Australia’s Right To Get Spiffed

You gotta fight for your right to party, as the Beastie Boys so poetically informed us. Except in Australia.

In Australia, the right to party is vigorously protected by the Human Rights Commission, which has rejected attempts by the Carnival cruise line to prevent youthful binge drinking aboard its ships. Carnival wants to require passengers under 21 to be accompanied by a parent of guardian on voyages between Nov. 1 and Jan. 30, which corresponds to the summer break Down Under, The Australian reports

The Human Rights Commission said that would be discriminatory and an overreaction. Carnival says it will institute the restriction anyway.

In Australia it’s legal to buy alcohol at the age of 18, and legal to drink it at various younger ages in various circumstances in various states. (Now might be a good time to review some colorful Australian synonyms for drunk: blotto, chockers, full as a boot, loaded, pissed, rotten, smashed, spiffed and topped off. ) The Australian reports that the government is engaged in a campaign to discourage binge drinking by the young. 

Travel has always offered young people an opportunity to experience the cultural and legal differences around the consumption of alcohol, and occasionally other substances. That’s what getting stinking drunk on the beach at Cancun during spring break is all about. But it’s also a reminder that different cultures have different takes on adulthood and alcohol.

So while it’s easy to see the Australian ruling as a misguided and overly permissive mistake, it’s difficult to see how the more restrictive laws in the United States have been particularly successful. My daughter went to college in Montreal, where the drinking age is 18, and she saw no more — perhaps less — binge drinking than her cousins did in U.S. schools.

Maybe there’s some sense in telling adults that they have a legal right to consume alcohol and a legal responsibility to do it safely. On that point, the Beastie Boys and the Australian Human Rights Commission may be in a rare state of agreement.


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