Today's Big Stories

Draconian 'booze bill' could do more harm than good - expert

Leading liquor industry expert Michael Fridjhon says the draft liquor bill is heavy-handed and draconian legislation which is unlikely to bring about any material change.

Instead, Fridjhon is concerned that the stricter laws tabled by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will drive youth toward heavier abuse and the illegal consumption of other substances.

The problem will not change if we chase the 18-21 age group away from liquor. In fact, there's a real risk that they will move from liquor to much more dangers concoctions including drugs.

Michael Fridjhon, liquor industry authority

The National Liquor Amendment Bill proposes raising the legal alcohol consumption age from 18 to 21 and banning the broadcast of alcohol-related content before 10 pm.

It also plans to restrict liquor licences to operators whose premises are at least 500 m away from schools, churches and transport routes.

It's very clear that the DTI is playing to a prohibitionist constituency.

Michael Fridjhon, liquor industry authority

Fridjhon believes the bill may increase illicit alcohol consumption and says it makes no provision to raise awareness and improve enforcement.

Despite existing regulation, underage children have access to alcohol and the enforcement of laws is currently ineffective, says DTI's acting DDG MacDonald Netshitenzhe.

Netshitenzhe says the department believes that raising the legal drinking age age will make a social difference, adding that the law must work hand-in-hand with behavioural changes.

Netshitenzhe explains that the bill will see greater policing and education of liquor traders and be stricter about the termination or suspensions of operating licences.

Listen to the exchange between the two parties below:

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