Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Australian police crack down on alcohol violence

Drinks on a tray
Although Australia has a drinking culture, people in the UK drink more

Australian police are beginning their biggest co-ordinated operation to curb alcohol-related violence nationwide.

Operation Unite, deploying thousands of extra officers, will be the most widespread and concerted blitz in Australia and will last for two nights.

It is an attempt to send the message that excessive alcohol consumption and bad behaviour will not be tolerated.

Alcohol-related violence, including sexual assaults and fights, has nearly doubled in the past decade and a half.

Drinking age calls

This weekend police will flood into towns and cities in an unprecedented show of force.

Our casual approach to drinking in our society is actually destroying lives and destroying people
Alan Morrison
New South Wales Ambulance Service

Undercover officers will join their uniformed colleagues along with dog squads and mounted units.

"If you intend to go out and get paralytic and vomit and fight and abuse people and damage property then there is no real place for you on our streets," Sydney Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione was quoted by Australian Associated Press news agency.

One thousand extra police will be patrolling in Sydney. The crackdown ends at 0600 local time on Monday.

Graph: Alcohol consumption per capita

Each week the abuse of alcohol kills on average more than 60 Australians, while 1,500 end up in hospital.

Alan Morrison from the New South Wales Ambulance Service says what he calls an epidemic of self-destruction must be addressed.

"There certainly is a cultural acceptance of drinking in Australia and I'm not sure I understand why that is the case.

"I see the effects of it all the time and I think most people don't come into contact with the kind of things paramedics or police or emergency departments see to understand that our casual approach to drinking in our society is actually destroying lives and destroying people," he said.

Nick Bryant
When people conjure up a mental image of the Australian good life, something chilled is often in the picture.

Health workers have called on the government to raise the legal drinking age from 18 to 19.

Neurological experts have warned that binge drinking could be inflicting untold damage on the brains of young Australians.

Although this country has always had a boozy reputation, it ranks about 20th in the global alcohol consumption league table.

People in Britain, for example, drink about 25% more than their Australian counterparts.

Some historians say Australia's love affair with the bottle has always been exaggerated.

In a recent history of Australian drinking, the authors said barely 50% of Australians are motivated to drink on a daily or weekly basis; one in 10 Australians [has] never drunk a full serve of alcohol, another 7% are ex-drinkers, and a third of the population [enjoys] a drink now and then.

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