Adults who supply booze to other people's children without parental consent will soon be liable for a hefty fine.
Police Minister Jim Cox yesterday announced the crackdown to prevent the "horrific, unpleasant and sad" effects of underage binge drinking at private parties.
The law changes were prompted, in part, by the case of Penguin boy Taylor Forward who was supplied with vodka and fell into a campfire at a friend's party in 2005.
"Too often we hear and see the effects of young people being supplied with alcohol and left unsupervised," Mr Cox said.
"Not only can this result in direct harm from excessive alcohol consumption, it also means young people are at risk of forming binge-drinking behaviours and not learning responsible drinking."
The change means the adult supervisor at the party would take full legal responsibility for the actions of underage drinkers at the event.
That could create a scenario where invitations to underage parties could go out with parental consent forms granting children permission to drink.
"I think if invitations went out and parents were prepared to take responsibility for other under 18s, and a permission slip was put in there, that would be a great idea."
Mr Cox rejected suggestions the laws would have the effect of normalising underage drinking, but would allow parents to introduce their children to alcohol in a controlled way.
Assistant Commissioner Phil Wilkinson was confident the new legislation could be policed.
"As it stands at the moment, on private premises it is legal for underage people to drink, so this extends it and gives parents an additional level of control over what their children do," Assistant Commissioner Wilkinson said.
Taylor Forward's mother Vicki welcomed the move, which follows a 3 1/2-year fight for legislative change.
"This is not to stop everyone drinking when they are under 18 but it is about having more control and accountability to protect kids," Mrs Forward said.
State Schools Parents and Friends Associations president Jenny Branch said underage parties were still a big problem.
In 2007 the National Drug Strategy household survey found 22 per cent of teenagers over the age of 14 drank alcohol on a weekly basis.
"I have heard of cases where kids go out every weekend -- parents feel like they are losing kids to places they don't want them to be and a life they don't want their children to be in," Ms Branch said.
"Hopefully these new laws will give children and parents the opportunity to negotiate what is responsible and what is not."
Australian Hotels Association state manager Steve Old lauded the proposed crackdown.
source: The Mercury
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