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Australian state in drink purge

5 May 08 09:59 GMT
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Undercover teenagers could soon be the police's latest weapon in one of the biggest alcohol abuse clampdowns led by the Australian state of Victoria.

The authorities have begun covert surveillance to catch bars illegally serving drunk and under-age customers.

Teams of undercover officers have been doing the rounds in Melbourne and they may soon be joined by teenage helpers.

The state says binge drinking is its biggest social problem - alcohol abuse kills 10 Australians every day.

Victoria's police commissioner Christine Nixon said the use of "under-age operatives" had been tested in other parts of the country.

Poisonous grip

The southern state has outlined a $35m (£17.7m) plan to combat a surge in alcohol-related violence.

Assaults in the centre of Melbourne increased by 17.5% last year - with many the result of excessive drinking.

Under new rules, bars in some of the city's busiest areas will not be allowed to let anyone in after 0200.

Binge drinking among teenagers has been identified by Australia's federal government as a national emergency.

Alcohol is widely available, relatively cheap and its consumption is socially acceptable.

But with demand very strong, alcohol's poisonous grip is leading many Australians down a self-destructive path littered with injury and illness.

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