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
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
"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
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
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