Politician's Strip Club Scandal Sobering

(AP) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's new campaign against teenage binge drinking in Australia revived questions Friday about his own drunken escapade in a New York strip club.

Reports of the night he spent at "Scores" in 2003 surfaced while he campaigned ahead of the November election. The bookish and church-going Rudd apologized, and most Australians believed him when he said it was the second time in his life that he was drunk.

Still, the incident resurfaced this week when Rudd launched a $50 million campaign to combat excessive drinking among Australians teens.

"It's a bit rich for a man who got famously stonkered at a lap-dancing club in New York five years ago to be lecturing the rest of us on binge drinking," columnist Miranda Devine wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Rudd admitted Friday he was no "paragon of moral virtue" but told Melbourne radio 3AW he wanted to address the estimated 168,000 Australian teenagers under the legal drinking age of 18 who abuse alcohol.

"I'll take any incoming flak about yours truly, but I've got one target in mind and that is to get that number down," he said.

The campaign includes television, radio and Internet spots to shock young people on the consequences of binge drinking, as well as grants to clubs and community groups to help change the drinking culture. Some sports stars have agreed to appear in the ads.

Australians are relatively tolerant of excessive drinking. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke held a Guinness World Record for speed beer drinking during his days as a Rhodes Scholar.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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