The Kevin Rudd government in Australia has declared it is determined to curb binge drinking. It is to issue new guidelines, revising downward the current upper limit.
Draft guidelines on binge drinking were released last year, which recommended men and women should not have more than two standard drinks per day.
AdvertisementFairfax media is quoting the head of the National Health and Medical Research Council alcohol guideline committee, Jon Currie, as saying that the two-drink limit will stay, but the previous "safe" four-drink limit for men will become the absolute upper limit.
A spokeswoman for the centre says the organisation has recommended a top limit on safe drinking, but it cannot comment until a review is completed.
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has defended the possible move, saying the council is reviewing the current guidelines because of new research on binge drinking.
"The current guidelines are certainly higher than what has been reported today," she said.
"What we need to make clear is that there is changing evidence which we need to update when we provide national guidelines for what is a safe amount of alcohol to consume."
The report is before an international peer review and will go back to the council for consideration next month
Opposition health spokesman Tony Abbott has criticised the guidelines, saying the government is seeking to create hysteria over binge drinking.
But Ms Roxon says the previous government did nothing to address binge drinking when it was in government and was now trying to divert attention away from its neglect in the area.
"What you see, even in the Gippsland by-election today, is the alcohol industry siding up with the Liberal Party to run a campaign against the government's determination to help fix this problem," Ms Roxon told reporters in Sydney.
"The only people who seem to think this is not a problem are the alcohol industry and the Liberal Party."
She said Mr Abbott, the former health minister, was feeling guilty about the previous government's neglect in the area.
"He's come out now to accuse us on this issue when, really, the real story is that after 12 years they didn't do anything in government about this serious social problem that costs us $15 billion a year."
Sidestepping questions about whether four middies of beer should be classified as binge drinking, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd today said the Liberal Party had its "head in the sand" on the issue.
"This is a national challenge," he told reporters in Darwin.
"Mums and dads are concerned about it, police commissioners are concerned about it, the health authorities are concerned about it, and the only people with their head in the sand on this are the Liberal Party."
Asked if he agreed that four middies should be classified as binge drinking, Mr Rudd replied: "I think the important thing here is to put the facts into context.
"The NHMRC initiated this work when Mr Abbott was health minister of Australia," he said.
"I notice Mr Abbott is now saying interesting things at variance to that today in terms of his views about the problem being no worse than it was in the past."
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