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April 5, 2011  |  Second Reading

Liquor Control Reform Amendment Bill 2011

I am pleased to speak on the Liquor Control Reform Amendment Bill 2011, which seeks to provide a mechanism that bans adults from supplying alcohol to a minor in a private home unless parental consent is given. This bill potentially gives parents some peace of mind about the obligations and sanctions that can be imposed on other adults who are supervising children who are not their own. The Labor Party does not oppose the legislation because it is important that members of this place send a clear message to the community that the supply of alcohol to minors without permission from a parent or guardian is illegal. Hopefully the bill will pass.

This issue is dealt with in clause 3 of the bill, and the second-reading speech gives some interesting statistics. In particular it notes that the 2009 Victorian youth alcohol and drug survey found that over half the minors surveyed said they usually consumed alcohol at a friend’s house and that 61 per cent of respondents had received alcohol from a friend or acquaintance.

Ultimately these amendments are about continuing the community discussion about the obligations and responsibilities we have as parents or guardians to children in our care, whatever the circumstances.

Peer pressure is clearly a defining issue for young people in so many ways. It remains to be seen whether these amendments, if supported and used by parents and guardians, can also ease the pressure on young people who find themselves at a friend’s party and saying yes when alcohol is offered by the host. There is no doubt that parents also come under pressure when hosting parties for their sons and daughters and perhaps turn a blind eye at times to who is drinking alcohol. There will perhaps be a greater level of responsibility imposed on parents in their home to manage these issues if they are hosting other minors who are friends of their sons or daughters and they are providing them with alcohol.

I note that the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee has no substantive issues with the bill. I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the work of some young people who are part of the ‘Step Back. Think.’ campaign to alter the way teenagers think about violence and alcohol. The young people I refer to saw one of their own number suffer serious acquired brain injury from one punch related to alcohol-fuelled violence. The Bracks and Brumby governments worked with those passionate and committed young people who are seeking to drive change among their fellow young people. The Brumby government worked with them to tell their story in local schools and through leadership programs in an effort to get more young people to understand the repercussions that one alcohol-related act of aggression could have on others.

Many young people in our community are taking steps to address antisocial behaviour that is fuelled by excessive alcohol consumption. The bill seeks to empower parents and obliges them to take greater responsibility for minors who are friends of their sons and daughters and who socialise and attend parties at their home. Ultimately we all have a role to play. Nothing will stop parents from being anxious at times when their teenagers as part of their rite of passage are out on the town with their mates or at a mate’s house. This legislation legitimately gives parents a greater opportunity to play a role in supporting young people as they make their way in a community in which alcohol is a significant component of social activity in so many contexts. I wait with interest to see how many prosecutions are brought under this legislation and how involved police are in dealing with these matters when parties get out of control because of alcohol-related activity.

Every initiative helps and we have much more to do. I hope that this amending bill will add to the significant initiatives the Labor Party took in its time in government to work with the community to grapple with the causes and effects of excessive alcohol consumption in our society. I commend the bill to the house.