Raise Australian drinking age to 20, says senator

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Drinking culture

An Australian political group has called for the lifting of the
country's legal drinking age to 20, as part of plans to encourage
greater responsibility amongst the country's drinkers.

The proposals revealed by the Family First party this week, include a raft of measures designed to shape up the industry through reforming taxation, advertising and legislation on alcoholic beverages. Adoption of the measures, which have apparently already divided opinion in the country, could have significant ramifications for the industry, which would be much more tightly restricted in its operations under the regulations. Along with the raising of the legal drinking age, Family First has also called for an additional 10 per cent taxation on wine, spirits, and beers. Other measures include prohibiting celebrity endorsements within adverts, cigarette packet style warning labels, and a zero blood alcohol rule for drinkers under 25. Family First senator Steve Fielding defended the policies, stressing that drastic measures were required if the country was to overcome its problems with alcohol abuse. "Alcohol is a legal substance which is killing young Australians,"​ he said at the proposal's launch this week. "Family First believes we must adopt a policy of zero tolerance to drunkenness and create a culture of responsible drinking." ​ As such Fielding added that as Family First's only current federal senator he would be lobbying government to consider the proposals. The announcement comes amidst growing concern by health and safety bodies over the effect alcohol abuse in the country. In 2004, the Australian government estimated that alcohol abuse was costing the country Aus$7.6 billion (€4.6bn) a year, not just in costs to the health system, but also for road accident and legal charges. This tougher stance on legislating against the alcohol industry is likely to be rejected by brewers and distillers in the country, who are keen to maintain their own regulatory standards. The Alcohol industry says it is working on greater self regulation to deal with the problems, according to the Distilled spirits Industry Council of Australia (DSICA). In a presentation last year the DSICA outlined a number of proposals its members were looking to enact to combat alcohol abuse. These include stricter compliance with advertising standards, and more focused initiatives to encourage responsible drinking.

Related topics: Policy, Oceania, Beverages

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