We Aussies are no gold medallists in the Grog Olympics

There are certain things in life that if we are told often enough we simply believe to be true.

Recently we’ve been told, endlessly, that Australia has a “booze-soaked culture”, that we have an “alcohol abuse epidemic”.

And guess what? It’s JUST NOT TRUE.

On Australia Day I was at a party like most of you and I asked pretty much everyone I ran into where they would rank Aussies on a global table of booze hounds.

Most had us in the top five – and every single person had us in the Top 10. Why wouldn’t they?

And I was the same. Until I checked the stats.

I swear to god if drinking booze was an Olympic sport we’d be in the middle of a Royal Commission right now because our place on the global pecking order beggars belief.

According to the World Health Organisation figures published in 2011 we are 44th in the developed world on overall per capita consumption of all alcohol. Sure we are number 21 in beer and number 25 in wine but we are ranked 92nd in the consumption of spirits (which frankly I wish I had known before creating my own gin brand last year ).

I’m not in any way suggesting we should be shooting for a higher spot on the table, I’m just craving a little bit of balance – I just wish some politicians and commentators would put on their sensible hats and get out of the sun.

More Australians these days are drinking less but better and that is evidenced by the multitude of small bars and expensive craft drinks. We are taxed and policed more than any drinking culture in the world. And as for the policing, well we deserve it and tolerate it so we can try to avoid the tragedies of recent months.

But we are not global booze hounds, we are NOT, on the whole, serial alcohol abusers. We most definitely have issues with binge drinking, alcohol and drug related violence and sometimes handing out licences to people who probably ought not have the privilege.

If you want the booze gold medallists then take yourself to Moldova (overall), Czech Republic (beer), Luxembourg (wine) or South Korea (spirits) to see cultures soaked in booze.

We have our social problems just like everyone else and we should continue to make sensible and reasoned decisions to better our society. Half baked, knee jerk policy on the run is not the way to make our city or state a better place to live.

Stuart Gregor runs marketing firm Liquid Ideas and owns a gin business and a small winery.

Alcohol-fuelled violence – I’m not so sure.

I just Googled the phrase “alcohol-fuelled violence” and got 360,000 results – yep 360,000.

I’ve been truly gobsmacked as much by the very acts that have been perpetrated in Sydney as the hysteria and poor nomenclature used to describe them. Because unless I am out of my head on some sort of weird psychedelic myself, these acts are not merely alcohol-fuelled, they are fuelled by the EPIDEMIC in Sydney of amphetamines, uppers and steroids.

The fact is that NO-ONE can go on an eight hour drinking binge and be capable of throwing much of a punch. They are more at risk of falling in front of a cab, spewing in the very same vehicle or walking into a wall. Acts of serious and consequential violence committed by people in the vast majority of these recent cases are thanks to the dual mechanisms of plenty of booze and a few “bumps” of whatever choice of drug keeps the perpetrator going longer. The sheer intensity of the recent violence is proof enough to this untrained eye that there is a lot more than bourbon and beer fuelling the fights. I am not making light of anything, but let’s be honest, fights fuelled exclusively by booze tend to be as comedic as they are consequential. Punches fly everywhere and rarely hit a target. When they do, of course it’s a tragedy. But I just don’t reckon that’s what I’m seeing right now.

It might be crystal meth or ice – if you think this insidious drug is strictly the domain of bikers and “westies” you’d be wrong – it is all over the inner city. Then throw in a few Red Bulls, a couple of lines of coke if you’re fancy, maybe a key of speed or some GHB – anything to keep you at the bar feeling good. These drugs are EVERYWHERE. Ask your kids.

If you are a body builder, chances are you’re already on the steroids and they can make you plenty angry with a little bit of weekend help from your recreational drug of choice.

Look where this is happening. Where bars and pubs have been for the history of the city – but today where drug dealers and crooks reign supreme.
I just don’t understand why alcohol is seen by the vast majority of people as the sole problem here.

Of course I am compromised – I make wine and gin, I promote beer and all manner of drinks and just like EVERY SINGLE other purveyor of booze I want, in fact now more than ever, I NEED, people to consume my drinks as they always have – with some sense of personal responsibility. The vast majority of publicans, club owners and bar operators feel exactly the same.

We aren’t drinking more booze than we did a decade ago. More people, in fact, are drinking less but better. That’s a good thing. At least for those of us who think a moderate, and maybe occasional semi-binge, drink is OK for both us and society.

We love small bars and we adore a civilized drinking culture. I’m OK with these new laws as proposed by Barry O’Farrell today, not because I want to leave bars at 1.30am (which as a 45 year old is past my bedtime anyway) but because Sydney is NOT a civilized place to take a drink late at night. It’s NOT Seville or Rome. It’s a city riddled with a really dreadful drug sub-culture – the cops know this, the politicians know this and it’s no surprise that the recent spate of gun crime, which is ALWAYS related to the drug trade, is happening at exactly the same time as this epidemic of drug and alcohol fuelled violence.

It’s harder to crack the drug dealing code than it is to close pubs early. It’s easier to police the streets of the Rocks than it is to bust organised, trans-continental crime. In other words, it’s easier to be seen doing something than working behind the scenes trying to catch the real criminals. I get it.

Licensees who allow drugs to be dealt on or around their premises should be stripped of the privilege of having a licence and thrown in jail with their dealer mates. Those who don’t control the consumption on their premises should likewise face serious punishment. The fact is, a rogue publican loves a few amphetamines hanging around the pub. It means his punters stay longer and drink more. And then they go out and belt someone. It’s a bloody tragedy. But it’s not all the fault of booze.