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Thursday, 13 May 2010
Page: 2835


Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (9:48 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Australia has a binge drinking problem which is killing Australians, particularly young Australians. and compromising the safety of our streets.

Every week we read about another case of alcohol fuelled violence or of another tragic death on our roads from drink driving.

Our binge drinking culture is a major social and health issue and Australians are beginning to wake up and say enough already.

The extent of this problem goes further than people think and the statistics to back it up are simply horrifying.

Alcohol causes almost 4,300 deaths each year and costs almost 400,000 hospital bed days per year. It accounts for around 40 per cent of police work and is the cause of one in five deaths on our roads.

Binge drinking robs our society to the tune of $16 billion a year, and also inflicts an enormous emotional cost—splitting families apart and destroying relationships.

In a survey released last year, the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation revealed that more than 80 per cent of Australians recognise that as a society we have a drinking problem and that 85 per cent of Australians want more done to fix that problem.

In April last year, the Brumby Labor Government was forced to hold an emergency summit because the alcohol-fuelled violence in Melbourne was spiralling out of control.

Since then, things have only gotten worse.

One of the factors which is making this problem worse are the 24 hour takeaway alcohol stores operating around Melbourne which let younger people load up on cheap alcohol around the clock and then spill out onto the streets.

It’s no wonder there is so much violence on our streets when you don’t have proper regulations controlling these outlets selling packaged liquor.

In my home state of Victoria there are 144 licensees allowed to serve alcohol around the clock and 37 such outlets sell packaged liquor.

This is outrageous and should not be allowed to continue to exist.

The Responsible Takeaway Alcohol Hours Bill is a major piece of legislation and will go a long way to curbing the alcohol fuelled violence which has taken over our streets.

Under this legislation, it will be prohibited to sell takeaway alcohol after midnight and before 7am in the morning.

Any business caught doing this will be up for a fine of $10,000.

Stopping the sale of takeaway alcohol at all hours of the night is long overdue and it’s crazy that it has taken so long to address this issue.

This policy has the support of numerous public health groups and no doubt many parents too.

Geoff Munro from the Community Alcohol Action Network has said previously,

“In the interests of reducing the mayhem on the streets, assaults, the glassings, people suffering brain damage and even dying after being king hit on the street, it doesn’t seem an unreasonable limitation that people should not be able to buy alcohol right through the night”.

There’s no silver bullet solution to our alcohol-related violence, but this bill is certainly a very important first step.

Last year we saw the ridiculous situation where the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal gave the green light to the Exford Hotel to continue selling packaged liquor all night.

This was despite the fact that the tribunal was referred to 30 examples of public drunkenness and disorderly and drunken behaviour outside or around the hotel.

Clearly the laws in place at the moment are not strong enough to deal with the problems facing our streets and the Responsible Takeaway Alcohol Hours Bill will help address this issue.

This bill makes it perfectly clear that if you are a business that sells takeaway alcohol, then after midnight it’s time to shut up shop.

People who are loading themselves up on alcohol at two, three or four in the morning are people who are more likely to get into trouble and cause problems on our streets.

Allowing the sale of takeaway alcohol at all hours of the night only undoes a lot of the hard work done by our brave police force to keep our streets safe and free of violence.

As a father of three children, I know that I worry about their safety when they are out late at night, because of the surging violence on our streets.

Restricting the hours of sale of takeaway alcohol is a move that will bring a sigh of relief to thousands of mums and dads across the country and is a policy that should be supported by both sides of Parliament.


Senator FIELDING —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned