Date PostedJune 15, 2013

RSA Update: Spotlight on MPs who abuse alcohol

The behaviour and more specifically drinking habits of one New South Wales minister has come under the spotlight of a parliamentary committee that have been tasked with looking into the influence of alcohol in late night parliamentary debates.

According to an article on, one NSW minister may face sacking if he is found to be under the influence of alcohol during late night parliamentary debates as he was found to be last week.

Finance Minister Greg Pearce was asked to leave after drinking a little too much at a Party fundraiser, something NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell says he will not tolerate, although there is no current prohibition against this at the moment.

Read this excerpt from which explains:

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell threatened to sack Finance Minister Greg Pearce if there were a repeat of an episode during a late-night sitting last week when he had to go home after consuming alcohol at a Liberal Party fundraiser.

At the moment there is no prohibition against MPs being drunk while on duty.

Mr Pearce refused to comment yesterday, with his spokeswoman saying he was unwell.

Greens upper house MP John Kaye said he would move for the matter of members of parliament affected by alcohol to be referred to the procedures committee of the Legislative Council.

“There’s been a gentlemen’s agreement to not say anything about people who come into parliament under the influence of alcohol. That has to come to an end,” he said.

Read more:

The problem with this type of behaviour is that people under the influence of alcohol have lost their inhibitions and their normal brain functioning has been altered, how can one be expected to make decisions about the future of an entire state if they aren’t even functioning normally? Also if they cannot make wise decisions regarding their own drinking behaviour how can they be expected to make wise decisions regarding the public of NSW, that is the question that many are asking themselves.

According to Dr Kaye banning night sittings of parliament is not the answer because it would mean more days of sitting which would mean more travel for country members. He said that if someone had difficulty refraining from drinking alcohol for 40 nights a year they probably need help, implying that they probably have a drinking problem.

Drinking influences our personalities in a variety of ways. Some people get happy. Others turn combative or impulsive. At one time or another, though, we’ve all been the emotional drunk, a condition typically marked by ill-timed espousals of affection or aggression, acute introspection and an uncontrollable urge to cry in the middle of a crowded bar – now imagine these symptoms being played out during a parliamentary sitting. Alcohol impacts every system in the body, but its effect on the brain is what determines our behaviour while under its influence, which is why MPs who are drunk cannot be allowed to remain in parliamentary sittings.

The article goes on to explain:

“This is not about Greg Pearce. It’s about 150 years of parliamentary democracy being fuelled by alcohol. I’m yet to see a law that’s gone through parliament that has been improved by the application of alcohol (or) a debate which has been made more relevant.”

The incident opens a door on the clubby culture of parliament, where drinking during dinner breaks is unexceptional and excuses are made for those who over-indulge.

However, as Dr Kaye acknowledged, the situation was undoubtedly worse in the past.

The bipartisan culture was underlined by Labor’s reluctance to make much of the incident. Opposition Leader John Robertson refused to commit to supporting a reference to a committee, saying he would wait to see the details.



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Peter Cutforth is a Director at Urban E-Learning, a global elearning, OH&S training, and web strategy firm based in Little Edward St. Spring Hill, Brisbane, Australia. Urban E-Learning provides compliance related online , Distance and Face-to-Face training products in the construction, hospitality and heavy vehicle transport sectors, to name a few. Examples include the White Card Construction induction course and the RSA - Responsible Service of Alcohol course. Peter's interests extend to training, safety and compliance, online marketing, and Mobile Apps.

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