Drunk boy shock! Now pass the pinot

Why does alcohol get such an easy ride?

DAVE ARMSTRONG
Last updated 09:08 13/01/2014
Tui, Seddon Park, cricket, $100k catch
Fairfax NZ

RELATED?: As a boy, nine, slumps drink on one side of Hamilton a fawning media rejoice a win in a beer-sponsored even on the other.

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OPINION:  

Hamilton rarely makes the national news. However, last week it was in the headlines twice in one day. At beautiful Seddon Park, the Black Caps, after experiencing a rare loss of form and having some comprehensive victories, came to their senses and dutifully collapsed against the Windies.

You really know it's a typical Kiwi summer when you walk out of the room and New Zealand is 56 for 1, then return moments later to find we're 64 for 7.

But the highlight of the Hamilton game was neither the Black Caps nor the Windies, if the ecstatic commentators were anything to go by.

It was the brilliant one-handed catch on the Seddon Park bank by cricket fan Michael Morton, wearing his distinctive Tui T-shirt. This entitled him to a $100,000 prize.

The saturation media coverage and repeated fawning about the competition by the commentators meant the 100 grand spent by the brewery, not to mention the money they earned from selling thousands of T-shirts at $30 a pop, was money well spent.

On the same day, across town in Fairfield, in a totally unrelated incident, a Hamilton nine-year-old was filmed off his trolley in a skate park.

The footage went viral and there were angry calls for the parents of the child to be severely punished. But it turned out it was not the parents but a "family associate" who supplied the child with alcohol. With family associates like those who needs enemies?

But are the two Hamilton incidents really unrelated?

There is about a 50 per cent chance that the alcohol that the child drank was sold by the same company that benefited from the catching competition.

Are alcohol counsellors like Roger Brooking right when they say that the drunken exploits of the nine-year-old are a symptom of our country's alcohol culture?

I'm not sure that we can simply blame "alcohol culture" every time we do something stupid while drunk.

Personal and family responsibility play an enormous part.

But Mr Brooking is right that our pro-booze culture is also a major factor, as is price and availability of alcohol. Yet it seems that the more we accept booze sponsorship and enjoy the "good-natured" exploits of drunken sports fans, the more we show outrage when things go too far across town in Fairfield.

People are rightly angry about the nine-year-old getting paralytic, yet many turn a blind eye when their own teenagers binge drink. Imagine the outrage if Child, Youth and Family turned up to the school ball of a high-decile school and committed the vomiting teenagers to state care on account of the lack of responsibility that their parents, or "family associates", were displaying.

But what about price? Compare alcohol to tobacco. The Government's war on smoking has seen it greatly increase the price of cigarettes. A packet of 20 now costs nearly $20.I am sure Justice Minister "Crusher" Collins will be justly outraged by the Fairfield incident, and can rightly point to the recent tightening up of some alcohol laws.

This strategy seems to have been highly successful.

One would assume, if public health experts are to be believed, that a similar increase in the alcohol price would greatly help reduce consumption, including among 9-year-olds. Yet alcohol seems as cheap as ever.

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For the price of a packet of cigarettes, youth can almost kill themselves on mixers or spirits. I'm not suggesting that cigarettes should be cheaper as they have this irritating habit of killing people, but why does alcohol get such as easy ride?

I suspect the answer lies in the wealthy alcohol lobby - the same lobby that supported "six-o'clock swill" back in the 1960s as it kept labour costs down, and resisted attempts to get bars to sell food.

So will the Government take action on alcohol prices? Probably not. I suspect any attempt to raise the price would be met with strident opposition by middle-class Nimbys like me. We drink craft beer and pinot noir, not mixers.

And though we might only get pissed occasionally, at opening nights or the Martinborough Fair, we sincerely believe that we have a better class of vomit than Hamilton nine-year-olds.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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