Briefcase Blog – John Bowie
It’s fair to say I don’t regularly think of Sir Geoffrey Palmer on any day-to-day basis. In fact I never think of him. But I did last Saturday evening while driving down Dunedin’s Castle Street, our nearest equivalent to Baghdad’s Haifa Street, when dropping off one of my son’s young lady friends at her flat. ‘The Beehive’ was having a party. As with most of Dunedin, driving in Dunedin on a Saturday night is like avoiding roadside IEDs. The slalom is where you see glass on road (swerve), girl vomiting (ignore), unidentified people standing on road (brake, or maybe not), girl vomiting (ignore), sound of breaking objects and shouting (recoil), girl vomiting. And so, of course, one thinks of Sir Geoffrey and his drinking problem. Only it’s everyone’s problem. But I wonder why it took 514 pages to explain all that. Sir Geoffrey’s always got a great deal to say, but this much? On drinking? If he really wants to solve the issue he could have edited his laundry list to one: prohibition. But therein lies the problem. The bulk of the population, being civilized and sophisticated, can generally handle our liquor. We’re talking about a minority who have been deemed adult enough to warrant a vote, but not to buy an RTD. But Sir Geoffrey has another 152 recommendations on his list. The issue he though is surely more societal than legal. The law can only do so much and in fact enforcement of current law, outside of drink driving, has been generally slack. Consider the fact that in seven years there have been only six convictions for the sale or supply of liquor on licensed premises to drunk patrons.
Sir Geoffrey’s report could perhaps have developed a more populist title than ‘Alcohol in Our Lives: Curbing the Harm’. Perhaps ‘The Girl with the Alcopop Tattoo’? Although Minister of Justice Simon Power has been quick to dismiss the increase in excise taxes he now faces some tough decisions to try and fix a problem by legislation although the solution may ultimately be one that lies within local communities. Sir Geoffrey’s proposed use of a ‘civil cost recovery regime’ is both obvious and neat. There’s little point in dealing with vomiting pissheads-in-pink and gambrinous hoons lurching about the place causing mayhem by prosecuting Mr Patel down the road in his liquor outlet. Better to hit the hoons and lolly-water drinkers in their pockets and to visit Mr and Mrs Hoon in, say, Hoon Hay, and present them with a bill for Trevor’s night at Central and the mess he made in High Street last Saturday.