Below is an emailed response from the Convenor of the Nightclub Owners Forum to the Advertising Standards Bureau after they received two complaints in relation to a revolving advertising billboard. The Billboard reads 'ALCOHOL DOES NOT CAUSE VIOLENCE’ on one side and 'BLAME AND PUNISH THE INDIVIDUAL' on the other side. This Billboard previously had an ad on it for the Australian Sex Party without complaint.
The reply below is a refreshing reminder that individual responsibility should always be at the bottom of law and order issues. The Liberals have abrogated their long-held philosophy of 'individualism' by making laws such as a ban on swearing ....and now Peter Iwaniuk is reminding them in Victoria.
"I am formally responding to the two complaints received in relation to our revolving billboard in Richmond.
As I previously indicated the advertisement is part of a joint campaign by the Nightclub Owners Forum and the Australian Sex Party to dispel the widely accepted, simplistic and unquestioned belief that alcohol causes violence, which in turn is leading to ill informed policy by Governments and unfounded attacks against the hospitality industry by the tabloid media and other vested interests.
A relevant media release is attached as is an independent research paper supporting our stance and other relevant correspondence which can be passed onto the complainants. The Nightclub Owners Forum has also published its own comprehensive paper – Alcohol Does Not Cause or Fuel Violence – on its website:http://www.nightclubownersforum.com/adocacypapers.html
The Nightclub Owners Forum is very concerned that current policy on violence and alcohol is two dimensional.
Let’s start with the unarguable premise that the vast majority of people who consume alcohol (in any setting) do not become violent as a consequence. So quite clearly, it is simply false to state that alcohol causes violence.
Obviously some people who have consumed alcohol subsequently engage in violence or conversely some violent people may consume alcohol – this is simply a correlation of two events and not scientific evidence of cause.
You can then add many other dimensions, variables or correlations to this equation, ie people who may or may not have consumed alcohol may:
· have a mental illness (mental illness rates are very high in Australia by international standards, as a rates of suicide as consequence)
· have a childhood history of being a bully in school or other violent activities
· have suffered a recent emotional event (eg a marital dispute, rejection by a boyfriend / girlfriend, loss of a job, etc, etc)
· have consumed other illicit, prescription or recreation drugs
· have grown up in disadvantaged circumstances (eg a refugee from a war torn country, an abused child either in the home or by clergy, etc)
· have a history of being involved in racial or religious conflict, or maybe from a racial or religious minority and subject to abuse
· be associated with organised crime or gangs, or simply be predators seeking to benefit by assaulting and stealing from others
· be participating in a footy trip, ‘mad Monday’, party bus or other social activity where it is or has been culturally acceptable to ‘muck up’
· been exposed to excessive violence on television, movies, video games, etc which ironically is deemed to meet acceptable community standards
· be a foreign tourist with different cultural attitudes to acceptable social behaviour or attitudes to women, for example
It is these, and other complex dimensions or variables which are the underlying causes or triggers of violence.
Please note that our campaign does not seek to further deregulate or promote the supply or consumption of alcohol – we recognise that misuse of alcohol has very serious health implications. We are on the public record for lobbying Governments to do more about addressing the cultural factors which lead to binge drinking. As such our campaign does not breach the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code. Clearly the message on the billboard does not seek to promote any particular alcohol beverage or encourage people to consume more.
Our campaign is simply targeted at more informed research, better social policy and putting more onus on the individual for their own behaviour. We are finally seeing some evidence of acceptance of our stance in Victoria, where the State Government has recently introduced much tougher penalties for offensive and violent behaviour in and around licensed premises.
As such we are being successful in changing prevailing community attitudes towards a greater onus on the individual and personal responsibility, and there is likewise now evidence that assaults levels in late night entertainment precincts in Melbourne have recently declined significantly as a result. It is should be borne in mind in any event that less than 2% of all assaults in Victoria are associated in any way with late night entertainment precincts, so most violence occurs elsewhere and predominantly in the family home. Most experts in domestic violence, as we have quoted in our research paper, now strongly rebuff any notion that alcohol is the cause of, or an excuse for domestic violence, and likewise this is no longer a valid defence in Court.
The public perception is much different however. As a consequence of sensationalist reporting by the tabloid media, knee jerk reactions by Governments and a lack of willingness to commission independent research, the general public has a wide held belief that late night entertainment precincts are dangerous places to visit. Violent incidents, however, at night in Melbourne are few and far between, and many people who regularly patronise Melbourne’s vibrant nightlife or live in the CBD indicate they have never witnessed a serious incident.
All advertising and media campaigns seek to persuade people to buy a certain product or change their attitudes. Religious advertising is a classic case of the latter. Our media campaign is evidence based, seeks improved outcomes for the community, and dispel myths that unnecessarily and falsely create public fear, and is therefore socially responsible.
The nightclub industry would like all of its patrons to be well behaved, drink responsibly and enjoy the quality entertainment and facilities provided.
The Nightclub Owners Forum would prefer that this can be achieved in a cooperative manner between industry, Governments, the non Government sector and enforcement agencies. However, most of the latter have adopted an adversarial approach in recent years, and it has left up to the industry to provide the true facts. Our website for example is clear evidence of this. It is openly available to all members of the public.
I understand that you already have a photo the billboard which clearly shows our message but if you need more information please let me know. We do not use an advertising agency. The fact that only 2 complaints have been received to a billboard witnessed by many thousands of people each day would also suggest that the community accept the message that we are promoting.
Regards, Peter Iwaniuk Convenor Nightclub Owners Forum"
For further information on billboard advertising you can read the Eros Association (the national adult industry association) submission which was given to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs Regulation of Billboard and Outdoor Advertising. Click here to read it.