The price of alcohol could be set to skyrocket under a new government strategy to curb binge drinking.
The draft strategy released by federal government ministers aims to significantly reduce Australians’ alcohol consumption and recommends a number of initiatives.
- A flat taxation rate for all alcohol as opposed to the various rates in place for beer, wine, and spirits now. The scheme that would see drinks taxed on how much alcohol they contained, rather than which category they fall under. Wine would be the worst hit product if the tax changes, as it currently has a low tax rate.
The excise on all alcohol would rise by 10 per cent, while the tax on draught beer – discounted since 2001 – would be lifted to match that imposed on packaged beer at bottleshops. On current rates, that means the tax on light beer would increase more than five-fold, while tax on mid-strength ale would double and tax on full-strength lager would increase by 50 per cent.
- A “minimum floor price” for alcohol. This would prevent the cost of all alcoholic drinks from dropping below set prices, with those in the industry expecting a base price of $1.50 per standard drink. This would translate into jumps in the cost of some of Australia’s most popular drinks: a slab of Victoria Bitter rising from around $47 to over $50, and a bottle of Yellow sparkling wine would go from $7 to $10. However, cask wine with 30 standard drinks could jump from $10 to $45.
- The plan also recommended significant restriction on alcohol advertising, including banning promotion of discounted or low-priced alcohol, including “bulk-buys, two-for-one offers, shop-a-dockets and other promotions based on price”. This ban would also see the end of “Happy Hour” promotions.
Brewers Association of Australia chief executive Brett Heffernan says the proposal completely ignores the government’s own official statistics showing that total consumption trends falling dramatically in Australia. He also pointed to the government’s own research showing a dramatic long-term decline in youth alcohol consumption in Australia.
“The problem with the draft strategy is that it targets all consumption, not harmful drinking,” Mr Heffernan told the West Australian.
“Putting the prices up on everything is regressive and doesn’t actually achieve desired health outcomes, which require tackling those few who misuse alcohol.
“Penalising the vast majority of Australians who drink responsibly in the hope those who drink to excess will drink less is a flawed approach.”
Altogether, Australians would pay $2.9 billion in extra taxes while reducing their consumption of alcohol by an estimated 9.4 per cent, according to the submission.
The draft National Alcohol Strategy was devised after three years of consultation by the Ministerial Drug and Alcohol Forum, chaired by Health Minister Greg Hunt, and published online in late December. The report says that one in four Australians are now drinking alcohol at risky levels so adjusting the price is the best way to tackle this.
The forum aims to finalise the strategy by March and it would be up to state authorities if they wanted to take any of its recommendations on board.
Sources: hospitalitydirectory.com.au, smh, herald sun, news.com.au