I attend tomorrow’s NSW Alcohol Summit with a mixture of emotions.
Firstly, profound sadness and regret at the countless opportunities our political leaders have missed over the past 10 years to prevent alcohol-related harm. If only they took heed of the sound independent professional advice from a unique combination of dedicated people on the front-line and researchers.
I admire the people who on a weekly basis, pick up the broken pieces and valiantly attempt to save, repair and rebuild the shattered lives and dreams of far too many people, their families and friends. To think that this weekly nightmare is primarily preventable, but for the self-serving actions of our so-called political “leaders”.
I am disappointed and frustrated at the lack of integrity and statesmanship of our politicians and senior advisors who continue to put the powerful vested interests of the liquor industry ahead of public, patron and emergency workers’ safety. Their scornful rejection of proven, cost saving and sensible measures that significantly prevent and reduce alcohol-related harms is nothing short of a tragedy.
I am dismayed at the alacrity with which the liquor industry continues to lead and direct the NSW Government’s alcohol harm reduction laws and strategies. These are the same industry representatives who demonstrate a pathological incapability to accept any responsibility that the oversupply of alcohol and failed RSA contributes to alcohol-related violence.
This is evidenced by the removal of citizens’ rights to object to small bar license applications and the automatic 2am closing when late trading is identified as the greatest predictor of alcohol fuelled street violence, the substitution of independent experts for alcohol industry representatives in developing and delivering important alcohol education programs to high school students, and the substantial watering down and rendering unsurprisingly and effectively useless, so called “tough” compliance measures against liquor outlets.
Why are we seeing industry profits prioritised over public health and safety? The recent Real Heroes Walk Away campaign is yet another example of attention being cowardly converted away from the alcohol industry’s core role in contributing to alcohol-related violence, and onto the individual patron.
But what happens to the individual who doesn’t see the intoxicated person king hit them from behind? What happens if the individual can’t walk away fast enough?
The Campaign makes absolutely no reference to industry and corporate responsibility. These primary responsibilities have been conveniently erased from the dominant public discourse of government and industry. The fundamental impediment to substantially reducing the dreadful alcohol toll in NSW is a resounding lack of political will.
One of our greatest tasks at tomorrow’s NSW Alcohol Summit is to effectively shift and retain the focus of the spotlight onto the continuing cosy relationship between industry and government. But despite the odds, I will go to the Summit with hope. Hope that real political leaders like Barry O’Farrell – don’t walk away.
We all know what the package of sensible, proven, life and cost saving alcohol harm reduction and prevention measures are. Let’s trust that this event amounts to more than another communique.
For the sake of our kids and successive generations, let us ensure we achieve from this event, the immediate adoption and independently evaluated trial of the full package of proven evidence-based alcohol harm minimisation measures based upon a sensible moderation in the availability and supply of alcohol across the whole of NSW.