They simply don’t get it.
CCTVs, ID scanners and other engineering measures do not reduce the level and severity of alcohol-fuelled violence.
Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) research established CCTV has no crime prevention value relating to reducing alcohol violence.
It has limited crime detection use.
They are primarily costly reactive “band-aid” measures favoured by the industry and their political acolytes.
It is no comfort to Tom Kelly’s parents, family, and friends in Bowral that his assailant(s) may or may not have been captured on some grainy CCTV footage. Sadly, at least 3 young Australians die each week from alcohol-related events.
It won’t bring Tom back or reduce the severity of injury and harm caused to the many other young victims of alcohol-related crime and misadventure.
The NSW Police Commissioner correctly asserts the police cannot “arrest their way out of the problem”.
Equally, the mass promotion and normalisation of alcohol permeates all media from a very young age, and is closely associated with the concepts of identity, success, belonging and sport. This embeds a pervasive attitude among a significant proportion of young people of “drinking to get drunk”. In turn, this culturally inoculates them against well-meaning education programs and ironic liquor industry appeals for individuals to “drink responsibly”.
Time and time again, international and Australian research tells us that the most effective and cost-saving harm prevention and reduction measures are those that address the underlying problem and catalyst for violence – the dangerous oversupply and irresponsible promotion, sale, service, availability, and consumption of alcohol.
Restricting the availability and supply of alcohol is of course an anathema to the powerful liquor industry that continues to exert the predominant influence on the NSW and Federal Governments’ alcohol-related public health, safety, liquor licensing, and enforcement policies. It is no surprise that the liquor industry promotes the policies and a superficial narrative that:
- shifts all blame on patrons spruiking the importance of individual responsibility
- vilifies health groups as wowsers, fun police, or nanny-staters
- have no impact on the dangerous oversupply and promotion of alcohol
- shift all costs of their preferred ineffective measures and consequential failed outcomes, onto the unsuspecting public
- attempts to build their veneer of corporate social responsibility via tax-deductible sponsorship of kids’ sport, charities, and health research
What is disappointing is that too many in the media uncritically accept and reproduce such dross.
It is unfortunate that the vast majority of the liquor industry are stigmatised by the conduct of a very small proportion of their powerful members, although there is an increasing concentration of liquor outlets owned by Woolworths and Coles.
What is stopping us from implementing measures that work is a lack of moral courage by successive political leaders to sever their close symbiotic relationships with the liquor industry. The alternate is to heed the conclusive independent scientific evidence and listen to and adopt the advice of their own health and police experts, such as:
- Sensible reductions in late trading hours
- Reducing the strength of alcohol in drinks after certain hours
- Reducing liquor outlet density
- Effective and objective Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) measures that prevent pre-loaders entering licensed premises
- Urgent amendments to legislation that will enable enforcement of RSA on premises, and provide a level of immediate and transparent deterrence commensurate with the profits derived from the supply of alcohol.
One dollar invested in proven, preventative, cost-saving measures are worth thousands in the costs and harms associated with perpetually picking up the pieces and comforting grieving families.
The right way forward is going to take courageous political leadership and accountability to the electorate, including parents who care for their kids. NSW residents deserve to see people made a priority over pub profits and political patronage.
This post is in response to a Sydney Morning Herald article published on 12 July 2012.