Kevin Rudd From an interview with the Prime Minister of Australia Mr. Kevin Rudd

The families, parents, local communities and police at the local level have been dealing with the problem of binge drinking for a long, long time. Families, parents, local communities know that binge drinking is a problem right across the country. What we find is that families and local police and communities have been trying to do their bit to turn this problem around, and today the Australian Government is putting up its hand to partner with them to try, to try to turn this problem around.

If you look at some of the figures, we have a big challenge on our hands. There is a 2005 survey that found that in a given week, approximately one in ten, that is 168,000 young people aged 12 to 17, reported binge drinking or drinking at risky levels. For 16 and 17 year olds, one in five drank at risky levels. In an earlier survey, 13 per cent of 18 to 20 year olds drank 13 or more standard drinks each time they visited a club, 83 per cent left the club as the driver of a vehicle and 70 per cent of males and 30 per cent of females believed that drinking was an important tradition at their club.

Ultimately, this, of course, is a question of personal responsibility. But what we propose to do is to, as the Australian Government, to do what we can to partner with parents and local communities and with families and with local police and sporting organisations to try and turn this problem around.

Therefore, we’re announcing today a $53 million program, which has three parts to it.

A $14.4 million investment in community level initiatives to confront the culture of binge drinking, particularly in sporting organisations. This funding, in particular, would be dedicated to sporting clubs to assist them in developing local codes of conduct in relation to binge drinking. The Government will also take sporting organisations actions on this question into account in the possible future consideration of grants to such sporting organisations.

Secondly, the question of personal responsibility. $19.1 million to support innovative early intervention and diversion programs for young people under the age of 18. That is where young people are found binge drinking, to provide funding and support to assist to turn those young people around.

The possible initiatives there range anything from requiring young people to participate in educational and/or diversionary activities. Or even to allow the authorities to confiscate alcohol and to provide formal warnings. Our objective under this program is to have a major pilot project up and running in each state capital of Australia during the course of 2008. We need to learn how this can work effectively at a community level.

The third part of this new national binge drinking strategy is this: $20 million over two years in a hard hitting television, radio and internet campaign that confronts young people with the costs and consequences of binge drinking.

This ‘in your face’ sort of advertising is necessary to confront young people with what happens if you go out binge drinking. It damages your health, increases the risk of damaging your life permanently through a car smash, or losing your life. And, I believe we need a no-holds-barred approach to putting it right in the face of young people as to what happens unless this is turned around.

The last thing I’d say is we don’t pretend to have all the answers on this. We’ve actually spent quite some weeks working this through. But we believe this is a positive step in the right direction. We’ll be reviewing this approach in 12 months time against the measures to see what effect has been yielded through this investment.

I conclude where I began. Right across the community mums and dads know this is a real problem. They are trying hard to deal with it at the local community level. The Australian Government now wants to partner with them to see what we can do practically to turn this around.

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