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Punch Drunk


Punch Drunk

Australians love a drink, and some see no problem at all with drinking to excess. But now doctors, police and paramedics have called "time", warning that alcohol-fuelled violence has reached crisis levels.


"We are not facing a crisis, we're in a crisis. It's occurring right now."


Read the statistics and it's hard to argue with these dire warnings. The latest figures show that each year as many as 70,000 people are involved in alcohol-related assaults. In all, it is estimated that alcohol-related violence costs the community $187 million each year. Four Corners also reveals there's a growing body of evidence that shows a link between binge drinking and brain damage. As one expert explained:


"You will face assault, you will assault, you will have falls. You will find yourself with a brain injury as a result of the long-term use of alcohol."


While the overall incidence of alcohol-related violent crime varies in each state in Australia, one thing is clear: the violence associated with alcohol abuse is getting more extreme. Indeed one key judicial figure has taken the unusual step of opening his court to the cameras and telling Four Corners:


"One day someone is going to sit down and weigh up the benefit in terms of taxes to government from the sale of alcohol, against the detriment or the cost to governments of servicing the consequences of violence."


Next on Four Corners, reporter Janine Cohen tells the story of one young man who did nothing more than take his girlfriend out to a club. Without provocation he was attacked, his skull fractured and his life changed forever. The story of alcohol abuse didn't end there. His attacker, who'd consumed 10 cans of bourbon and cola, was arrested, found guilty and sentenced to six years jail. His family was devastated.


Despite such occurrences, the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) argues that alcohol isn't the only cause of violence and its increasing intensity. The organisation claims that drugs are the real problem and that people must take more personal responsibility.


"Well it's a society problem, it's not the AHA's problem. The AHA work closely with the community, work closely with government, works closely with police to ensure they provide safe venues."


Out on the streets Four Corners found a rather different picture.


Accompanying police on patrol, it soon became clear that alcohol and violence are close companions. The cameras captured the moment when police themselves are attacked, and go with the paramedics who are forced to clean up the carnage after violence flares. At the hospital emergency ward things are no better. Doctors and nurses are forced to tend to a constant stream of people who've become victims of alcohol-related violence.


Why won't government do more to reduce the amount of alcohol sold? For some the answer is clear: they are frightened to take on the powerful liquor industry. Meanwhile the level of violence is intensifying.


References and further information

The original article was produced by Four Corners.


To view this article and the video, visit the Four Corners website.


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