SYDNEY – A "violent binge drinking culture" has turned parts of Sydney into "almost war zones", Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday, condemning a rise in alcohol-fuelled incidents rocking Sydney.
Debate has raged for weeks in Sydney about the prevalence of booze-driven violence as the city enjoys the summer festive season, with several incidents of young men being severely injured after being "king-hit" on nights out.
Some emergency room doctors have warned that the violence is getting worse and they are being inundated with alcohol-related cases, with calls growing for politicians to do more to tackle the issue.
"The tragedy is that places that should be entertainment precincts have become, on some occasions, almost war zones because there is just so much alcohol-fuelled violence," said the prime minister, father to three young adult daughters.
Abbott described the "king-hit" incidents – a single punch which floors an often-unsuspecting victim – as a "gruesome new development".
"Gratuitous, unprovoked violence by disturbed individuals who aren't going out looking for a fight the way juiced up youngsters have for generations, they have gone out looking for a victim," he told Network Ten.
"Invariably these disturbed individuals, often with a history of violence, are going out looking for someone who is weak or vulnerable, they are catching them unprepared, sometimes with deadly results, often with catastrophic results."
In a front page splash in Sydney's Daily Telegraph, Abbott wrote that binge-drinking had become prevalent among young people over several decades.
"I'm realistic enough to know that young people won't always be perfect and that making mistakes along the way is a normal part of growing up," he said.
The prime minister, a formal university boxer who drinks on social occasions, admitted to getting into some embarrassing situations in his youth.
"However there's a world of difference between having two or three drinks a night and occasionally a bit more on a Saturday night and this new binge culture which sees young people drinking nothing from one week to the next, and then, when they drink, not knowing when or how to stop."
Abbott said alcohol has and always will be part of life in Australia. He said "our challenge is to get the balance right", while putting the onus on state governments to come up with solutions. — AFP