Dunne in gun over survey backing booze crackdown

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 12/12/2011
Peter Dunne John Key
TALKING TIME: Peter Dunne and John Key meet after the 2011 election.

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More than half of all Kiwis want the price of cheap booze pushed up and liquor trading hours tightened, a previously unpublished survey suggests.

The Health Sponsorship Council alcohol survey emerged last night amid claims that associate health minister Peter Dunne had "deliberately suppressed" it.

The report shows 56 per cent of people are behind an increase in the price of cheap alcohol, including 26 per cent strongly backing the idea. It also found solid backing for a reduction in the hours alcohol may be sold, with 28 per cent strongly behind the idea and a further 37 per cent supporting it.

The survey of 1700 people, carried out last year, showed even stronger support for lifting the alcohol-purchase age.

More than three-quarters supported the age going up to 20, including 49.3 per cent strongly in favour of the idea.

Support was strongest among those aged over 25, but even among people aged 18 to 24, a large majority (68.4 per cent) backed an increase.

Alcohol Action NZ said the research showed very strong public support for the Government to act strongly on alcohol reform.

"The research was conducted by the Government through its Health Sponsorship Council and the results are clear, so it has no excuse to back away from effective alcohol reform any more," medical spokesman Professor Doug Sellman said.

The survey appeared to have been "deliberately suppressed" by Mr Dunne at a critical time of the alcohol law reform process as legislation was being prepared and then considered by a select committee shortly after.

Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague said the Health Ministry had asked for the report and it could have helped MPs during select committee consideration of the Alcohol Reform Bill.

"The Key government has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take effective action to reduce alcohol-related harm with lawyers, doctors, researchers and public opinion all supporting price increases, restrictions on availability, and reduced advertising and sponsorship," Mr Hague said.

The survey also asked about views on increasing the restrictions on alcohol advertising or promotion that is seen and heard by children and young people.

Again, a majority supported action, with 47.4 per cent strongly in favour and further 34.5 per cent supporting it.

There was less enthusiasm for a total ban on alcohol advertising, but still a total of 49.5 per cent were behind the idea.

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One-third of those asked felt the number of liquor outlets was "about right" but some 64.6 per cent felt there was too many.

A spokesman for Mr Dunne said the initial survey questions were asked at no cost to the Health Ministry.

The preliminary survey data was "essentially consistent" with a range of public views already available from other sources at that time, so it was decided that the public money being sought for further analysis could be better spent elsewhere in the health sector.

- The Dominion Post

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