MOUNT Hutton has a fish and chip shop, and having bought a piece of battered fish there in February I can recommend it. The shop is just a few doors up from the site in the Mount Hutton shopping strip proposed by Woolworths for a liquor store and noisily opposed by all of 40 people at a footpath rally because it is near a school.
It is not clear whether these earnestly wholesome people are concerned that a liquor store within half a dozen or so shopfronts of a primary school would have an undue influence on the children or that people who visit liquor stores should not be permitted near a school, or both. Are they concerned that Mount Hutton’s children will come to see the purchase and consumption of alcohol as normal and acceptable for most Australians? These children will come to see this, if they haven’t already, whether there is a liquor store at the other end of the shopping strip or not.
The bigger danger to them and at least some of the protesting parents is the fish and chip shop. Australia is in the grip of an obesity crisis, with experts warning that without tough remedies children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents for the first time in modern history, and there were the abstemious do-gooders in the photo in yesterday’s Herald protesting out the front of the fish and chip shop about the proposed liquor store further down on the corner!
They seem to think that more Mount Hutton people will buy more booze if they have another liquor store nearby, which is a nonsense of course. With two bottle shops within one kilometre of the site a Mount Hutton adult is hardly going to be induced by the presence of a third to go on a bender.
It is, however, much more likely that the presence of a fish and chip shop will lead to more Mount Hutton adults and children eating more fish and chips, a food that contributes significantly to the unmatched threat to Australians’ health, obesity. Nipping down to the fish and chippery instead of cooking dinner is an impulse decision that, my observations in and around Mount Hutton suggest, can all too readily become a habit, while men and women who enjoy a tipple at home will have armed themselves accordingly whether or not a bottle shop is within nipping distance.
Indeed, the protestors themselves point to the flaw in their argument when they say that their area has enough liquor stores already – reportedly 14 within a 5km radius – and by that they mean, presumably, that drinkers, and that would be most adults in the area, can buy as much alcohol as often as they wish without travelling far.
They will claim support from Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, who blames bottle shops and the number of bottle shops, the lack of limits on purchases from bottle shops, the advertising of alcohol and the relatively low price of alcohol for the rate of alcohol-related domestic violence not falling as quickly as the rates of other alcohol-related violence. It appears that Mr Scipione believes that reducing the number of bottle shops, limiting the amount of alcohol an individual can buy and lifting the price of alcohol will reduce the incidence of domestic violence.
I believe it is more likely that a fellow intent on drinking himself into a state that unleashes his proclivities for assaulting family members will get the alcohol to do so at any price, that in many of these cases increasing the cost of alcohol will merely reduce the amount of money available to the family. Sure, alcohol is a serious problem for many people in the community, and therefore for the community itself, but increasing prices and restricting availability will have an impact on only those who don’t have a problem.
And the argument by the Mount Hutton parents that liquor stores be subject to the same restrictions imposed on brothels, that Australians who drink be reduced to sneaking in and out of anonymous bottle shops hidden in industrial estates, that we return to the days of the bottle in a brown paper bag, suggests that Mount Hutton is the new fairyland.
Should Mount Hutton’s 40 pious parents be more concerned about a fish and chip shop than a bottle shop? Could the children of Mount Hutton be corrupted by a bottle shop?