Thursday, 12 November 2009

Our High Court has ruled

we are responsible for our own actions - perhaps.

The news media was full of it. An inebriated man demanded the return of his motorcycle keys from a publican then rode off and killed himself. The publican was initially held responsible but the High Court overturned the ruling.

On the surface this is a commonsense decision but it has been widely criticised. Drug and alcohol groups claimed that publicans had a duty of care. Others claimed that the motor cycle rider could not be held responsible for his own actions because he was not capable of making a decison. It comes as no surprise. Australians have a dangerous love affair with alcohol. They most certainly do not want to acknowledge that the national pastime of alcohol consumption could be dangerous.
Then, on the ABC news, one of my old law professors was to be seen stating that the facts of the case were so specific it probably did not set any precedents at all. I will assume the law professor knows what he is talking about. He supervised my honours thesis and still managed to retain a sense of humour.
I happen to be allergic to alcohol. I get a nasty rash if I consume it. I avoid it. As I do not like the taste of the little I have tried I do not feel I am missing anything although there are plenty of people who will tell me otherwise. If those same people wish to drink then that is their decision - provided that their consumption of alcohol does not affect me or others. How you get people whose decision making ability has been affected by the consumption of alcohol to make responsible decisions is beyond me. Asking others, such as publicans, to be responsible is almost certainly just as difficult.
The real problem is the love affair with alcohol, the belief that it is an essential part of a meal at a restaurant, that having a good time with mates involves a beer or two or three or eight or more.
It is claimed there would be enormous financial implications if the alcohol limit was to be reduced still further. There are financial implications anyway. Each alcohol related death on the roads costs the taxpayer the minimum of a million dollars - and it is often more. That figure does not include permanant injuries. Having seen the end result of alcohol related injuries to the drinkers themselves and to others who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, I would reduce the alcohol limit to 0.01. That would allow for certain medications and perhaps one glass of wine over the entire course of a long meal. It is not much but it is not much to spend the rest of your life brain damaged either.
But I have no doubt that yesterday the legislators of this country were looking at ways to ensure that those who choose to drink will not be held responsible for their own actions. It is part of our national culture. We have to find someone else to blame, someone else to take the responsibility, someone else who can pay out damages for our stupidity.
I really rather resent having to pay for other people's stupidity. If my old law professor is correct then the High Court did not go far enough.

1 comment:

Rachel Fenton said...

At least he only killed himself. I am sickened by the number of times I read in the press about a drunk ploughing through a family or with passengers of their own and all but the drunk dying. Drink kills and ruins lives. People who drink to excess and then endanger the lives of others are no better than gun wielding maniacs.