The day the Premier resigned

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has been found to have received a $3,000 bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange as a gift, which he failed to declare, and failed to admit to ICAC, conveniently suffering from memory failure, and has accordingly resigned this morning.

Before all thoughts move to who will move on up into the top spot, our anti-lockout friends at I’m Not The Problem Barry – No Lockouts NSW have been taking advantage of this scintillating story to have a bit of a laugh. The full gallery is here, but some of my favourites are below!

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Let’s Get This Party Stunted

Screen-Shot-2012-07-20-at-5.21.23-PMSiobhan Harris discuses how a proposed ban on nightclubs closing at 1am will lead to more irresponsible drinking and alcohol-fuelled violence:

Melbourne Mayoral candidate John Elliot is calling for nightclubs to close at 1am. He argues that this controversial move will put an end to street violence and keep Melbourne CBD residents safe. This ill-conceived promise will make street violence worse and ensure that residents feel less safe.

Nightclubs in Melbourne typically open around 9pm or 10pm, so if this measure were to come to effect, nightclubbers would only have 3 or 4 hours to enjoy themselves. But of course, nobody goes to a nightclub as soon as it opens (unless free entry before 12pm is offered) because girls and boys are busy getting ready or travelling from suburbia. Plus everybody knows the vibe peaks around 12pm.

When I was a receptionist at a restaurant I used to finish my shift at 2am every weekend. No matter how tired I was I wasn’t going to let another weekend pass me by without hitting the dance floor. So I would head to the nearest club, dance my legs off, drink and head home. It was the perfect system, all of my friends would be there and we shared some very memorable moments.

If I wasn’t able to do that, I’d take the party home. House parties would flourish, and what’s more, there’d be no legally responsible person telling you you’ve drunk too much or no security guard to boot you out. You’d just drink until you spewed and probably drink some more. House parties are so much more dangerous than nightclubs, underage drinkers aren’t asked to present identification and the booze is usually a rocket fuel concoction of spirits and soft drink.

But let’s just say nightclub X closed its doors at 1am, this would result in an outpour of club patrons all fired up and angry that they’ve been asked to leave. So they do what fired up and angry men and women do best, fight. Street brawls would be commonplace.

I also used to work as a street club promoter, picking up girls and guys off the street and then bringing them into the club to boost the numbers. I’m more qualified than anybody on this topic because I’ve seen the carnage on the streets when people are rejected from their favourite destination. I asked a guy once if he’d like to come in, he said yes and we headed to the door of the club. Unfortunately for him he was rejected because the bouncer suspected that he was drunk. This man travelled all the way out from the outer suburbs to drink and he was not happy, boy was he not happy. He punched the nearest guy walking past and both of them started throwing punches left right and centre. I’ve also witnessed a stabbing, the guy said it felt like getting punched really hard in the stomach.

I live in Melbourne CBD and I’ve even lived on King St. What I don’t want to see is a mass exodus of drunken idiots annoyed that they can’t party on. I want nightclubs to end when they feel that they should. Not to mention the effect it would have on small businesses. Nightclubs, bars and strip clubs would have to cut corners that would probably include job losses.

We can’t afford the extra street violence, we can’t afford the cost to businesses and we can’t afford to close our clubs just because some misguided candidate has a disproportionate fear towards youths.

Siobhan Harris is a student at La Trobe University. 

Youths and Alcohol: the great moral panic

Screen-Shot-2012-07-20-at-5.21.23-PMSiobhan Harris rejects arguments for further alcohol regulation, and argues we need a return to personal responsibility:

Yesterday the National Summit on Alcohol Marketing to Young
People was held in Parliament House in Canberra. The event was in association
with the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol (NAAF).  In attendance were public health experts,
non-government organizations, law enforcement bodies, youth associations and
‘experts in alcohol’.

Together they reached a ‘broad consensus’, that youths were
being exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing. They also list the ways in
which youths were being exposed such as social media platforms like Facebook.
They patted themselves on back for understanding that we’re in a new age of
technology and social media and youths get their information from a variety of
sources.

Music, cultural and sporting events and clubs were said to
normalize drinking as it’s promoted as part of a fun and healthy lifestyle. They
found that the current policy is insufficient in addressing the problem of
youth drinking. Together they called for greater regulation along with four
major demands. Greater regulation is always called for when creative measures
are not considered.

So together they set about a list of demands. The first
demand on their list was a comprehensive inquiry into marketing and promotions
exposure to focus on how the marketing is targeted towards youths, assess the
exposure of sporting and cultural events and demanding that the alcohol
industry provide transparency into their annual expenditure on promotions and
marketing.

The second demand was to conduct an independent review and
analysis of research on promotions and advertising on attitudes and behaviours
of youths in relation to alcohol consumption.

The third demand, arguably the most noteworthy is to produce
a ‘failure analysis’ of the voluntary industry administered code of alcohol
practice that currently operates in Australia. The final demand was, as is
always the case in moral panics, a call for greater regulation by the
government.

So how did they come to recognize youth alcohol consumption
as a public problem? The document makes no mention of trained medical
professionals providing an evidence based approach, nor were reliable
statistics used to supplement their assertions. In fact the document makes no
mention of any reasons for the need to act. Why? Because it was unnecessary,
there was already a broad consensus.

Without blinking an eyelid they have exaggerated the
‘problem’ of alcohol consumption by youths and have blamed the big bad media
for causing further harm. Media theorists can’t even agree on the effects of advertising
let alone a group of morally superior Nanny Statists. Youths have often been
the focus of insidious attempts fuelled by public outcry that leads to
government intervention into the lives of youths. Such intervention is often
punitive, counter-effective and leads to a significant social division.  

The current restrictions on advertising is already a
stranglehold of creative license. Take for instance the Alcohol Beverages
Advertising (and packaging) Code under Section C;

i) must not depict the consumption or presence of alcohol
beverages as a cause of or contributing to the achievement of personal,
business, social, sporting, sexual or other success;

ii) if alcohol beverages are depicted as part of a
celebration, must not imply or suggest that the beverage was a cause of or
contributed to success or achievement; and

iii) must not suggest that the consumption of alcohol
beverages offers any therapeutic benefit or is a necessary aid to relaxation

I mean really, alcohol achieves many of those outcomes, but
we just can’t say that. We can’t say
what we really think because the government has to tell us we’re wrong, tells
us that alcohol is bad for you. The Nanny that cares for us, government knows
what’s best for us.

Alcoholic brands also help fund sporting clubs in local
communities, all that does is associate the brand with a community focus. To
suggest that people automatically associate alcohol with a fit and healthy
lifestyle is demeaning at best.

Every time we let the Nanny care for us, we sacrifice our
civil liberties, often incrementally over a long period of time. That way we
won’t notice, we accept the next small change. The more we get bossed around
the less likely we are to learn from and experience risk. The more power we
give to the Nanny, the more it will take until eventually regulation is so
strangled that we’re banned from activities, behaviours, speech or appearance.

The government and all Nanny Staters should learn that
sometimes the best action is inaction. Let individuals make their own decisions
about how they consume alcohol, let them experience risky behaviour. Remove the
ridiculous restrictions on advertising and let people make up their own minds. 

Siobhan Harris is a student at La Trobe University. 

Drink Driving: Is alcohol to blame?

Pipegentleman

Dom Vasta pens a controversial post arguing that over-reliance on breath-tests ultimately makes everyone worse off:

There has been a lot of talk of reducing the legal blood alcohol level for driving from its current position at .05% to .02%. Many are for the move and many are against it. Proponents say that a lower limit will result in fewer road fatalities claiming the majority of fatal crashes occur under the .05 limit. What they fail to mention is alcohol is not the only factor involved in a crash, yet it remains the most commonly attacked one, both legally and in the media. The reason that the majority of crashes occur when the driver is under the .05 limit is because the majority of people driving haven’t been drinking. Let’s compare two common scenarios: the first is a man, who has been at the pub and has had a few beers, he’s not sure if he’s over or under the limit. The other, a man driving home from a trip, he’s been driving for hours and hasn’t had much sleep. Both these men are impaired; it is obvious from their manner of driving, both are putting other motorists in danger, the difference between them is: one is liable to be disqualified from driving, receive huge fines and even face jail time, even if he does no harm. Why do we subject a drunk driver to this and not a tired driver?

The technology of a breathalyzer has allowed us to measure blood alcohol content or BAC. Science has given us a “magic number” for BAC which translates to law as, “If a person is above .05BAC they are unfit to drive and everyone below is as good as sober unless they have red or green P’s stuck to their car.” While almost everyone agrees that this is not an ideal solution, most agree it’s better than nothing. But is it really?

If we approach this from a cost-benefit point of view, huge amounts of money are spent on breathalyzers and RBTs all in the hopes of catching drink drivers before they do harm, though the cost is mitigated via the fines imposed, it still uses up a huge amount of police resources, backs up traffic and inconveniences motorists that are not drunk. But the basis that the potential harm will be prevented by RBTs relies on the assumption that, not only would the drivers crash on their journey, but furthermore that their crash would occur after the point at which they were breath tested, So that we arrive at the fallacy that the arrest of a drunk driver somehow saves lives. The truth is: firstly, that most drunk drivers would have made it home without incident; secondly, the police resources used for RBTs could be better used on highway patrol cars catching motorists that are driving dangerously, and are not just impaired and thirdly, that smoother flowing traffic, as a result of motorists not randomly being pulled over, would result in a safer, more efficient journey for everyone on the road.

Another factor that most of those who call for zero tolerance on intoxicated driving fail to take into account is drivers who believe they are impaired will drive more carefully and take fewer risks to compensate for their lack of sobriety or if they believe they are significantly impaired, whether they are drunk, tired or high, many will refuse to drive at all. While road fatalities have been reduced in past years, it is unlikely that stiffer penalties on drink driving or tougher enforcement of the .05BAC limit have caused this. The numerous gory advertising campaigns showing motorists the consequences of driving whilst impaired should be a much more effective way to prevent drink driving, as few drivers want to end up as a bloody splatter wrapped around a telegraph pole.  Yet the “zero tolerance” crowd somehow believes that motorists would knowingly put themselves and others at a much higher risk of death or serious injury unless they threaten them with loss of license and fines. The entire motive for a set of penalties for intoxicated driving comes down to the premise that people value their money and their ability to drive more than their lives and the lives of others on the road. But these penalties are actually shifting motorist’s attitudes that way; many people that drink and drive have the primary objective of “not getting caught”, rather than the objective of “not crashing and dying”.

One thing does remain clear, driving whilst impaired, for any reason, is dangerous, no questions about it. But, should we let a little device that reads out a number tell us whether we’re too impaired to drive? Or should we rely on our own instincts and the instincts of those around us to decide whether it’s worth the risk?

 Dom Vasta is a "freedom loving student" from Brisbane, Australia, who is currently studying Engineering and Science at the University of Queensland. He supports liberalization of drug and gun laws and the privatization of nearly every aspect of government. This is an unedited entry into our $750 for 750 words contest for aspiring young writers.