I have been thinking a lot about drinking lately (as opposed to beer), primarily fuelled by the intensity of the debate about ‘binge drinking’ that has rapidly been deteriorating into farce and hysteria. The most recent example of this came over he weekend when the Courier Mail ran a story headlined, “Woman on assault charges for glassing and punching” after a women threw a glass at a bloke. I don’t mean to make light of it, but is this a ‘glassing’? Call me old-fashioned, but even last week wasn’t a glassing when you would break a glass and slash someone with it, or break it over them cutting them in the process? This story is just a garden variety assault, not the extension of the terror on our modern streets. I’d even settle for that old favourite ‘alcohol-fuelled violence’ over ‘glassing’ in this case.
When the media has the bit between its teeth there’s no stopping them…which is why the hotel and alcohol industries need to look carefully at their backyard. Alcohol is a cause célèbre at the moment and every media-worthy incident just sharpens the spotlight on alcohol and pushes the government harder to act – and the government has no ability to act precisely. Anything the government does won’t just affect the worst clubs and pubs, it will affect everyone. This was amply demonstrated when the Federal Government responded to malt-based alcopops by changing the definition of beer. Because one section of the alcohol industry wanted to act in a way that was clearly contrary to the excise laws, the brewing industry has been subjected to a change of the very definition of beer. Of course, it’s not a change that will hurt the big brewers – but it was a chance that will affect the small brewers who don’t have the ability to assay their bitterness or their sugar content, or just face greater compliance costs to prove they meet the requirements.
Returning to the Courier Mail story, forcing pubs to use plastic glasses wouldn’t have prevented this assault I suspect. If she wanted to hit someone, she would just as likely have thrown whatever was in her hand – even a plastic cup, used a pool cue or her bottle of vodka cruiser (I’m guessing here…call it a stereotype, but I’d be willing to bet that most pub assaults by women are caused by alcopop and cheap cocktail drinkers. I can’t remember the last time that a saison or robust porter was implicated in an assault).
Still, I have no real problem with the government mandating the use of plastic in places that have a demonstrable problem with alcohol-related incidents. I don’t think the plastic will do much – there are more problems caused by blokes getting into a fight and kicking each other in the head – but maybe the threat of having to use plastic and the potential loss of business that may come of it will get a subsection of irresponsible publicans to actually enforce the Responsible Service of Alcohol, rather than pour cheap, flavourless alcohol down their patrons throats and count the cash afterwards.