AUSTRALIANS turning 18 years old might soon have to wait an extra few birthdays to legally buy or drink alcohol.
A group of Australian doctors wants to see the legal drinking age increased to combat drunken violence and has started the ball rolling to make it happen.
In a submission to a Senate inquiry into alcohol-fuelled violence, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians wants to see a new minimum purchase age for certain types of alcohol and for all takeaway alcohol.
The submission proposes public consultation on a new minimum purchase age, but has not suggested an age.
The 80-page report also urges governments to consider increasing taxes on alcoholic drinks with higher health risks and using some of the revenue to fund alcohol treatment and harm prevention programs.
“It is imperative that all measures to reduce the harms of alcohol be enabled via a comprehensive national strategy which employs a range of measures to bring about a shift in the Australian drinking culture and a reduction in alcohol-related harms,” RACP President Nicholas Talley wrote in a letter to inquiry chairman Glenn Lazarus.
Mr Talley said he wants to reduce the “undeniable and substantial” harms caused by alcohol.
“Australians have a culture of alcohol — that’s fine, but we also have a problem with alcohol,” he told Fairfax Media.
The submission advocated in favour of the recent lock out laws implemented in NSW and implored other states to follow suit. It even recommended that local councils be given new powers to limit the number of licensed premises in their communities, in a move that would see some venues stripped of their liquor licences.
The submission also signalled a desire to enforce a complete ban on alcohol advertisements in Australian sport as a precursor to a broader ban on any alcohol-related advertisements easily seen by children.
A 2015 study by the Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education found a decline in underage binge drinking and an increase in the age at which many young people first drink alcohol.
Startlingly, a separate study in 2015 found that 40 per cent of Australian women consume alcohol during pregnancy — something the report also sought to address.
The RACP also wants to see a reduction in the blood alcohol limit for drivers.
Initially the limit would be reduced to 0.02, but the report suggests the Australian and New Zealand governments consider a zero limit for all drivers.
“RACP is calling on the Australian government to show leadership on this issue and urgently adopt and implement the recommendations of our alcohol policy in full,” Professor Talley said.
Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek said she would need to look at the proposal carefully before supporting it.
“But there’s no question there is significant alcohol-generated harm in our community and we should be working to reduce that harm,” she told reporters on Sunday.
Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm — a self described libertarian — has blasted the proposed measures saying doctors are “not qualified in public policy”.
“There’s nothing special about Australia. They drink in other countries without being treated like children,” he wrote on Twitter.
It is certainly not the first time industry groups have suggested raising the legal drinking age in the country, but support for the idea has previously been low.