Call me a wowser and I’ll take THAT on the chin.
In the light of the recent spate of sad assaults, some fatal, on innocent young victims by alcohol fed assaulters (some also young) and the differing opinions about how to end this savagery, it was disappointing to me to hear a prominent, and undoubtedly caring, barrister recommending changes to the NSW sentencing laws. That change he recommended is that an assault whilst drunk should be viewed more seriously that an assault when sober (not that we should sentence people merely for being drunk).
How is a stiffer sentence going to penetrate the alcohol fueled brain of a possible random assaulter? In what possible way could the proposal, that when alcohol has been used there should be a longer sentence, be a deterrent?
There is only one deterrent and that is in the hands of us, the Australian people. There is a huge culture here of drinking as almost the only way of entertaining ourselves. It appears that we think it is our right to spend hours in many forms of pleasure but supported inevitably by drinking. And most of us who have had a drink will have done or said something we regret. Yet anyone who does not do this is thought to be a bit odd (or else a recovering alcoholic).
When there has to be a “designated driver” or we demand endless taxis and public busses it means that we, the public, intend to go to these venues and drink to a point where judgement is impaired. And the loud critics feel that they can have a view on what level of impaired judgement is the “correct” level. There is no acceptable level of impaired judgement from alchohol or drugs.
We have a simple way of stopping the businesses who want us to drink until all hours at Kings Cross or some other similar gathering place and that is not to go. That will put them out of business. No matter that they play interesting music or have discos to dance to. How well would these be frequented without the endless supply of alcohol? Or if we want to stop drunken violence at The Cross but still attend functions we can go there ourselves but not encourage the businesses who sell alcohol by buying it. See if that perhaps will put them out of business or would change our drinking culture!
I accept that many people can use alcohol in a limited way so their judgment is not impaired and, for example, they can still drive a car. But you can not tell me with a straight face that that is part of the Australian ethos around alcohol.
Whilst so ever we view alcohol as a de rigor part of our social life to which we have a right and on which huge businesses are built, rather than as an optional, sometime extra at other entertainments and gatherings, we will misuse it.
But if we agree with the eminent Senior Counsel that we need to alter our laws so as to make assaults while drunk more serious than assaults when sober then we have actually acknowledged that being drunk is a crime, that there is something seriously wrong with drinking heavily. And if we feel there is need for a legislative change, we should legislate that way. Fellow Australians, where would you put your decimal point?