantial part of this bill.
It is worth noting the support that this bill has received from within the health industry. Recently the Canterbury medical officer of health, Dr Alistair Humphrey, said: “Our pubs and clubs, by and large, are responsible hosts, just as the specialised bottle shops are responsible retailers. That so many of the central city outlets sell to children who are so young demonstrates how difficult it is for these businesses to stay within the law. A move towards restricting off-licences in the central city will protect our children, protect our city communities, and, indeed, protect the convenience store businesses themselves from the further prosecutions they will undoubtedly face.”
Alcohol is very much a public health issue. Certainly the Minister has covered the justice side of the issues, but it is very important that we pay attention to the public health issues and the harm that the misuse of alcohol does to our communities. It is for that reason that the Labour Party is supporting this bill being referred to the select committee, and we look forward to the submissions that the select committee receives.
We need to think about what this bill is not going to do. It is not some sort of witch-hunt for people who drink responsibly, nor is it a witch-hunt for retailers who have a responsible attitude towards the sale of liquor. It is about clarifying the rules, it is about communities taking ownership, and it is about reducing the harm related to alcohol. It is not about cracking down on the sensible, responsible use of alcohol by the majority of New Zealanders. It is about the responsibility of families, and the responsibilities that
parents have in taking care of their children and the young people whom they are responsible for, and building a responsible drinking environment and culture within their families and within their communities.
I look forward to the progress of this bill. I look forward to the work that will be done at the select committee. We take note of the Minister highlighting the areas he would like the select committee to look at—
Hon Darren Hughes: Very subtly!
IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY:—ha, ha—particularly closely, and I look forward to speaking again on this bill when it returns to the House.
SANDRA GOUDIE (National—Coromandel)
: I am delighted to follow my most excellent colleague the Hon Simon Power, who has done a magnificent job in this regard. It is interesting to note that this year actually marks the 10th anniversary of the lowering of the drinking age to 18, and the 20th anniversary of the Sale of Liquor Act, which made it easier for dairies and superettes to sell alcohol, so—
Hon Lianne Dalziel: There is no drinking age. There never has been.
SANDRA GOUDIE: Well, the lowering of the drinking age to 18?
Hon Lianne Dalziel: No, there is no such thing as a drinking age.
Hon Member: Purchase age.
SANDRA GOUDIE: Oh, purchase age. OK, righty-o! Oh, semantics! So in 2009 it is timely for New Zealanders to re-examine their tolerance, or lack of tolerance, of heavy drinking. It is also interesting to note that researchers are actually finding linkages between alcohol and some cancers, as well as a raft of other health problems, such as cirrhosis of the liver—well, that is pretty well known—anxiety, and psychological issues.
The social costs are much harder to quantify, but can be pretty substantial. The fatal and non-fatal road accidents that occur because someone is drunk behind the wheel are devastating for families. One constituent recently wrote to me expressing a huge amount of concern in that regard. He had lost his wife of 33 years and his children had lost their mother, as a result of a drunk driver. It was quite a tragic situation. It would be tragic for anyone in that circumstance.
The domestic violence, the absenteeism, the poor productivity, and the decision to buy alcohol rather than groceries—these social costs are almost too huge to take into account. But it is good to note that some communities are already taking steps to help reduce the toll that alcohol is taking on their residents. In Clendon, South Auckland, a community support group organised a protest against a local superette applying for a liquor licence, and that, in turn, led to some superette owners withdrawing their liquor licence applications. I think that is a worthy step in the right direction.
Liquor bans that councils have adopted have been hugely successful throughout the country, in many, many communities. Families feel much safer being back in areas where they might not normally have congregated because of the amount of drinking and inebriation in the streets. I have to say that a place like the Coromandel is inundated with people during the summer period. The population increases to about 150,000 throughout the district. The liquor bans have been very, very successful in making members of the community feel that they are safe at that time of year when people are celebrating.
So it is wonderful to be supporting the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill, which amends the Sale of Liquor Act 1989, the Summary Offences Act 1981, and the Land Transport Act 1998, to implement recommendations arising from recent reviews of the sale and supply of liquor to minors, and the sale of liquor and liquor enforcement issues. It also introduces a new system of enforced self-regulation of alcohol advertising.
When I was looking at the bill and listening to my colleague speaking earlier, I saw that new section 84A, “Territorial authorities may adopt local alcohol plans”, is to be inserted in the Sale of Liquor Act by clause 37. This section has been mentioned by other speakers in the House. I am delighted to see that it states “may”. There is always a cost to local authorities when they enter into any of these sorts of processes, so if we have the word “may”, it means that they may or they may not do that.
But if they decide to do that, they may be able to recoup their costs through the liquor licensing process, because there is a charge for that process. As members will be aware, if a council is to adopt any sort of plan, it has to go through a consultative process, which is hugely costly. Councils have to weigh up whether the benefit of having the plan is worth the cost, or whether they should just introduce some of those conditions at the time of issuing a licence. I am not clear on that point, but I understood that when local authorities issue licences, they specify some conditions around them.
In seeking to address the drinking behaviour of minors, an integrated approach is necessary. Solutions rely on changing the behaviour of individuals and communities, and this involves a supportive regulatory environment, public awareness and ownership of issues, and an understanding of rights and responsibilities. There certainly is not enough of that in this country, where individuals should better understand their responsibilities if they expect to have some rights. Consistent and effective enforcement is also important. Improving the compliance of the liquor industry will also make a contribution, and the proposals in the bill are intended to contribute to this change.
Research indicates that parents are the main suppliers of alcohol to minors. Sixty percent of minors identify their parents as the primary source of supply. That is of huge concern. Around 30 percent of the alcohol supplied is supplied by friends, and 10 to 15 percent is purchased from licensed premises by minors themselves. That is 10 to 15 percent. In the context of these findings a large majority of parents—92 percent—agree that the primary responsibility for helping teenagers to learn how to handle alcohol responsibly belongs to parents, and so it should. Again, it is that word “responsibility”. Parents need to take some responsibility and to step up to the plate, and that is what it is all about.
Common locations where minors consume alcohol are their own home, someone else’s home, and public places. Well, liquor bans can deal with the public places, so parents and other people need to take responsibility when alcohol consumption is occurring in their home or in somebody else’s home.
There is also increasing concern regarding the extent of alcohol-related harm, and communities are frustrated by their inability to manage that harm. There is a need to improve local control over where, to whom, when, and how alcohol can be sold in communities, to ensure that social impact is taken into account in licensing conditions. In this context the policy objectives of the bill are to improve the compliance and responsibility of industry, to increase community input into licensing decisions and to support a more moderate drinking environment and culture, and to reduce the normalisation of youth drinking. As anybody knows, a young person of 18 years of age is still not physiologically developed enough to really handle alcohol effectively. The bill is also designed to enhance the responsibility of friends and adults who supply alcohol to minors, to increase youth responsibility and accountability, and to clarify the types of premises that may hold off-licences. In addition, this legislation introduces new offences for adults supplying liquor to minors without consent, and it increases penalties and limits the defences available to those selling.
There are amendments to the Land Transport Act 1998, as I mentioned earlier, that inexperienced drivers are particularly at risk of alcohol-related crashes. These proposals aim to make it clear to young, inexperienced drivers that alcohol and driving do not
mix. So there can be no doubt that drivers aged under 20 years who do not have a full licence will have an alcohol limit of zero. I will just repeat that: if people are aged under 20 years and do not have a full licence, they will have an alcohol limit of zero. People cannot have even one glass of beer if they are 20 or younger and driving. I think that is an appropriate condition in order to ensure that we reduce the level of incidence of young people who have been drinking and are behind the wheel, and I know that this will be welcomed by many. However, some young people say that often it is the older folk who are inclined to be drunk behind the wheel.
There are other points to note. This legislation is a priority area for this Government, which is looking at a variety of alcohol-related issues. We hope to pass this bill through its first reading to enable select committee hearings on it to commence in the not too distant future.
In addition, as members heard earlier from the Minister of Justice, he has asked the Law Commission to speed up its in-depth review of the law concerning the sale and supply of liquor in New Zealand. The final report, after feedback has been received, is due by the end of June 2010, and, depending on the outcome, another bill could be introduced by the end of 2010.
We are delighted to be supporting the passage of this legislation through the House, and we know that the wider community of New Zealand is delighted about the content of this bill and will be looking forward to constraints being exercised around the sale and supply of liquor.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East)
: As I was the Minister who introduced the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill, I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate on its first reading.
The main features of this bill put the power of controlling the availability of liquor where it belongs—in the hands of local communities and in the hands of parents. The bill allows liquor licensing bodies to take social impact into account when making licensing decisions. It gives local communities standing to object to the granting of licences. Currently, they have to show a greater interest than the public generally. The bill gives real teeth to local alcohol plans, by requiring the licensing bodies not merely to take them into account, but, rather, to give effect to those local alcohol plans. It comes the closest this country has ever been to having a drinking-age provision by making it an offence to supply liquor to a minor without parental consent. There are provisions that deal with a misunderstanding that the licensing bodies had over Parliament’s intention in respect of the exception that allows supermarkets and grocery stores to sell liquor, and for that liquor to be limited solely to wine, beer, mead, and cider.
I proposed to Cabinet that we seek to address this issue by putting in place a size threshold to reinforce the decision of Parliament in 1999 that dairies would not be allowed to sell liquor. It has been very disappointing to see licences granted to premises that Parliament never intended to be allowed to sell liquor. It is equally pleasing, though, now to see that the Liquor Licensing Authority has itself drawn the line in the sand where Parliament intended it to be drawn, diminishing, as it does, the need to use size as a proxy for this definition. I never regarded that definition as being particularly satisfactory. Size is an unfortunate proxy to be used in this context, and I am sure that as a result of the Liquor Licensing Authority decisions, in future there will not be the granting of licences to dairies in this country. The Justice and Electoral Committee should consider this matter very, very carefully when considering the content of the bill, and, hopefully, in its report back it will have some sensible comment to make on that matter.
I will comment on another trend in liquor licensing decisions, because it will impact on how this bill is considered. I have been following the Liquor Licensing Authority’s decisions recently. This is largely as a result of some work that I did with a community group involved in opposing an application for an off-licence in Halswell, in Christchurch. I know that other communities have started to take a real stand by putting in combined opposition to liquor licensing applications, and having that stand recorded in a very public way. The objection in this case, though, stemmed from the fact that the owner of the licence was also the owner of the supermarket. The supermarket was, essentially, next door to the proposed premises for the bottle store, which was a matter of metres from the hotel bottle store, which faced into exactly the same car-park. The members of the community said enough was enough. They counted the number of licences that had been issued in Halswell, and they felt that a bottle store that actually faced on to the same car-park as the hotel bottle store was a ridiculous proposition to put to their community. It was not needed. Unfortunately, because of the limited scope of the criteria listed in the legislation, the Liquor Licensing Authority really had no option but to approve the licence. However, the Liquor Licensing Authority did reduce the hours that the applicant had applied for. The applicant had originally applied for 11 a.m. until 11 p.m., and that was knocked back to an 8 p.m. closing. I thought it was very good that the Liquor Licensing Authority took that position, and it has adopted that position consistently for first-time licences since it has reconsidered its approach in these matters.
The other thing that happened as a result of the community taking up this issue was an approach that has now been put in writing in respect of the impact of loss leading. I will read directly from the decision itself: “We believe that the retail initiative known as loss leading—that is, advertising and selling goods at less than cost in order not only to attract customers to the store but, in the process, sell more products—needs to be looked at more seriously by licensees. If a licensee uses liquor to loss lead, then he or she is stimulating and not meeting demand. Where liquor is involved it is not good enough for a licensee to say, as they do,”—and as they did in this case, I might add, because I sat and listened to the hearing—”that they have to continue with this business practice because of competition. Most licensees understand that they are dealing with a drug, and that they have a duty under the Act to help promote the reduction of liquor abuse. In our experience loss leading helps to promote the abuse of liquor, and future examples of loss leading by an off-licensee will be treated as an indication of lack of suitability”. I hope that the supermarkets in this country sit up and take notice of that warning from the Liquor Licensing Authority.
I am disappointed that the decision has not received as much media attention as I thought it deserved. It is a major statement of a new position, and it is one that is welcomed by those of us who believe that the worst decision made by this Parliament was the decision in 1999 to allow beer to be sold in supermarkets. This exposed liquor to the norms of the retail industry, which treats liquor like all the other items on its shelves. That is why members of the hospitality industry—quite a different industry, and one more akin to the sale of liquor—tell me that they can buy beer more cheaply from their local supermarket than they can from their wholesale distributor. The vote for beer to be sold in supermarkets in 1999 was carried by 58 votes to 53 votes. It is appalling that such a major decision, which has had a huge impact on the accessibility of alcohol in this country, was passed by such a narrow and ill-informed vote. There were people on both sides of this House who voted for that resolution. I certainly did not.
My reaction to what happened on that vote has been to criticise the conscience vote, but the bottom line is that only a few MPs get to sit on a select committee and hear the evidence. That is why these sorts of matters should be subject to the kind of analysis that the Law Commission will be undertaking. I know that people think that, yes, it is fine that the Minister has asked the Law Commission to speed up the report back. But I do not want the speeding up of the report back to be at the expense of quality research and analysis, because that is what this Parliament needs in order to exercise what continues to be a conscience vote.
I hope that members of the House do not see this bill as an opportunity to move ad hoc amendments. The legislation has suffered for long enough from that approach. My message is to deal with the issues that have been raised in this bill, then await the Law Commission report, to allow sound judgment to be applied to the next substantive proposals to provide a legal framework that contributes to the reduction of liquor abuse.
I want to end by talking about the purchase age. I am sick of the media referring to there being a drinking age. This country has never ever had a drinking age in our laws; we have a purchase age. There is nothing in the law at the moment that stops anyone from supplying liquor to an under-18-year-old, as long as the liquor was not bought with that intention in mind. This bill fixes that issue by requiring parental consent. But the real question is whether we should have a debate about the purchase age. I think that we should, but given the very many exceptions that used to exist to allow on-licences to sell to 18-year-olds, we should, perhaps, also debate the difference between on-licence sales and off-licence sales; between supervised drinking, where the alcohol is drunk on the premises and licensees face consequences for breaches of their obligations, versus unsupervised drinking, where the licensee faces no consequences for what happens when the liquor leaves the premises. I personally think that would be a very worthwhile debate, which is why, in my view, the Law Commission review of the legislation is so important. I believe that it would be a huge mistake to invite submissions on matters not contained in the bill, because MPs and submitters alike may be trapped into thinking there are simplistic responses to these issues. There are not.
KEITH LOCKE (Green)
: The Green Party is supporting the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill. From the time when alcohol was first introduced by the settlers many decades ago, our country has had a drinking problem. That drinking problem led to the establishment of very big organisations such as the New Zealand Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which was a motivating factor in women being given the right to vote in 1893 to try to control the drinking problem, the level of alcoholism, and the binge drinking. I think binge drinking was reinforced by the 6 o’clock closing time that we had for many years. People drank huge amounts up until the, in effect, 6.15 p.m. closing time. It is good that this bill will make some progress in controlling binge drinking, particularly amongst young people.
I will comment on a couple of provisions, such as the local alcohol plans. I was struck by the need for such plans a year or so ago when I went to my local barbershop—hairdresser—about 30 metres off Karangahape Road in Auckland, which is a retail area. I went there at about half-past 10 on a Saturday morning, and about 10 metres away from the barbershop and other retail premises there was a liquor outlet—a bar—going full bore. Apparently, the way things went in that K Road area, the bar only really got going at about 3 a.m. and it was licensed to go through until midday. So people like myself who were arriving at the hairdressers could not hear ourselves. Basically, the neighbouring retail premises to this liquor outlet lost all their business on a Saturday morning because of the drunkenness around them—people being sick on the pavement and the like.
The suggestion in the legislation, once it is implemented, of local alcohol plans to be adopted relating to the sale or consumption of alcohol within a local district, particularly with the consultative way in which this plan is to be formulated, will mean the end of situations that I have described, which are totally out of sync with community interests. There is no way that that bar should have been open at those hours right in the middle of a shopping community on a Saturday morning.
The other point I will address is the question of advertising and promotions. The Green Party is not in favour of alcohol advertising. We have campaigned against it in relation to advertising in the media and elsewhere. This bill here goes a step towards the Green goal but not far enough, because there is a little bit of a contradiction in some of its principles. The bill states: “liquor advertising and liquor promotion should not hold strong appeal to children or young people.” Well, anyone who looks at liquor advertising will know that it is directed primarily at young people; it is not directed at people who are 40 or 50 years old who are set in their drinking ways in one way or another. Advertising tries to increase consumption of a particular product among young people. Members could look at any advert on a billboard, on television, or whatever and see that that is the reality. If this legislation can restrict that, then good on it, but it will be a bit difficult.
The bill states: “liquor advertising and liquor promotion should not be inconsistent with the promotion of responsibility and moderation in the consumption of alcohol;”. Again, I think the whole point of advertising is to get people to drink more than they otherwise would. It would be good if adverts stated “Don’t drink more than one glass.” or whatever, but I have not seen them and I think that even under this bill I am probably unlikely to see them.
Restricting advertising is very important for the health of people and particularly for our young people. When we have alcohol companies promoting a sport—and Lion Red is used a lot at sports events—there is a contradiction there. We have a big debate in relation to the New Zealand Rugby League, which the Warriors are part of. The league is arguing about whether it should ban its players from using alcohol at all. It has said it would be a bit difficult to do that, but the very fact that it is having that debate at the same time as we are having teams being sponsored and promoted by alcohol companies is a little bit contradictory. It is a step forward in the advertising area to go beyond our previous voluntary self-regulation to what is called enforced self-regulation.
It is good that under the advertising provision proposed in new section 136B, in relation to the recognition of the liquor advertising advisory body, it states: “when reviewing its codes, devising appropriate ways of engaging with the community to elicit a range of views on them;”. I think that is critical, and Lianne Dalziel also recognised that if the community becomes aware of this new law and its powers, together with the local bodies, then we will see big change in terms of the way in which New Zealand liquor advertising is conducted—and hopefully in the extent of that advertising. Thank you.
DAVID GARRETT (ACT)
: I rise on behalf of the ACT Party to support the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill. I intend to take only a very short call, in line with my own personal view that if one has not got something worthwhile to say then one should not say anything at all.
Hon Darren Hughes: That’ll change!
DAVID GARRETT: I try to resist the temptation to become like Mr Hughes, but, in the meantime, I will say that I noticed when looking through the bill—which I obviously was not familiar with because it was introduced last term—that two things, in particular, stuck out. The first thing was the provision for local alcohol plans. I note that a territorial authority may adopt an alcohol plan relating to a number of matters that are
listed in proposed section 84B. That seems to me to be an eminently sensible way to proceed.
I have the pleasure these days of living out in the country north of Auckland in an area that I commonly refer to others with great approval as “old New Zealand”. One does not have a lot of the problems out there that one has elsewhere. But I used to live in the North Shore of Auckland and, again, that is very different from other parts of the city. I must admit to having been a bit doubtful about claims that liquor is available at “every dairy down the street”, but just the other day I had reason to be down in South Auckland and, sure enough, in premises that were the local dairy there was liquor on sale and one would not need to go very far to find another one.
I can very readily see that the intent of laws in the past has been abused, and it seems to me that these local alcohol plans in which such factors may be taken into account as to where the outlet may be located, the maximum density for outlets—which harks back to the speech by the Hon Lianne Dalziel—and the minimum distance from other outlets, etc., are eminently sensible. Who could disagree with them?
The other provision that I noted with great approval was the concept of “three strikes and you’re out”, which seems to have been introduced by the previous Labour Government. Proposed sections 135A and 135C provide for the mandatory cancellation of managers’ certificates after three incidents relating to minors within 2 years. As the House knows, I am backing the “three strikes and you’re out” laws for more serious violent crimes, and it is very heartening to see that the previous Labour Government recognised that the idea of having two chances but then being struck out, as it were, on the third is sound reasoning and a sound way to proceed. The ACT Party will be supporting this bill.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Kia ora tātou, i tēnei pō. Members might not know that I do not drink too much these days, but I find myself thinking that I may be a bit of a hypocrite talking about this sort of bill and about the rights and wrongs of drinking or purchasing liquor. I have to admit that once upon a time I did venture into a pub—before I was supposed to—
Hon John Carter: By mistake.
TE URUROA FLAVELL: I purchased alcohol, by mistake, ahead of the right age, and, yes, I got led astray by some of my friends, by mistake, and lost my mana.
Hon Member: That must have been Te Arawa.
TE URUROA FLAVELL: By mistake, it was. In those days drinking seemed to be all about fun; that was the focus. But in reflecting on this bill it seems to me that times have changed a little bit. I say that because last August, as most of the members of the House will know, in the southern regions down in the Te Tai Tonga area in Dunedin, riot police had to come out to battle with crowds of drunk university students as they threw bottles and burnt couches in what is generally known as the Undie 500. We understand that 30 people were arrested for disorderly behaviour, obstruction, and breaching the liquor ban in the annual riot that is all too often dismissed as, some would say, student pranks. Somewhere along the line the alcohol-fuelled trip organised by the students union blurred the distinction between off-campus fun and behaviour of a criminal nature. This seems to be the case more often than not these days.
As I stated last week in a debate on a similar bill—and despite my feeling a bit of a hypocrite—the Māori Party is greatly concerned about alcohol and drugs and the part they play in youth crisis situations. It did not seem to be like that in my time. During the debate last week I spoke of the fact that alcohol-related harm is a major contributor to preventable health and social costs on young people. I also spoke of the reality that young people are more than twice as likely to suffer from alcohol-related harm as those
in other age groups. As parents, grandparents, and, in some cases, great-grandparents, we hear stories about the drinking behaviour of our rangatahi. As a caucus, we of the Māori Party are determined that we have to do something about it.
We know that, overall, a lower proportion of rangatahi Māori drink alcohol compared with non-Māori. That is pretty great from our perspective, in the sense that most of the statistics around our people are not all that crash hot. Unfortunately, compared with all non-Māori and with people aged over 30 years, those young Māori people who drink alcohol appear to be disproportionately engaged in heavier and riskier drinking.
Young people themselves report that alcohol is usually supplied by parents, in about 60 percent of cases, and by friends aged over 18 years, in 30 percent of cases. The Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill is intended to improve industry compliance and responsibility, in order to put the focus fairly and squarely at the feet of the alcohol barons and the alcohol industry.
As other speakers have said, this bill seeks to regulate where, to whom, when, and how alcohol can be sold in communities. Importantly, this bill will implement the recommendations arising from the review of the sale and supply of liquor to under-18-year-olds in New Zealand. Well, we say that is all good, but, of course, it misses the point. It is not the fact that we are buying booze that is the problem; it is the fact that we are drinking.
Nothing in this bill specifically focuses on those whom the young people identified as handing over the alcohol to them, namely their parents and friends. The bill targets the industry, local authorities, on-licences, and off-licences—in fact, everyone except the person holding the wallet, which is our concern. That is not to say it is not important to have the wider community take responsibility for this problem but more to suggest that we must target our efforts on those who are within the immediate orbit of the young people who are the focus of this bill.
The Māori Party has always said there should be a variety of strategies, both legislative and non-legislative, to reduce the overall supply of alcohol to young people, in order to limit their drinking and its associated harms. We know, as other speakers have said this evening, that to stem the tide of this desperate problem of binge drinking by young people we cannot put up ad hoc proposals in isolation from the overall drinking culture of the nation. This bill is a step in the right direction, in terms of putting in place different approaches to addressing the responsibility of those supplying alcohol to our young people from a commercial premises.
The bill attempts to address drinking behaviour by improving industry compliance and responsibility to regulate where, to whom, when, and how alcohol can be sold in communities, and to ensure that social impact is taken into consideration in licensing conditions. That is all good, and we support any moves to bring responsibility to the front of the kōrero. We understand that that responsibility is specified in the bill in a number of ways, and other speakers have mentioned them. Firstly, the bill introduces local alcohol plans to be adopted using consultative procedures provided for in the Local Government Act, thus increasing community input into licensing decisions. Secondly, any application for an on-licence, an off-licence, or a club has to be consistent with the local alcohol plan. Local authorities need to notify the authority to state that they support the granting of the licence. Thirdly, the types of premises that may hold liquor licences are defined. Off-licences cannot be granted in small premises and are restricted to selling wine and beer. Finally—and importantly—those supplying alcohol will be subject to more stringent rules around their own performance in the industry.
A lot of these changes are to do with self-regulation and self-control. In 2000 at Manu Ariki, near Taumarunui, the first Māori alcohol and drug summit took place. Two of the key recommendations from the summit were, one, a need for leadership to advise and guide kai mahi—workers in the drug and alcohol area—and, two, a need for cultural competencies to standardise drug and alcohol services. Leadership may be about having Māori staff and Māori counsellors who have knowledge of tikanga, and kuia and kaumātua as mentors, explaining and promoting the programme to whānau so they understand what is involved.
Turning to the cultural competencies, it is all about developing a whole-of-whānau approach, especially if there are drug and alcohol issues at home. Since that first summit, Māori alcohol and drug service providers have been meeting regularly, I am told, to ensure that Māori retain mastery over our own solutions to address alcohol-related harm. Their commitment is that Māori are able to honour and respect themselves, others, and their places of belonging. To do that, Māori need to be free of the behaviours that threaten our way of being.
When we look through the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill we can say that although we are pleased to see the greater clarity around the roles of managers of off-licence premises and of licensing authorities, we know it is but a partial solution. Real solutions are likely to be most effective when coordinated at multiple levels in society. Real solutions involve stakeholders at all levels and, we believe, our families and whānau. Real solutions engage our whānau and are directly run with those who are at the centre of this bill: our rangatahi.
We will support this bill at its first reading because we want to encourage a debate that is as wide as possible on an issue of such critical and fundamental importance to our nation. Our policy as the Māori Party has been to support whānau-focused alcohol and drug addiction recovery and restoration services. We are particularly concerned for the futures of our young people. More than 53 percent of the entire Māori population is under 25 years of age, so we have plenty at stake here.
We cannot turn a blind eye and ignore the profile of young people who drink in Aotearoa New Zealand. We know that the consumption of large quantities of alcohol in one sitting seems to be an accepted norm these days, and if there is one thing we would most like to see this bill achieve it would be to change the attitudes that lead to the behaviours of binge drinking and getting wasted, which we all condemn. We will support this bill and we look forward to more changes to come to ensure a huge and meaningful reduction in drinking-related harm for our young people. Kia ora tātou.
SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki - King Country)
: I could not agree more with my colleague who has just resumed his seat, Te Ururoa Flavell. Much of what he had to say was absolutely right. I also say that it would be hypocritical of me to take a pious view of the consumption of alcohol now at age 49, or to, while thinking back to when I was in my 20s, take some sort of position that would be inconsistent with my own lifestyle.
As the father of two young adult boys, I am fully aware of the impact that alcohol can and does have on a lot of families. I also say that I believe that this generation of young New Zealanders is actually far better than we were. On the whole, they are much more responsible and much less likely to get involved in alcohol-related activity, shenanigans, legal disobedience, or other such activities than was our own generation, notwithstanding some of the television footage we see of students in Dunedin and other places—and that is certainly at the top of the news at the moment. I firmly believe that, percentage-wise, they are not as bad as some would have us believe. That said, we do see a large number of young people—and I mean very young people—overindulging in alcohol. Whom do we blame for that? Whom should we ask why that is so?
I congratulate the former Labour Minister, Lianne Dalziel, who recently took a call and put forward some of the research that had gone into the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill. The bill states that something like 60 percent of the minors surveyed identified their parents as being the suppliers of alcohol. Their parents, of course, are people of our generation, so we need to look no further than the type of culture that has developed in our time, rather than in the time of the children who are now offenders.
The bill itself, as other speakers have said, covers a number of issues around the advertising activities of licence distributors and other such things. But according to the research done for the bill, only 10 to 15 percent of those who are involved in under-age drinking actually purchase the alcohol themselves. There is already a fairly powerful law around the purchasing of alcohol by minors, which is that one must present either a driver’s licence with a photograph on it, a passport, or a special identification card before the licensed premises can serve alcohol. If the licensed premises do not obey that law, then some fairly hefty penalties apply. So clearly the argument, in that regard, is about enforcement rather than about a change of law.
We must come back, then, to the basic principles. Some speakers have talked about advertising. My 23-year-old son arrived home from Victoria University wearing a T-shirt that stated “Tuiversity”. I asked him what “Tuiversity” meant and whether he knew how big the cheques were that I was writing out so that he could enjoy this so-called higher level of learning in Wellington. We never had to have T-shirts with “Tuiversity” on them to learn the values of the consumption of that fine product from Mangatainoka. I asked him what he was doing wearing these T-shirts. He said to me that I needed to get with it and that if he wore the “Tuiversity” T-shirt to the Speight’s Ale House often enough they would give him a Speight’s T-shirt so that he would be kept in clothing throughout his university studies without it being a burden on his parents. I do not know how much one has to invest in the Tui product to be eligible for these shirts, but certainly he collected a fair volume of them.
I will also share with the House a small anecdote. On the weekend a number of colleagues and myself went to the Hurricanes match in New Plymouth and watched the Hurricanes thrash the Australians again. At that great occasion I ran into the father of a close friend of my son, who was also a Victoria University graduate. He said to me that at his son’s wedding the “teenagers”, as we call them—but they are not actually teenagers; they are young adults now—were very, very responsible. There was no drunkenness or stupidity. In fact, they behaved at a very high standard. He was surprised; I do not know why that is, but he was. I suggested to him that I had experienced that situation a number of times in that I had been nervous about one or two things that were likely to take place at our place, and then I had been pleasantly surprised not to have had my apprehensions borne out. I suspect that a minority of children consume alcohol—that is, children from the age of 14 to the legal age of being able to purchase alcohol, as the Minister rightly said—
Hon Paula Bennett: Former Minister.
SHANE ARDERN: —as the previous Minister said. Of course, that is right. The law has never, ever prescribed a drinking age; it has prescribed a purchasing age. There is a lot of debate around at the moment about whether that issue should be revisited. I suggest that it should be properly enforced. That would be a better approach.
An expert, multidisciplinary steering group reviewed the self-regulatory system for alcohol advertising. It considered a broad range of evidence and concluded that alcohol advertising plays a role in shaping the culture of drinking, and that it reflects and amplifies drinking practices in the context of a country’s social, economic, and cultural history. I suspect that that is absolutely right. Hopefully, this bill, once it becomes law,
will go some way—at least we hope it will—to addressing the culture that has developed in society around the problem drinking that we see so often now in television bulletins, particularly around universities, and the behaviour that is taking place as a result of that drinking, as well as some of the crime statistics that we see from time to time.
The review also found that there were a number of gaps. The gaps are that industry is largely accountable for the system, with limited opportunity for influence by the Government. In other words, there is a self-governing regime, as far as advertising is concerned. This bill goes some way to giving both local and central government the opportunity to say: “Well, look, we have given you guys a go. You haven’t played ball, in terms of what society expects from you in general, so you either do that or we will bring in some law, regulation, local body law, or other such thing that will make you do so.” The report identified that there was no real legislative framework to do that, so this bill brings that in.
The system is not underpinned by clear policy goals. In other words, in one area one thing applies; in another area another thing applies, so therefore there is confusion and uncertainty around what is expected of various providers. We have heard tonight in this debate a lot of anecdotal evidence, at least, of various suppliers running loss-leader wars on alcohol. The previous Minister said that in her view it was a great pity that we allowed beer to be sold in supermarkets. Well, as someone who goes into the supermarket on the way home occasionally and picks up a few dozen for friends who are coming round to watch the rugby match or whatever, I actually find it very convenient to buy beer from supermarkets. Why would she penalise 90 percent of society for those who would offend, given, as has been stated many times, that it is the parents themselves who need to be accountable for teaching young people or showing responsibility in respect of the use of alcohol? I am not sure I agree with the previous Minister on that point, but some clear guidelines around advertising and how supermarkets and other outlets should run loss-leaders and other such things in the promotion of alcohol may need to be looked at.
There are no infringement powers in cases of persistent and serious non-compliance, so clearly this bill does something in regard to giving local authorities, in particular—but not just local authorities—an opportunity to do something about that.
This bill is a small step to overcoming what has become a growing problem in our country, but I think it is a problem that is more cultural and more parent-driven and will be resolved within the community, as opposed to being resolved by legislation. But the legislation will give more powers to those who wish to do something. Thank you.
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Leader—Progressive)
: I support the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill, but I am under no illusions that it needs to go much further than it does if we are seriously to reduce the harm caused by alcohol. Alcohol causes between $1.5 and $2.5 billion worth of economic and social harm each year in New Zealand. It is by far the most damaging drug in this country. It is the most damaging drug not because it is intrinsically the most dangerous drug—far from it. It is the most damaging drug because it is the most available drug. In recent years, when alcohol was made much more available, predictably the harm caused by alcohol has also risen. In recent years we have lowered the drinking age, and more young people are being harmed much more often. We have allowed more widespread alcohol advertising. We have allowed the sale of liquor in more places and for longer hours. The resulting harm is there to be seen by anyone who cares to look: in the carnage on the streets and in alcohol-fuelled crime waves.
Nothing makes it more obvious that the Government has its priorities wrong than the casual attitude towards alcohol that we just heard from the previous speaker. If the
Government truly wanted to reduce crime, it would make alcohol less available. If the Government truly wanted to reduce the health bill and make New Zealand more productive, it would reduce the availability of alcohol. It is cynical if people come in here to Parliament and pronounce grimly about the toll that alcohol causes yet they do not take effective action against it. Some of the Government members were the first to sneer about a nanny State when someone tried to fix problems such as this. They claim to be anti-crime but they also sneer and call anyone who tries to reduce crime the “fun police”.
Let us look at what they mean by “fun”. In 1999, 500 people were killed on our roads. By 2007, total road deaths had declined to 410—a reduction of 90. But the number of road deaths among 15 to 29-year-old New Zealanders did not fall anywhere near as much as that. Last year, if the toll among 15 to 29-year-olds had fallen by the same amount as the rate fell for the general population, there would have been 20 fewer deaths of young New Zealanders. In the context of 410 deaths, 20 fewer does not sound much, but the Transport Agency values the life of anyone killed on the road at about $2.5 million. If we multiply that by 20, we are up to $50 million, and that is only the direct economic cost. The social and human cost is much greater. So why would the toll not fall among young people in the way it fell among the rest of the population? There is only one reason: the drinking age was lowered.
In the years prior to 1999, when the drinking age was lowered, the number of dead drivers who had an alcohol level above the legal limit was tracking down. Since 1999, when the purchase age was lowered, the number of dead drivers in that category has stopped tracking down. Because we reduced the age, more young people are being killed and injured. Those are the brutal facts. In 2000 there were 4,079 15 to 29-year-old car and van drivers involved in injury crashes. In 2007, 7 years after the lowering of the drinking age, there were 6,538 injury crashes involving 15 to 29-year-olds, which is an increase of 60 percent. Is that just an accident of history or is there a causal relationship between lowering the drinking age and that figure? I leave members to draw the obvious conclusion. The number of injury crashes among young people is far greater than the number among the general population. The research in New Zealand and around the world is clear: there is a direct link between the availability of alcohol and the level of harm caused by it.
Alcohol is also an enormous factor in crime. Between half and three-quarters of all police work is associated in some way with alcohol abuse. If we talk to police on the front line, we will hear many of them say that over 90 percent of the criminal activity they deal with is caused through alcohol abuse. That is what they are dealing with. Between half and three-quarters of all police work is associated with that problem. Two out of three people whom the police deal with as offenders have been using alcohol prior to the offence being committed. Is that some kind of accident, or is there a causal factor there?
So I support the measure in the bill to reduce access to alcohol, and I have no truck with people who call it “nanny State” or who call anyone who is voting for this bill the “fun police”. This issue is not funny. I condemn anyone who says that a vote for mild restrictions on this dangerous drug is a vote for prohibition. Sensible control of alcohol is not prohibition, and pretending they are the same is both irresponsible and distorted. Restricting the availability of alcohol will make a huge difference.
About 5 or 6 years ago, some members who are now in the Government bitterly attacked me when, by accident, I was acting for the then Minister of Customs, the Hon Rick Barker, who was in the Chair just a little while ago. I copped all the flak for what actually happened, but I took steps on that night to increase the excise rate charged on
alcoholic drinks in the range of 14 to 23 percent alcohol by volume. Those drinks were euphemistically described as light spirits, but they were 23 percent proof alcohol by volume. They were being sold cheaply, and were being advertised in the school holidays, so the kids could buy bottles of gin, vodka, brandy, and whisky for around $8. The increase in the excise duty on those light spirits stopped, almost at once, those spirits being sold and the binge drinking that had taken place as a result of drinking them. The reduction in alcoholic drinks released for sale as a result of that excise duty increase was 80 percent. So 80 percent of the light spirits—23 percent proof alcohol—were stopped by an increase in excise duty. That shows how sensitive alcohol is to price, in terms of young people. The decline in the quantity of so-called light spirits drunk by young people was half a million litres.
I was criticised for not making any difference. I think half a million litres of high-level alcoholic spirits not being drunk is a pretty good result. I must say that some parliamentary colleagues on the other side of the House were abusing me for being the “fun police” or the “nanny State”, saying none of it would work, and all the rest of it. Well, it actually did. One of the principal manufacturers immediately reduced the alcohol content of the product from 23 percent to 13.9 percent, because that complied with the new law, but, eventually, the company went out of the business because the increased cost was effective in terms of restricting use. That shows that we can make a difference. To anyone who asks what we can do, I say it was done. That measure meant half a million fewer litres of high-level alcohol were drunk, sales were 80 percent lower, and eventually the product was driven off the market.
I support the objectives of this bill. I support reducing the availability of alcohol, particularly for young people. I support more restrictions being put on alcohol advertising and availability in the community. I must admit it is a constant irritant to me to see major sporting events celebrating the use, and abuse, of alcohol. After every game people are going out to “have a few quiet ones”, and we see the result of that in the newspapers, usually on a Monday morning. So if the Government wants to keep the wild promises it has made to seriously reduce crime in New Zealand, it had better come back to this House very soon with some more significant issues on alcohol abuse. I am not at all confident that it will, because the issue is not very popular. I know that, but it happens to be right. I support the start that is being made here, but I hope it is not the end of what we need to do in this matter.
MELISSA LEE (National)
: I rise to support the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill, which amends three Acts relating to liquor, including the 20-year-old Sale of Liquor Act 1989. The attempt to reduce the opportunity for society and individuals to be harmed by the misuse, or excessive consumption, of alcohol is obviously supported by the whole House, and many statistics have been given by previous speakers more senior than me. It is lovely to see, for the first time since I have been in the House, that everybody agrees or seems to agree.
New Zealand has a permissive drinking environment. We have quite a relaxed attitude towards having a few after work, at social gatherings, and at the dinner table. Like my colleague, I, too, will not try to be pious about my drinking. I enjoy a glass of wine; about this time of the night I like a glass of wine, but I did not partake tonight. Yet with our relaxed attitude to alcohol consumption, there is a concern around the social supply of liquor to minors. At one time or another, we have all witnessed unsupervised drinking in large quantities by minors, and some of us have participated in it—several decades ago.
To address the drinking behaviour of minors, we need to change the behaviour of individuals and communities. To make this happen we need a supportive regulatory environment and a public that is aware and owns up to the challenges we face with this
issue. We need consistent and effective enforcement. Having been the holder of a liquor licence, I know how important it is for licensed premises to be responsible hosts. Compliance by industry will also help to address drinking behaviour.
I learnt how to drink from my parents. I was allowed to drink the froth off my parents’ beer when they were having one; I was allowed to acquire the taste for wine and spirits with little sips; and I was eventually allowed a full glass of wine when I became legal age. Many responsible parents do this. In fact, 92 percent of parents agree that the primary responsibility for helping teenagers learn how to handle alcohol responsibly belongs to parents. However, there is growing concern regarding the extent of alcohol-related harm, and I know that many communities are frustrated by their inability to manage that harm. There is a need for us to improve local control over where, to whom, when, and how alcohol can be sold in communities, to ensure that the social impact is taken into account in licensing conditions.
Something I really like about this bill is the introduction of new offences for adults supplying liquor to minors without the consent of a parent or guardian—that has to be good. The bill increases penalties and limits the defence for those selling alcohol to minors. For me, the best part is that inexperienced drivers aged under 20 who do not have their full licence will have to have a blood-alcohol level of zero. I know that that will not be popular with some young people, but most of New Zealand will applaud it.
This legislation is part of a priority area for this Government—looking at a variety of alcohol-related issues—so I support this bill and hope it passes through its first reading to enable select committee hearings to commence in the not too distant future. I commend this bill to the House.
JACINDA ARDERN (Labour)
: I am proud, after many sitting weeks in this House, to finally be discussing a bill that goes some way to addressing some of the social harms and social issues that contribute to crime. We in this House all know that crime has been a major topic of discussion and debate, and I am pleased that we have moved on to alcohol as part of that wider discussion.
The Minister, the Hon Simon Power, at some point, I believe, pointed out that between 80 percent and 89 percent of serious crime has some association with alcohol. There is an intrinsic link, which means that this bill is particularly timely. There are, of course, other links with health and well-being, which have been drawn out by previous speakers, but I want to dwell on those with particular reference to young people.
The Youth 2007 survey, which I do not think has been raised in this House to date, was recently released. It is one of the largest surveys conducted in New Zealand, covering over 9,000 young people who are currently attending high school. It is the most comprehensive youth health and well-being survey that we have. What did the most recent survey tell us? It told us what many have already asserted in this House—that 72 percent of students have tried alcohol.
There is a difference, though, between those who have tried alcohol and those who consider themselves drinkers. Of those surveyed, 61 percent currently consume alcohol, and of those who drink, a third do so weekly or more often. But that does not strictly bring them within the definition of binge drinking. Of those who do consume alcohol, one-third has five or more drinks within a 4-hour period, and for young people in New Zealand that is the definition of binge drinking.
Obviously, those results have consequences. We have already talked about the impact on crime, but there are further consequences that we intuitively know. Young people are more likely to indulge in risky behaviour when they are under the influence of alcohol, and the Youth 2007 survey told us that of current drinkers 14 percent have partaken in unsafe sex, 7 percent have partaken in unwanted sex, and 22 percent have suffered injuries whilst under the influence of alcohol.
I think it is important that we put all of this into context. Not all young people are prolific drinkers. It is really important that we underline that fact in this House—not all young people are binge-drinkers. In fact, the Youth 2007 survey showed us that, in comparison with the Youth 2001 survey, there has been a decrease in the number of young people who could be defined as binge-drinkers. But that does not mean that we do not still have an issue to deal with—we do, and all of us in the House acknowledge that.
I highlight again, though, that it is not a new issue, and some members have highlighted that fact from their own personal experiences. Where we perhaps differ, in some parts of this House, is on how we address the problem. One thing I have heard many members acknowledge is that we have a cultural issue to address. Drinking is an issue of culture in New Zealand, and 14 percent of young people drink to get drunk. Let us compare that with the adult figure of 9 percent. Some might perceive that there is a much bigger divide between the behaviour of our young people and the behaviour of adults—there is not; it is 14 percent versus 9 percent.
This fact has been recognised by a number of our more eminent members of the sector. In fact, the chief executive of the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC), Gerard Vaughan, is quoted as saying that young people’s drinking has to be seen in the wider context of the adult drinking culture in New Zealand. He has said that young people learn their drinking behaviours from those around them, and that until we change the adult drinking culture, we will not change the behaviour of young people.
This is the collective responsibility of community leaders, recognised role models, the youth sector, and us. But what can we, as legislators, do in addition? Obviously, we have an additional role beyond just being role models and exemplars. Availability is one of the issues that has been talked about already, and that is addressed in this bill. Dr Sue Bagshaw from the 198 Youth Health Centre in Christchurch, someone I have been lucky to meet with briefly, has already identified the fact that nothing will change unless there is some restriction around the marketing of alcohol, and alcopops in particular—alcopops being cheaper and more sugary versions of spirits, which some young people consume. So I think that a wider debate is needed on that.
The chief executive of ALAC also recognises the contribution of alcohol availability to our levels of consumption, and this bill goes some way to addressing that. But the issues of availability and responsibility are also intrinsically linked. Some members will recall that when the issue of the purchasing age was debated, the common perception was that if we lowered the age to 18, the supply age would drop by virtue of younger adults supplying their peers and those even younger still. I think that that was a bit of a distraction in that debate.
If we look again at the Youth 2007 survey, we see that 53 percent of young people claimed to be supplied with alcohol by friends. We do not know whether they were within the legal age. The bill looks at parental consent—and rightly so. Those young people will be drawn into the legislation as they will be required to have the consent of a parent before supplying a peer. But, as already has been acknowledged, parents are in fact the biggest suppliers. That is highlighted by the Youth 2007 survey, which states that 54 percent of young people are supplied with alcohol by their parents.
We cannot assume that parents always act responsibly when they supply their children with alcohol. To say they do, I think, is a fallacy. In fact, Deb Fraser, the manager of Dunedin’s Mirror Counselling Service has stated: “Parents will sometimes provide their children with a 1 litre bottle of vodka and not actually follow up where their child is going. At times it is challenging to educate those parents because they drink and smoke in the same way as their kids. It is not about not supplying alcohol, at
all, but doing it in a responsible way and leading by example.” Again, that has been highlighted in the House, and it is something I wanted to reiterate.
The final source of supply is someone else buying alcohol on a young person’s behalf, and the bill addresses that issue also by tightening up and clarifying, I would say, the requirements around a retailer checking ID. A defendant will now have to prove that what seemed to be evidence of age was produced, and that that defendant could believe on reasonable grounds that the evidence was in fact legitimate.
There are two major points I want to conclude on. A journal article recently—in fact, last year—on social science and medicine found that marketing and pro-alcohol advertising in social features created an environment where drinking to a state of intoxication was naturalised, and it concluded that action was needed to regulate exposure. That is another area that the bill addresses through self-enforced regulation.
The point I want to finish on, and to underline the House, comes off the back of some evaluation work that has recently gone on around youth access to alcohol projects that have been undertaken in 30 communities. Early evaluation from those programmes has again demonstrated that parents continue to be our major challenge in this area, and I would also assume, based on my experience of growing up in a provincial and rural area, that off-licence consumption is also one of our bigger challenges. That evaluation work also found that involving young people is integral to the success of the programmes.
We cannot vilify young people in this debate. If we vilify young people, it will impact upon our success and act as a distraction from the real issues. Instead, young people must be involved in this debate. They must be a part of finding the solutions. I challenge the Minister to ensure that that is exactly what happens in the continuing development and work around this bill. We will find solutions that minimise the harm caused by alcohol only if we continue to go beyond the first steps of this bill.
JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth)
: Tonight we are discussing very important legislation that has come before this House. We are looking at the balance between liberty and responsibility, but we are also looking at it within the framework of families with parental concern for their children. One of the things we understand, especially through the growing teenage years, is that alcohol seems to be a rite of passage that many young people seek. It seems to be one of the things that they consider marks their growing up and becoming more mature, whereas in fact we see the misuse of alcohol as a sign of immaturity. Liberty without responsibility inevitably leads to a long list of ills whereby someone pays, and pays tragically. This legislation will bring in measures that will protect our young people oft-times from themselves, but also from adults who are less responsible than they are, and protect them and our communities from the harm that the abuse of alcohol can bring.
There is never an age where excessive drinking that leads to abusive behaviour is acceptable, but it is exceedingly unacceptable when it is a minor who is affected by excessive alcohol. When we see the abuse, the pain, and the destruction that happens to adults and to families because of alcohol abuse, it grieves us to think that such a path can be taken at an early age by those so young amongst us. It is unacceptable, because they are forming values and behaviour patterns that often govern the entirety of their adult lives. A pattern of alcohol abuse can become ingrained in them. In our society there are many what I would call eases of attitude towards things that we would normally consider to be elements that we want our young people to move away from. We find ourselves today facing these situations with this legislation being presented to the House, and I think it is very good legislation.
This bill seeks to address the drinking behaviour of minors, but it also seeks to address the behaviour of adults who enable minors to have access to alcohol. It brings a
legislative framework that makes alcohol abuse amongst minors difficult. There is a change in attitude in New Zealand at the moment around alcohol issues that has been spearheaded by individuals and communities. They are demanding a say in liquor licensing decisions. Our nation has developed a drinking culture that feeds into crime, violence, family breakdowns, and injury in all sorts of different ways. We as a nation need to focus on and address this drinking culture, and this legislation goes a long way towards doing that. The harm that results from our drinking culture is very high, compared with a few years ago when people did not accept that we had a binge drinking culture in this country. We have a drinking culture that oft-times seeks to alleviate the pain, anger, and frustration that adults carry, but amongst young people we have a drinking culture that seeks to lift a person up, to be idolised by his or her peers.
Peer pressure is very strong, especially amongst teenagers. Last weekend I had a conversation about peer pressure with some 13-year-olds. Peer pressure is something that tends to make our young people, and even adults, do things that would not normally be acceptable, or are unsafe or unwise. Our greatest concern regarding alcohol and young people is the injury that occurs, especially with the use of motor vehicles. It is very good to see that this legislation provides for a zero tolerance regarding alcohol consumption for people under 20 who do not have a full licence.
There is also increasing concern about the extent of alcohol-related harm. Communities are frustrated by their inability to manage that harm. There is a need to improve local control over where, to whom, when, and how alcohol can be sold in communities, to ensure that social impact is taken into account in the licensing conditions. In this context, the policy objectives of the bill are to improve the compliance and responsibility of industry, to increase community input into licensing decisions, and to support a more moderate and responsible drinking environment and culture to address the normalisation of youth drinking. We want to see the responsibility that friends and adults have towards each other improved and enhanced. They are the ones through whom young people in particular can have access to alcohol. We want to see an increase in youth responsibility and accountability, and clarification of the types of premises that may hold off-licences.
Accountability is a word that this Government has used on a number of occasions. Accountability basically says that there are areas in our communities and society that need redress, and we want people to be thinking about them and acting in responsible ways. In addition, this legislation introduces new offences for adults supplying liquor to minors without consent, and it increases penalties and the limitations of defence for sellers of liquor. It is very important that these aspects are brought to the select committee to be discussed, and are then brought back to the House.
Solutions rely on changing the behaviour of individuals and communities. The answer is not, and never has been, just legislation. There has to be an intent, a decision, and a commitment within a community that we want to have safer communities and healthy environments for our young people to grow up in. I would much prefer that parents teach responsibility to their sons or daughters, rather than their learning to drink somewhere else, away from the jurisdiction of their home. I believe that parents have a part to play in this whole process. Legislation must gird the efforts of parents and communities to train their children to become people who have a responsibility for the freedoms that our democracy affords them. Where there is an absence of legislation, there is a great lag in support for parents and communities.
The addressing of these problems involves having a supportive regulatory environment, and we must also have public awareness through informed community groups and discussion forums in our communities talking about these problems—particularly in areas where our young people are involved, such as sporting venues and
clubs. There needs to be an ownership of the issues, an understanding of the rights and responsibilities, and consistent and effective enforcement.
This bill introduces a number of new measures. It introduces a new system of enforced self-regulation of alcohol advertising. The present regime is voluntary self-regulation. I believe that enforced self-regulation hardens up an area that must be attended to. This legislation takes into consideration the frustration that communities have with the number of liquor outlets popping up. Communities in Mairangi Bay, Oranga, Mount Roskill South in Auckland, and Cannons Creek in Porirua, have all protested against proposed new liquor outlets. One hundred people were drawn to a protest march in Porirua on 8 December, and there were almost 1,000 signatures on a petition against the latest proposed liquor store in Roskill South, which would be across the road from two schools and a kindergarten. There are some changes coming to this country, changes that I believe are well due, and I commend this bill to the House.
referred to the Justice and Electoral Committee.