Page 2196 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 4 August 2015
The amendments ensure that parents … are ultimately responsible for determining when and how their children are exposed to alcohol. The offences are not designed to restrict the practice … where some parents choose to permit the occasional consumption of limited amounts of alcohol, under supervision within the family environment. Supply of alcohol by a parent would only be an offence … if it was not consistent with responsible supervision of the child.
Madam Deputy Speaker, let me pose this question. If you have a 17-year-old at the dining room table at night and they have a glass of wine, is that responsible service of alcohol? I do not know; people will have a view on that. Some people would say no; some people would say yes. Let us say that they then have a second glass. Is that responsible or not? Some people would say yes; some people would say no. How about a third glass? There are people who would say yes; some would say no.
Ultimately, it is up to us as legislators to determine what the law is. It should not be done by voting for a law that leaves it to the discretion of somebody else to say, “I’m going in there and saying my view is that it’s zero glasses,” while for another person it is three. We should not leave it ambiguous and so that it is up to someone else to make that decision down the track—perhaps a stressed, tired police officer at 1 o’clock in the morning, getting between a parent and their child. That is the person that is going to make the decision as to whether to lay charges based on their discretion.
Before we make laws in this place that govern the behaviour between an adult and their child, we have a responsibility to make sure that we are providing clarity; and that we are very comfortable that the effect of this legislation will not be potentially ambiguous, potentially inconsistent in the way it is applied and potentially punitive in the way it is applied.
I understand the intent of the legislation. It seems well intended. I understand that we are trying to make sure that, where there is some irresponsible adult out there plying kids with alcohol, there is an offence. I understand that. But the problem is that in trying to capture those situations where some adults are deliberately plying kids with alcohol in extreme amounts, irresponsibly, you are catching everybody else out. You are not making it clear where that boundary is, where that line is, and we need to do so.
It is irresponsible to send off a piece of legislation to a police officer, who will be scratching their head about it, making them the arbiters of what is lawful and what is unlawful in this town, in terms of pressing charges, and the courts, again, will have to make a decision as to where that threshold lies. For other offences we have a very prescribed level. For example, with drink-driving, we say that at .05 you are over the limit. This is a bit like saying, for drink-driving, that what we are going to do is say to the police, “If you think the person’s had too much then press charges; then go to the court and if you think they’ve had too much, you can find that person guilty.” That is the same as what we are basically saying, because we are not prescribing a certain level of alcohol limit. We are not giving any other elements of proof. We are simply saying to the police and the courts, “You make that call. That’s too hard for us. We haven’t done the homework. We haven’t done the rigour. It’s too hard for us; you work out what that is.”