MPs vote a 'victory' for teens

22:59, Aug 30 2012

Parliament has again brushed off a bid to return the drinking age to 20 after a rare three-way vote.

The alcohol purchase age remains at 18 after a colourful debate, which ended in 68 votes for the status quo and 53 backing a return to 20.

An "election" for the final vote had earlier narrowly eliminated the proposed "split age" option of 18 at on-licence venues and 20 at off-licences. That attracted 33 votes in the first poll - including that of Prime Minister John Key - short of the 38 votes for 20 years and 50 for 18 years.

The victory for MPs and lobbyists who pushed to "Keep It 18" means the existing 18 years purchase age replaces the proposed split age in the Alcohol Reform Bill, which will be passed into law later this year.

In the run-off, Christchurch MPs Gerry Brownlee, David Carter, Lianne Dalziel, Mojo Mathers, Megan Woods, Kate Wilkinson, Ruth Dyson, Nicky Wagner and Eugenie Sage voted to keep the age at 18. Wagner had earlier voted for the split age and was disappointed the option was dropped.

"We have issues of preloading and cheap alcohol from off-license premises and I thought raising the age to 20 could help that," Wagner said.


Amy Adams, Clayton Cosgrove, Denis O'Rourke and Richard Prosser voted to raise the age to 20.

Dyson was pleased with the result.

"The outcome was based on evidence. It showed that there were bigger issues to be dealt with, such as advertising, access, price and sponsorship, that were more important than age."

The result would disappoint many in the health sector and dozens of MPs - some of whom had also voted unsuccessfully to lift the age in 2006 after it was first dropped to 18 in 1999. Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove was among those feeling let down.

"I'm hoping in the future we still may be able to make some changes, such as to education about alcohol, that will balance helping the problem and not penalising the majority of well-behaved drinkers."

And National Addiction Centre director Doug Sellman said: "The people who are making money out of the heavy drinking culture will be celebrating. The people who pick up the mess and treat alcohol problems will be profoundly disappointed."

Young Nats president Sean Topham celebrated the result as a "huge victory" for those aged 18 and 19 after "months of misleading opposition".

National MP Nikki Kaye, who introduced the "Keep It 18" amendment, said there had been a relative drop in alcohol consumption among the 12-17 age group of 40 per cent in the past five years and 92 per cent of young people got their alcohol from people aged over 20.

Key earlier predicted the split age would win the vote. Via a proxy vote, he was among the 18 MPs who shifted from the split age to 18 years in the second round.

"It's a difficult area because for the vast overwhelming bulk of the country they consume alcohol responsibly and whatever targeted measures we make, we've got to make sure that we don't just single out one particular group," he said.

Others who backed the split age and then moved to 18 included Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, Brownlee and Steven Joyce.

For Labour, leader David Shearer also backed the split option and then 18 years, while deputy Grant Robertson stuck with 18 in both rounds.

Christchurch bar owner Zak Cassels was glad the age would remain at 18.

"A lot of cultures in Europe have young people who drink and there are no issues.

"It's about our attitude and culture, not the age. It's a big picture problem and the Government isn't going to fix it by just raising the age by two years."


The option to adopt a split alcohol purchase age of 18 in bars and 20 at off-licences venues like bottle stores and supermarkets was defeated with only 33 backing the split option.

On the first ballot 50 backed keeping the age at 18 and 38 opted to increase it to 20.

In the final run-off between 18 and 20 the 121 MPs voted to keep the age at 18 by 68 votes to 53

For keeping the alcohol purchase age at 18:

Jacinda Ardern (L)
Shane Ardern (N)
John Banks (A)
Maggie Barry (N)
David Bennett (N)
Paula Bennett (N)
Steffan Browning (G)
Gerry Brownlee (N)
David Carter (N)
Charles Chauvel (L)

David Clendon (G)
David Cunliffe (L)
Clare Curran (L)
Lianne Dalziel (L)
Jacqui Dean (N)
Catherine Delahunty (G)
Peter Dunne (UF)
Ruth Dyson (L)
Bill English (N)
Kris Faafoi (L)

Darien Fenton (L)
Christopher Finlayson (N)
Julie Anne Genter (G)
Paul Goldsmith (N)
Tim Groser (N)
Nathan Guy (N)
Kevin Hague (G)
Tau Henare (N)
Chris Hipkins (L)
Parekura Horomia (L)

Gareth Hughes (G)
Raymond Huo (L)
Paul Hutchison (N)
Shane Jones (L)
Steven Joyce (N)
Nikki Kaye (N)
John Key (N)
Colin King (N)
Melissa Lee (N)
Iain Lees-Galloway (L)

Jan Logie (G)
Moana Mackey (L)
Trevor Mallard (L)
Mojo Mathers (G)
Murray McCully (N)
Ian McKelvie (N)
Russel Norman (G)
Simon O'Connor (N)
David Parker (L)
Rajen Prasad (L)

Grant Robertson (L)
Denise Roche (G)
Jami-Lee Ross (N)
Eugenie Sage (G)
David Shearer (L)
Lockwood Smith (N)
Nick Smith (N)
Rino Tirikatene (L)
Lindsay Tisch (N)
Metiria Turei (G)

Tariana Turia (MP)
Phil Twyford (L)
Nicky Wagner (N)
Holly Walker (G)
Kate Wilkinson (N)
Maurice Williamson (N)
Michael Woodhouse (N)
Megan Woods (L)

For lifting the purchase age to 20:

Amy Adams (N)
Chris Auchinvole (N)
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (N)
Jackie Blue (N)
Chester Borrows (N)
Simon Bridges (N)
Cam Calder (N)
David Clark (L)
Jonathan Coleman (N)

Judith Collins (N)
Clayton Cosgrove (L)
Te Ururoa Flavell (MP)
Craig Foss (N)
Phil Goff (L)
Jo Goodhew (N)
Kennedy Graham (G)
Hone Harawira (M)
John Hayes (N)
Phil Heatley (N)

Brendan Horan (NZF)
Annette King (L)
Andrew Little (L)
Asenati Lole-Taylor (NZF)
Sam Lotu-Iiga (N)
Tim Macindoe (N)
Nanaia Mahuta (L)
Tracey Martin (NZF)
Todd McClay (N)
Mark Mitchell (N)

Sue Moroney (L)
Alfred Ngaro (N)
Damien O'Connor (L)
Denis O'Rourke (NZF)
Hekia Parata (N)
Winston Peters (NZF)
Richard Prosser (NZF)
Ross Robertson (L)
Eric Roy (N)
Tony Ryall (N)

Mike Sabin  (N)
Katrina Shanks (N)
Pita Sharples (MP)
Scott Simpson (N)
Su'a William Sio (L)
Barbara Stewart (NZF)
Maryan Street (L)
Anne Tolley (N)
Chris Tremain (N)
Louise Upston (N)

Louisa Wall (L)
Andrew Williams (NZF)
Jian Yang (N)
Jonathan Young (N)



When Parliament "kept it 18" on the alcohol purchase age last night, young New Zealanders notched a second major political victory in as many days.

As in the case of the more decisive gay marriage victory the night before, the determined professionalism of a "sub-40" lobby won out.

Not that the 18 and 19-year-old binge drinkers particularly deserved it. Anyone who has recently spent time on a university campus or hospital emergency room knows the dangerous antics of 18 and 19-year-olds juiced up on liquor. But then, they would also know much of the same stuff shows up among 20 and 21 year-olds in the same settings.

It was obvious, as "Keep It 18" champion Nikki Kaye stressed, that the problems of alcohol abuse are not at all specific to 18 and 19-year-olds. It would have been crude discrimination to punish them so disproportionately for an ageless problem, she argued.

The response to that claim was an appeal to the science that shows younger brains are less developed and so much more acutely at risk from alcohol.

Elsewhere in the liquor reform debate, the science and health-based approach has achieved significant political currency. That it could not conquer the argument over the purchase age must have had a fair bit to do with the strength of the "Keep It 18" lobby.

Most MPs approached the age issue as little more than a side-show to the overall alcohol reform agenda. They felt it would have little impact on the country's overall problem with alcohol abuse.

Kaye, with the support of Right-wing blogger and pollster David Farrar and the youth wings of the respective political parties, can take some of the credit for steering the argument in that direction. The conservative lobby for the age to return to 20, in comparison, appeared tired.

The Press