Close bars early to stop alcohol-fuelled violence

Hugh Mackay; 10/4/10

When we’re casting around for a slick phrase to capture the essence of Australian culture, we go for things like ”the land of the fair go” or ”punching above our weight”. We prefer not to mention a couple of other things we’re famous for: alcohol abuse and street violence. ”Land of problem drinkers” doesn’t have such a nice ring to it and, in any case, we’d have to share that epithet with too many other countries. Still, with binge drinking on the rise and about 15 per cent of Australians now classed as “risky drinkers” (a proportion that has doubled in the past 10 years) we are certainly in the big league when it comes to alcohol abuse. Talk to anyone working in the drugs and alcohol field – researchers, doctors, counsellors, rehab workers – and the story is the same: while the rest of us wring our hands about the illicit drugs trade, the No.1 drug-abuse problem for Australia is alcohol.