"Learning how to do it is part of growing up," he's quoted as saying in the Telegraph. "Growing up is about risk."
Oz is lucky he didn't make his statement in America, where our ongoing struggle with drinking has been typified by the often fatal experiment of Prohibition. Naturally, there's a happy medium out there. Spain might be a good model: social drinking, often with parents, starts relatively early but in moderate amounts and under supervised conditions. Rather than a forbidden fruit to be consumed in secret and at high velocity, alcohol is an acknowledged part of life, to be enjoyed and handled with respect.
There is, of course, a long struggle ahead to find the magic formula. But it seems safe to conclude that the current U.S. model of expecting 100 percent abstinence until teens turn 21—a rule that includes, of course, those who have been serving in the military—doesn't seem to be it.