In 'da House | Issue 23

In 'da House | Issue 23

MP Under Lock and Key

One of the cool things about being an MP is that you get to do stuff you would never otherwise do. If you express an interest in something, usually someone is only too happy to show you around, provide you with information, or host you for a visit.

Itís a privileged position, and it still weirds me out that I get to do it, but I figure that I might as well make the most of it while I can.

During the recent debate on the alcohol purchase age, a number of MPs talked about spending the night in A&E and seeing first-hand the harms of excessive alcohol consumption.

I havenít done that yet, and to be honest, Iím not sure Iíve got the stomach for it, but I did spend last Saturday night out on patrol with the Lower Hutt Police.

In six hours every single call was alcohol-related, from a drunken fight behind a panel beatersí, to a shouting match between ex-partners, to a bowling club left unlocked by drunk members. When I left at midnight the cells were just filling up, mostly with drunk men, many of whom were angry, aggressive, and some in real mental and emotional distress.

The youngest person I saw was a 16-year-old girl, who was very intoxicated and aggressive. But she was the only one under 18. The vast majority were young men in their 20s and 30s; the oldest, and most intoxicated, was a 59-year-old grandmother.

I know this isnít a scientific sample, but for me it reinforced that Parliament made the right decision to keep the alcohol purchase age at 18. Binge drinking is not a young personís problem in this country; itís a problem in this country, full stop.

Excessive drinking makes people sick and unhappy, it breaks relationships, it costs us millions of dollars in health costs, and it chews up most of our frontline Police resources, even as they try to focus on prevention and community policing.

As someone wise from Saatchi and Saatchi once said, itís not the drinking; itís how weíre drinking. After my night out with the cops, Iím even more convinced of this.
This article first appeared in Issue 23, 2012.
Posted 4:03pm Sunday 9th September 2012 by Holly Walker.