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The government wages war on binge drinking -

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The government wages war on binge drinking

Broadcast: 24/03/2008

Reporter: Hayden Cooper

The Prime Minister wants to slap graphic warnings on alcoholic drinks in his campaign against
excessive drinking and this week's council of Australian Governments meeting will debate how to go
about it.

Transcript

TONY JONES: The nation's leaders will be asked this week to help Kevin Rudd's campaign against
excessive drinking, especially among the young. Just as tobacco was targeted by those before him
the Prime Minister wants to slap graphic warnings on alcoholic drinks and Wednesday's Council of
Australian governments meeting will debate how to go about it. The Premiers and Chief Ministers are
being enlisted to streamline penalties to selling drinks to minors. From Canberra, Hayden Cooper
reports.

HAYDEN COOPER: It's never a good look. But stopping ugly displays of drunkenness has always eluded
authorities.

NICOLA ROXON, HEALTH MINISTER: The current rules clearly are not working.

HAYDEN COOPER: A group of politicians wants to do what others have failed and end what Kevin Rudd
calls the binge drinking epidemic. When COAG goes to Adelaide on Wednesday, alcohol and how to
control it will be a topic of priorities.

ANNA BLIGH, QUEENSLAND PREMIER: We need to rethink as a community the role of alcohol in our
broader society.

NICOLA ROXON: We know the damage that can be caused really can't be undone. I don't think that
there is a strong enough community awareness of the damage that can be caused particularly on young
developing brains from binge drinking.

HAYDEN COOPER: Shock tactics will form at least part of the response from Canberra. Nicola Roxon
wants the States and Territories to look at using graphic warning labels like those on cigarettes.
Whether it works is arguable.

DAVID CROSBY, NATIONAL COUNCIL ON DRUGS: Labelling helps, it's not a necessarily a bad thing to do
but it's not going to lead to drastic changes in the way people drink.

ANNA BLIGH: Some people are determined against all warnings to put themselves at risk, but I think
if there's a clear benefit in putting warning labels on alcohol I'm all for it.

DAVID TEMPLEMAN, ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS COUNCIL: We have a critical issue in terms of costs and
impact on lifers, and things like that. I think the sooner we start doing something like that, the
better.

HAYDEN COOPER: But watching nervously from the sidelines hoteliers have labelled the idea
pointless.

BILL HEALEY, AUSTRALIAN HOTELS ASSOCIATION: Warning labels by themselves won't make a significant
difference. What we have to do is get Australians to start to count their drinks, that's why we
have drink labelling already which outlines standards drinks on our containers.

HAYDEN COOPER: The more difficult task for the politicians will be striking a uniform approach to
alcohol sales. And setting one nationwide penalty for selling drinks to minors. Another grey area
involves laws on what parents can do in the home.

NICOLA ROXON: You wouldn't dream of as a parent offering a cigarette to someone else's child. We
need to say "Is that the situation we want to be in for alcohol?"

HAYDEN COOPER: In these early stages Kevin Rudd's war on alcohol creates as many questions as it
answers. While critics endorse the general idea they say that in pubs across the country the laws
already in place are being ignored. In other words, enforcement should the priority.

DAVID TEMPLEMAN: At the moment it's illegal to serve someone in a hotel in Australia who is
intoxicated, or even to have someone intoxicated on premises, you about I reckon tonight and last
night and the night before we could've gone to hotels not far from here where we would've found
people intoxicated on the premises. No action being taken against those licensees.

HAYDEN COOPER: COAG is unlikely to agree to any radical or unpopular changes, like increasing
alcohol taxes to make drinks more expensive.

NICOLA ROXON: Not one of our priorities at the moment.

HAYDEN COOPER: Or lifting the legal drinking age.

NICOLA ROXON: They're not part of our first tranche of priorities that we'll be focused on.

ANNA BLIGH: Unfortunately in relation to the illegal drinking age in Australia the horse has bolted
on that one.

HAYDEN COOPER: And so have the teenagers. Hayden Cooper. Lateline.