There is no doubt that alcohol abuse and violence is a national issue, with some even describing it as an “epidemic”. Now in response to the violence fuelled by alcohol and the rise of the abuse of alcohol, the Australian Medical Association has called upon the federal government to hold a national summit on the issue. According to the AMA the Abbott Government needs to show national leadership in dealing with the “epidemic” of alcohol abuse and national summit is necessary in order to curb the problematic drinking culture that reigns throughout the nation. According to the AMA the government should bring together state governments, local councils, health experts, the alcohol industry, police and families of victims affected by alcohol fuelled violence to tackle the issue of alcohol fuelled harm. The president of the AMA had this to say about the call:
”We have a major national problem that requires a major national solution,” AMA president Steve Hambleton said.
”The NSW Government has this week introduced some very tough and very welcome new laws to address alcohol-related violence on the streets of Sydney, and we now have to look at the broader harmful effects of alcohol misuse in every corner of the country.”
Dr Hambleton said the AMA wanted co-ordinated, nationally-consistent action by governments on issues such as alcohol marketing, pricing and taxation, venue licensing and opening hours.
Although Abbott earlier expressed concern about the level of alcohol-fuelled violence he said dealing with it was a state responsibility. Meanwhile the opposition leader, Bill Shorten has backed the AMA’s call for a national summit and expressed hope that Abbott would also support it. The post went on to explain
”As a community, we must stand up against violence in all its forms and do what we can to prevent it,” Mr Shorten said.
Labor oppositions in NSW and Victoria also backed the idea.
Labor’s Victorian health spokesman Gavin Jennings said he would attend if invited.
”Labor would be supportive of a national summit to discuss a national approach that deals with the excess use of alcohol,” he said.
NSW Labor health spokesman Andrew McDonald, who is a paediatrician, said the summit was an excellent idea.
”We need to listen to the evidence and develop bipartisan policies,” he said.
Although the NSW and Vic state governments have yet to comment on the calls for the summit, it is hoped that if it does go ahead it will lead to action – that was the call from Mike Daube, the Public Health Association of Australia spokesperson. He explained that while there is already a lot of evidence, we need to take action rather than set up more reviews.