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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 2 Hansard (29 February) . . Page.. 496 ..

Binge Drinking

MR OSBORNE: Mr Speaker, my question is to Mrs Carnell in her capacity as Chief Minister. I am addressing this question to you, Mrs Carnell, because I do not believe that this issue is confined to one portfolio. One of the most serious issues facing our young people, right across the ACT, is that commonly referred to habit of binge drinking. By young people I mean high school age people, but it does cover a wide section of the community.

Mr Berry: They are all in bed by 3 o'clock, Ossie.

MR OSBORNE: They will be soon, Wayne. Mrs Carnell, what is your Government doing, or intending to do, to address this ever increasing problem?

MRS CARNELL: Gary Humphries made an extremely long statement on how we were going to handle these sorts of issues in the future. I think Mr Humphries made it very clear that we were extremely concerned about binge drinking, particularly at night in Civic and in other places around Canberra. A strategy was put in place over summer to see whether the problem could be addressed within existing legislation. Summer is not over yet and we have not had a look at the results of that trial, shall we say.

Having been out with the police on Saturday night, I think the situation is somewhat better than it was last time I went out, which was last year; but the problem is still definitely there. There were young people lying on benches, vomiting. It really was pretty ordinary. We, as an Assembly, are looking at harm minimisation. Allow young people to have a few drinks, certainly, as long as they are over the age of 18; but make sure that the damage they can do to themselves is as minimal as possible. We will look at the results of the summer trial, shall we say. We will certainly be looking at the legislation that you put on the table in this place, and looking at a longer term approach to this very real problem.

MR OSBORNE: In the early part of last year, Mrs Carnell, there was a three-month trial, jointly funded by both the health and education budgets, for a trained teacher to travel around our schools teaching specialised units on, among other things, binge drinking and drug education. I have heard that that trial was received very well and was a raging success. Will this program be enlarged? Will it be returned? Is this something that your Government is looking at?

MRS CARNELL: Drug education generally in our schools is an issue that has been addressed, and is continuing to be addressed. With drug education generally, we need to make sure that it hits the mark; that it is not just something that we feel comfortable about, but actually addresses the problem at school level. An Assembly committee that I was part of - I think Mr Moore was, too - looked at this issue in depth and found that it really was not all that simple. One of the great problems of having somebody going into the schools and giving that sort of education is that it often does not fit with an overall program. It was determined at that stage that the better approach was to have a format for drug education that was part of the curriculum - I think we suggested this at that committee - that started at kindergarten level. That was very much part of the whole process.

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