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  • Writer's pictureKate Halfpenny

Let me be the one to break it to you, Tim Smith, alcohol is a drug

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

For me, the best bit of Tim Smith’s “I will reflect” press conference this week was his reaction when asked if he’d taken a drug test after getting boozed and smashing up his car and career.

“I’ve never taken a drug in my life,” he snapped. His tone was a hybrid of Christopher Pyne certainty and the moral outrage of a Colac nanna whose scones have had their provenance questioned.

Tim Smith says he has never taken a drug in his life. CREDIT:JUSTIN MCMANUS

The answer and its delivery revealed the eternal private schoolboy under Mr Smith’s navy suit. It outdid his unselfconscious use of the phrases “Caroline from my office” and “dinner in Kooyong” during his grilling as proof of his posh pedigree. First things first. Turns out, Tim, alcohol is a drug. Yeah, really! As most people over, say, 12 can tell you. And this could rock your Henry Bucks socks off: along with nicotine, it’s the most commonly used drug in Australia.

If you want a sobering fact to dazzle friends with over a bitters, lime and lemon at the Skinny Dog, in 2019-20 alcohol accounted for over 74,500 (53 per cent) of our drug related hospitalisations.

Along with nicotine, alcohol is the most commonly used drug in Australia. CREDIT:ISTOCK

We know by your own admission you don’t mind a few cheeky wines, or you did until you pledged to give up for as long as your public life lasts. Which might not be long so, heads up: Grange equals drug.

But enough of the suburban matron lecturing about science and social problems, let’s get to the fun stuff about charmed lives and privilege.

I suspect the reason Mr Smith was horrified at the drug question is that drugs to him are a bit povo. Downmarket. Which is anathema to an Old Scotch Boy. Worse than being banned for life from Ocha, Leo’s Supermarket or Frank & Harri.

He hears drugs, he thinks ketamine in a Geelong nightclub toilet where a MAFS contestant is making a live appearance. He thinks stoner tradies in Ringwood. He thinks ice addicts in Dandenong.

And no way does he want to be lumped in with those non-aspirational crews.

He does not hear drugs and think a Foxeys Sparkling White at the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club because, rich people. After all, this is a man who once accused “inner suburban latte sippers” – read high school graduates – of stifling debate with political correctness.

Raised on a diet of uniforms from Bob Stewart of Kew, school shoes fitted at Ann Lewis in Glenferrie Road and Yarra River boat sheds before graduating to custodianship of the family Blairgowrie holiday house, status is the lifeblood of the Tim Smiths of the world.

How do I know? I don’t really. I’m just taking a swing at it because I know plenty of private schoolboys. I’ve given birth to two, am married to my second, am godmother to four and friend to many. Also, I’m a former private schoolgirl who can say “divine” in a realistic Armadale accent with the best of them. Nearly 40 years on, friends sometimes still say things like, “You remember Lou. St Cath’s girl.” My family moved to a Tasmanian fishing town in the mid-1970s and my sisters (who had been Glen Waverley High girls) boarded in Launceston at Australia’s oldest independent girls’ school. Think graziers’ daughters, straw hats, Georgian buildings. I started there in Grade 6 – big change for a tomboy who loved her Honda 50 and TV wrestling. When we moved back to Melbourne my parents stuck with private, choosing schools for my brother and I purely because they were on the train line – Korowa in Glen Iris and St Kevin’s in Toorak.

Then our three kids were privately educated, although their western suburbs address probably moulded them more. My media exec middle son could waltz with the Queen if called on but has a truck licence and a tatt of a west-pointing compass on his calf.

Anyway, best of luck giving up drugs – whoops, alcohol – Tim Smith. I’ll nod when I see you at Scicluna’s in Sorrento over summer. Kate Halfpenny is the a regular columnist at The Age

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