In April this year the Law Commission published a detailed report, “Alcohol in our lives: Curbing the harm”. The report has been described as creating “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” to address New Zealand’s sick drinking culture and its destructive consequences. But the Key government doesn’t want to act. To keep the alcohol lobby happy the Nats are going to ignore or water down the recommendations, or delay in the name of “further research”.
The result of this evasion is The Alcohol Reform Bill, which passed its first reading in Parliament on Thursday. Labour were quick to condemn it:
Labour’s justice spokeswoman, Lianne Dalziel, said the Government had squandered a once-in-a-generation opportunity and had “gutted” the Law Commission’s report which was the basis for the proposals.
“This bill doesn’t even begin to meet the challenge posed by the evidence that the Law Commission presented to the Government,” she said.
With respect to the headline issue of drunk driving, Key is refusing to implement the recommendation to lower the legal blood alcohol limit:
The call to lower the limit follows advice from the Ministry of Transport – with scientific support – that a drop would save up to 33 lives a year and prevent 686 injuries.
However, Transport Minister Steven Joyce has delayed a cut from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg in favour of more research.
Funny how the Nats are all for “research”, except when they are all for ignoring it (hello national standards). Funny how Joyce is so ignorant of the facts that he had to admit that his own figures make no sense. Anyway, The Herald, which has been running a “Two Drinks Max” campaign, has ripped in to Key’s inaction in the strongest possible terms:
Again justifying the need for research, Key said: “If we want New Zealanders to obey a new law, I think we’ve got to be able to go out and say ‘here’s the harm’.”
Here is the harm PM: More drivers are dying than necessary now. How much more blood do you want on your hands before the next election?
The latest Nat line on this must have been sent out over the weekend, because we had a rush of headlines trying to divert attention to the issue of the worst drink drivers: ‘Hard core’ of killers on our roads, and Drink-driving deaths due to ‘problem drivers’, and 72% of drink-driving deaths caused by problem drivers, and The real problem, and so on. The “logic” goes that since most deaths are caused by the worst drivers, we only need to focus on them. Naturally a quick techno-fix is preferred, “alcohol interlocks” on their vehicles
The stupidity of this argument would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. It is classic ambulance at the bottom of the cliff limited thinking. Why wait until we have problem drunk drivers and then try and pick up the pieces? Wouldn’t it be better to prevent people from becoming problem drunk drivers in the first place? There is no quick easy techno-fix. We need to change our drinking culture. Reducing the blood alcohol limit would be a big part of this change. Instead of the ambulance at the bottom, build the fence at the top. Do everything that we can to stop repeat drunk drivers before they start. All that it takes is a government with courage and vision…