Legal drinking age could be raised
SCHOOLIES Week officially begins today with 20,000 Year 12 graduates expected to descend on Byron Bay over the next fortnight.
However that figure could be dramatically reduced in future years if a proposal to raise the legal drinking age above 18 is adopted.
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and several health experts yesterday called for the legal drinking age to be raised to at least 19.
A group of 18-year-old Geelong schoolies, who are spending the week in Byron Bay, said they would not have made the trip if they could not drink alcohol.
Tom Young, 18, said he and his friends spent thousands of dollars on renting a holiday home in Byron Bay.
“It wouldn’t be worth it if we couldn’t have a few beers,” he said.
Alex Stewart, 18, said if society wanted them to act like adults they needed to be treated as such. “As soon as we’re 18 we’re classified as adults and we’re the same as everyone else,” he said.
“People should just trust us and we will be responsible.”
Lewis Broad, 18, said schoolies needed to be rewarded after 13 years of hard work.
“This is our week to go nuts,” he said.
“If they raise the drinking age it will cause havoc. Under-age drinking will become a huge problem and it won’t stop fights and violence – it will cause more.”
Mr Scipione said the issue must be debated to prevent alcohol-related violence.
Other prominent supporters of raising the drinking age include leading mental health advocate Ian Hickie from the University of Sydney, alcohol researcher and former head of VicHealth Rob Moodie and Australian National Council on Drugs chairman John Herron.
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon ruled out lifting the limit.
“It is not on our agenda,” she told reporters.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has placed youth binge drinking on the agenda for a meeting with state premiers next month.