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Government anti-boozing site links children to online dating, peptides webpages

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Amy Corderoy

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CHILDREN have been redirected to adult relationship advice, instructions on taking peptides and other inappropriate content through a new government site designed to raise awareness about alcohol misuse.

The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing said on Monday it would review the Out Tonight? Party Right website and its links to some external sites after Fairfax Media asked about its content.

Health experts said the site was at best incompetent, and at worst could put young people at risk of harm by directing them to overseas websites that had no prior government scrutiny.

The director of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth, Mike Daube, said the site ''gives stunning incompetence a bad name''.

''It is beyond bizarre that their 'educational' activities offer links to promotions for online dating and peptides,'' he said.

One of the links on the Out Tonight site is for alcohol-related aggression. It takes you to about.com and a page by a writer who goes by the name of ''Buddy T'', a recovering alcoholic who writes regularly on alcohol issues.

Another, on the emotional impacts of drinking, takes you to the Lance Armstrong-associated Livestrong website.

This website contains information on using and buying peptides (protein-producing substances, used by bodybuilders and athletes) and on other performance-enhancing protein powders.

Out Tonight was launched last week by the NSW Minister for Hospitality, George Souris, and was supported by police and council groups, along with the Australian Hotels Association, Clubs NSW and the Liquor Stores Association of NSW.

Professor Daube said every day in NSW, an average of three children got so drunk they require an ambulance, and ''working parties with the alcohol industries and disastrously bad websites are not the answer''.

''The NSW government should scrap this atrocious material … and establish a proper, independent, well-funded education program,'' he said.

The chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, Michael Thorn, said if the government removed the inappropriate links, ''it won't have much of a website left''.

He said the NSW government was shifting the responsibility for alcohol education onto foreign governments and the liquor industry, after recently abolishing the Department of Education's drug and alcohol policy development unit.

''It is not acceptable that the government sees fit to ignore the advice and input of independent research organisations, and allows this educational resource to be developed by the alcohol industry - an industry with an undeniable and obvious conflict of interest,'' he said.

He said the website also linked to British alcohol websites that provided emergency contact details for Britain only.

The opposition's education spokeswoman, Carmel Tebbutt, said the inappropriate links on the website could end up doing more harm than good.

''Unfortunately, this is what happens when governments try to cut corners,'' she said. ''The O'Farrell government's abolition of the … highly regarded drug and alcohol prevention unit is a very retrograde step.''

A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education & Communities said it still had drug and alcohol experts in the department, and comprehensive drug and alcohol education was available through the school syllabus.

A spokesman for the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing said the office would now monitor websites linked from the site, and remove the links highlighted by Fairfax Media.

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