05/06/12
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Political Porn With Hamish

Hamish Does the Numbers; The Numbers do Hamish

Analysis by Salient shows that the MPs from the poorest electorates will all be voting to raise the alcohol purchase age to 20—of those who will reveal their choices.

The New Zealand Herald ran a story earlier this month that outlined which way each MP will vote when it comes to the purchase age of alcohol. The vote will be a conscience vote, meaning MPs don’t vote along party lines.

The current votes are 31 to ‘Keep it 18′, 22 for the split option of 18 for on-licensed premises and 20 for off-licences, and 27 for a purchase age of 20. 42 were undecided or refused to say (meaning the Herald’s sums add up to 122 when there are only 121 MPs, which might because they counted Grant Robertson twice—see here: bit.ly/LLlyKi.

Having compared the Herald’s article to the median incomes for each electorate, the MPs for electorates with the lowest median incomes will be voting to raise the age to 20. This is not exactly a huge surprise—it is often low decile neighbourhoods with the largest number of liquor stores. Liquor stores are also no longer the way most New Zealanders buy their alcohol now; in 2008, 53 per cent of alcohol was purchased at on-licences compared to 38 per cent in 1990.

Of the MPs representing an electorate with a median family income of $55,000 per annum or lower, only 2 are voting to keep it 18, with the rest in favour of either a split age or a total increase to 20. This income level appears to be the turning point, as the trend for MPs from electorates with medians above $55,000 is the opposite; more are in favour of leaving the purchasing age at 18 than a total raise to 20. The split option is also popular.

Being the member for a young electorate appears to do little in persuading MPs to support leaving the purchasing age at 18. The five youngest electorates (in terms of median age) all have MPs voting to increase the age to 20. The Herald have included Dunedin North’s David Clark as being in favour of a total increase to 20, but this is incorrect; he’s for a split age (bit.ly/LWVD1N).

Of the list MPs, all of the Green Party, aside from the undecided Kennedy Graham, will be voting to leave the age at 18, whilst all of New Zealand First will be voting to raise the age to 20; Andrew Williams, however, will vote for a split age. The votes of these MPs represent the views of the main supporter base for each party.

Why we’re having this debate in the first place is questionable—there’s been a decline in teenage road deaths with drivers affected by drugs or alcohol (58 in 1986, 26 in 1996 and 19 in 2006) and between 1996/97 and 2006/07, a Ministry of Health report noted that there “was no change in the prevalence of hazardous drinking for adults.”

The argument that the off-licence purchasing age needs to be raised to prevent 17 and 16 year olds from accessing alcohol is also questionable. Research from ALAC shows that parents are the main suppliers of alcohol to minors; two-thirds of teenagers access alcohol from mum and dad and not off- licences.

John Key and David Shearer will both be voting for the split age, a politically sensible move which will address the concerns of middle New Zealand whilst still allowing 18 and 19 year olds to drink—if supervised.

HAMISH IS GENERALLY WRONG.TELL HIM WHY ON TWITTER: @MISHVIEWS 

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