Research says we drink too much. Really? We had to pay to hear that?

An article in most of todays newspapers and news services tells us that more than one in eight deaths of Australians under the age of 25 are linked to alcohol abuse. 60 per cent of all police attendances and 90 per cent of late-night calls involve alcohol. One in five Australians drink at levels that put them at risk of lifetime harm, and more than one in five Australians under the age of 18 report having been harmed by another person’s drinking.

The government even paid for extensive research to be conducted and come to this conclusion.

Has no one noticed the amount of alcohol consumed by Australians of all ages at our outdoor events? Anyone notice the drunken antics of race-goers during the Spring Racing Carnival. Will anyone be watching as the Ashes start tomorrow? Not to mention the appalling behaviour of Australians at music festivals and concerts.

I just recently returned from a family holiday on the Whitsundays. The resort we stayed in quite cleverly promoted the in-pool bar, open from 11am to 11pm. The bars’ in-pool stools were in the lower, safer, kids area of the pool. Great positioning! Suffice to say that the behaviour of many of the adults staying at the resort during the bars’ open hours was appalling and a very bad example to our children. My husband, who was born and raised in Italy, and who enjoys his alcohol, but elegantly and responsibly in moderation was shocked by the number of beers that were consumed at the pool during the day. One pint hadn’t been downed completely before another one was being poured from the tap. In the space of 4 hours, he counted one Australian man, ordering and consuming, 18 pints of beer. And this was on his first day at the resort! When he became rowdy and disruptive, the bar staff tried to ask him to keep his voice down and behave himself. This is inexcusable. Shouldn’t they have thought about this before providing the man with such an excessive amount of alcohol in the first place? Or are their sales figures more important? This happens everywhere across our country everyday but we don’t sit up and notice the effects until we allow our government to spend copious amounts of money to confirm it in academic studies and research.

I ask myself if parents understand the impact their behaviour has on their children or if we belong to such an uneducated, ignorant population that nobody cares? I understand that different socio-demographic classes of our society are faced with different challenges in life, but the problem of alcohol abuse spans all classes and makes us all look like a population of beer-swigging alcoholics. And I don’t recognise myself in this.

John Herron, a former Howard government minister and now Chairman of the Australian National Council on Drugs and Alcohol is urging the Abbott government to to take strong action to stem the “appalling” level of alcohol-related harm and to resist a “fear campaign” by the alcohol industry against attempts to change the nation’s booze culture.

This comment sparked something in me and made me wonder what people overseas would read into this. I’ll explain myself a little better. When we hear of a gun massacre in the United States, we sit in bewilderment and sometimes even disgust at how the US Government is afraid to stand up to the Gun Lobby. How it can allow itself to be bribed into allowing these massacres to continue. We are appalled at the power these lobbies have, holding the US government by the balls. And so nothing changes, and in a couple of months time, we will hear, watch or read about another gun massacre and other innocent lives being taken.

Is this what is happening in Australia with the Alcohol Lobby? Does it have such a stronghold on our governments that changes can’t be implemented? Must we remain a nation without any alcohol culture? In Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, even Greece, children under the age of 18 are allowed to drink with their parents permission. A glass of wine at the table, a swig of beer from dad’s bottle. Sure, they even get drunk and may even hurt themselves but they grow up with a different culture and attitude towards alcohol and its consumption. Does the imprinting of this culture begin at school, at home, or through social awareness campaigns? Maybe all three.

Has the study researched how alcohol culture is instilled and imprinted in children from other countries? How responsibility is taught? What role the families have in this? Or was this study conducted to confirm what most of already know?

As reported in todays The Age, the council headed by John Herron will on Wednesday launch an “action plan” to tackle alcohol abuse. The plan calls for an overhaul of alcohol taxation, tougher regulation of alcohol advertising and sponsorship and a debate about raising the drinking age. “The health, social and economic costs associated with alcohol use simply cannot be allowed to continue at the current level,” Dr Herron said.

“We all understand that the culture of drinking and intoxication has a long history in Australia and we all agree that these levels of harm are unacceptable, however whenever we speak of culture change the industries that profit most from this culture run the same old fear campaign of a nanny state takeover.

“Seatbelts, random breath tests and gun laws do not represent a nanny state and nor do sensible alcohol policies and programs.”

The council’s recommendations are unlikely to be embraced by Health Minister Peter Dutton who vowed before the election the Coalition would not be “heavy-handed” on alcohol regulation.

This last line is what worries me the most. “The council’s recommendations are unlikely to be embraced”…because our newly elected government doesn’t want to “heavy-handed” on alcohol regulation….WTF? How tight are the Alcohol lobbyist holding onto the governments balls? and why spend so much money on research if no actions will be taken to change anything?

I’m starting to get pissed!…and I don’t mean that I’ve been drinking!

Drink responsibly, maturely and enjoy it. Don’t abuse it.
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Etiquette. Does anyone care anymore?

I’m not sure if age has anything to do with this, but as I get older I am less tolerant of uneducated, rude, ignorant and badly behaved adults. Never has this been more true, than in this last week of the Spring Racing Carnival here in Melbourne. The Racing Carnival has become a window into the reality that is our society….yes, we go out of way: perfectly coiffed hair, nails, make-up, fascinator or hat, the perfect frock or suit, and the mandatory glass of bubbly to top it off. For the first couple of hours we shine; it could almost be mistaken for Royal Ascot. Elegance, class and intelligent conversations. But then something happens inexplicably, that turns these icons of style and grace into rude, uncouth, rowdy, drunken beings that put the spotlight on what (I think) is really lacking in society today – etiquette.

Etiquette can be defined as: rules of acceptable behaviour: the rules and conventions governing correct or polite behavior in society in general or in a specific social or professional group or situation. Its synonyms include manners, good manners, protocol, custom, propriety, decorum and politeness.

I don’t find walking around Flemington with your dress hitched up and tucked into your knickers (because it’s just too hot), whilst no longer wearing your heels to be acceptable behaviour, nor do I think passing out on the lawns or heaving behind a marquis to be polite behaviour. Where is the decorum in drunken, almost unconscious PDA’s (aka a good old pash and feel up with a stranger)? Why do so many Australians have  difficulty controlling their drinking? Why is getting “smashed” such a pleasure? When did losing all control and propriety become so acceptable? The media have a field day every year with this behaviour; photos are printed in newspapers, magazines, on-line with very negative headlines. But no-one seemingly notices or cares. I’ve heard people say: “it’s all just a bit of fun” or “it’s an Aussie tradition”. Really? because right now I’m not feeling very ‘Aussie’.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to get dressed up, dolled up and get out there and have fun just like everyone else. I love my bubbly even more. I can count the number of times I have “behaved badly” due to excessive alcohol, on one hand, and I can guarantee that those occasions were all in my early twenties. Then I think I grew up. I enjoy my alcohol, I appreciate my alcohol…I suppose you could say “I drink responsibly”..but most importantly, I never loose faculty of my senses. I also think it is my responsibility not to offend anyone with my behaviour. That doesn’t mean I can’t have fun, down a few glasses of bubbly, make a few bets, and partake in a marvellous event. Yet still manage to get home with my shoes on!

Re-reading what I have just written makes me sound as though I’ve just stepped out of Downton Abbey but I am genuinely concerned. I have two young daughters. I want them to make their mistakes, take a few wrong turns, and learn and grow from them. I certainly don’t want to smother them and refuse them the right to grow. But I have every intention of teaching them the basics of correct etiquette. I’m sure they will want to attend the carnival when they are old enough and I, sure as hell, don’t want their knickers plastered all over the cover of the Herald-Sun!

Happy punting to all!