Auditor-General slams Victoria’s liquor law strategy, but WA alcohol initiatives set pace

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 2nd July 2012

The state of Victoria’s Auditor-General Dr Peter Frost has jolted the Victorian government with the revelation of shocking statistics regarding alcohol-related harm in Victoria.

According to Dr Frost’s report, alcohol-related ambulance attendances in metropolitan Melbourne more than tripled between 2000–01 and 2010–11, and alcohol-related assaults in Victoria increased 49% in the same period.

The report, titledEffectiveness of Justice Strategies in Preventing and Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm’, stated that although the Department of Justice had since 2008 put $67 million towards the problem of alcohol abuse in Victoria, the impact has been minimal.

Dr Frost reported that there was a lacking in government policy and strategy to deal with the situation. The lack of a whole‑of‑government policy position on the role of alcohol in society, and poorly chosen and evaluated initiatives, had led to inconsistent liquor licensing processes and legislation.

Dr Frost called the Department of Justice’s alcohol policy initiatives “largely fragmented, superficial, and reactive”.

Dr Frost stated that a fundamental change in approach to strategy development, licensing and enforcement was required in Victoria before any noticeable impact on reducing harm was likely.

“Unfortunately, steps taken to date in developing the new alcohol and drug strategy, which is currently still in draft, suggest that opportunities for meaningful change may again be missed,” Dr Frost said in his report.

WA contrasts Victoria with stricter policies and ‘think-tank’

Australian Food News notes that recent policy initiatives in Western Australia present an interesting contrast to the Victorian situation.

Although the Victorian Auditor-General’s report  made no reference to Western Australia, it became the first state in Australia to ban alcoholic energy drinks after midnight across all inner-city Perth nightclubs, bars and pubs.

In other moves, licensed premises in Perth are now obliged to impose lockouts half an hour before closing.

Furthermore, in Perth, after one o’clock in the morning pubs, bars and clubs are prohibited from serving drinks in vessels larger than 750ml, so that bottles of wine and jugs of beer and cocktails are not available. Cocktails with more than 75ml of alcohol are also prohibited after 1am.

In March 2012, Western Australia’s police, with support from members of parliament, recommended the imposition of secondary supply laws, that would make it illegal for adults to supply alcohol to minors (even in a private setting) in Western Australia.

In addition to these stricter alcohol control policies introduced by the Western Australian Director of Liquor Licensing, the State of Western Australia also has developed an alcohol-related policy think-tank, the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth (MCAAY), which is based at Curtin University and was established in September 2010.

The McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth was established with support from the McCusker Charitable Foundation and the Curtin Foundation.