Like many people, I love a good stat. Whether it be something obscure such as Bill “Fire Down Below” Barkins’ insurmountable record of 6.24 cup adjustments per innings playing Major League Baseball, or comparatively innocuous ABS data showing Aussies are drinking less than they have for fifty years.

The problem arises when the topic of study is not as cut and dry as a cup-counting. Once a problem becomes complex beyond representation by a simple percentage or comparison, it becomes susceptible to interpretive analysis.

Such is the case with national studies of the effectiveness of trading restrictions on licensed venues. In its most basic form, their existence would be described as ‘for the public good’. From that viewpoint, any results that can be framed to support efforts to reduce violence and anti-social behaviour are – in the eyes of those on that side of the fence – worth the damage elsewhere.

Caution Head_LR_featureConversely, the viewpoint that a trade reduction of 50 per cent (for example) would hardly justify a 24 per cent drop in incidents, seems fairly logical.

While Australia and the USA share many social commonalities, we are commonly seen by them as on the slippery slope to communism with our despairingly ‘socialist’ Government-mandated universal health care and altogether un-capitalistic controls on business.

In hospitality their differing position manifests as far less stringent RSA regulations, and in most places little or no consequences for staff or venues actually caught serving an intoxicated person. The BAC limit for driving in most States is 0.08 (to our 0.05) and ‘random’ breath testing is technically unconstitutional in most circumstances and considered an outrageous invasion of liberty by the average American.

The capitalism-first mentality of our northern Pacific neighbour is fundamental to the population’s mindset of ‘freedom or die’. But its fight-for-your-rights foundation is underpinned by what most Australians would describe as a ludicrously litigious approach to resolution.

Personally, I’m glad to live in a society where someone isn’t within their rights (some States) to shoot you for stepping onto their property. Or where thieves can potentially win civil damages claims for injuring themselves during a burglary.

However, the extreme alternative – to treat the hapless public as mindless victims devoid of accountability and needing every protection – is equally scary for the opposite reasons.

If a working middle-ground is to be found, surely it lies with greater education across provider and consumer. Standards must be established on both sides of the fence: let not the venues flog bathtub moonshine as safe to drink, and let unruly drinkers answer for their behaviour.

We must fight for our freedom to choose, even if that means choosing to party.


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