Minority Report by
the Australian Greens
Senator Rachel Siewert
Greens agree with the findings of the majority report in so far as the evidence
of sales of RTDs have dropped and it is fair to assume that this has had to
date a positive impact on the drinking behaviour of young people, particularly
women. However, we are deeply concerned that unless this taxation measure is
part of a more comprehensive approach the effect of this decrease will only be
remain concerned by the consistently high levels of alcohol-related harm
experienced in Australia. Australia experiences relatively high levels of
harm by comparison to international levels, and has done for a considerable
period of time. Alcohol-related harm, in terms of increased levels of
alcohol-related chronic illness, alcohol-related injuries including motor
vehicle accidents, and alcohol-related violence, costs our community in excess
of $15.3 billion per year.
At the same
time alcohol is a significant source of taxation revenue for the Commonwealth
Government. The proposed excise on ready to drink alcoholic beverages is
estimated to deliver $1.6 Billion over the next four years. This is in addition
to the over $7.1 Billion per year of estimated revenue
already contributed by taxes on alcohol sales.
Greens believe that Australian Government needs to be devoting a much higher
proportion of the revenue that it secures from alcohol to reducing the
significant costs of alcohol to our community. As evidence to the committee
inquiry demonstrated, not only do we have a good understanding of the harm that
alcohol is doing to our community (particularly the young, the marginalised and
the vulnerable) but we know a lot about the kinds of public health
interventions that have proven effective internationally and within Australia in reducing this harm. Our governments
continue however to under-resource existing efforts to minimise harmful
drinking and to pull back from implementing the evidence-based policies that
would help ameliorate the sorrowful impacts of a pervasive culture of
have a good understanding of what works to reduce the consumption of alcohol,
tobacco and junk-food, and there is a suite of positive evidence-based measures
readily at hand that we believe the Government should be pursuing. Currently
the Commonwealth is profiting from high levels of alcohol consumption, is aware
of the significant costs to our health and criminal justice systems and the
significant distress and grief this causes to our community. However, it is
offering only partial measures and holding back from tackling some of the more
substantial issues – like stopping alcohol being advertised to children,
phasing out alcohol sponsorship of sport, mandating warning messages and hazard
labelling, resourcing hard-hitting and effective social marketing campaigns and
investing in early identification, counselling and rehabilitation services.
High levels of
risky alcohol consumption and of alcohol-related harm among young Australians
do not represent a sudden crisis. Risky drinking levels have been alarmingly
high for some time, and the high risks of harm are not confined to the young,
but spread across a substantial proportion of our population. We note the
evidence to the committee that the real rapid growth in risky drinking occurred
predominantly during the 1980's, and that rates of alcohol consumption have
remained at high but relatively static levels since then.
evidence presented to the committee (as discussed in the committee report)
indicates that the RTD excise has had a welcome impact on reducing the sales of
RTDs and has led to an overall reduction in alcohol consumption (with
relatively low levels of substitution taking place), we remained concerned that
the failure to integrate the RTD tax into a more comprehensive strategy is
undermining the effectiveness of this clear price signal. We remain concerned
that in isolation these measures will not achieve the desired sustained
reduction in risky drinking among young Australians, and the window of
opportunity this intervention has offered may be squandered.
There has been
a consistent theme throughout the evidence presented to this inquiry by public
health researchers and drug and alcohol experts that an integrated and
sustained national campaign similar in the scale and longevity to previous
campaigns addressing the harms caused by tobacco is required to change our
drinking culture and reduce the level of alcohol-related harm and violence,
especially among the young and those at greatest risk of harm.
Greens believe we urgently need to address the issue of alcohol advertising. We
believe that in the longer term Australia should be moving to ban all alcohol
advertising, sponsorship and promotions. We think that much greater regulation
of alcohol advertising is needed as a first step, together with the phasing out
of alcohol sponsorship over a period of five years. We advocate a model similar
to that used to replace tobacco sponsorship, using a proportion of alcohol
revenues to provide substitution sponsorship of sport and cultural events and
the promotion of public health messages.
mandated health warning messages in all alcohol advertising with these warning
messages also clearly visible at the point of sale.
In light of a
decade of evidence that attempts to reform the process of self-regulation have
made little difference to the preponderance of inappropriate advertising of
alcohol, we believe that as a minimum course of action the Government should
move to enforceable regulation of alcohol advertising, sponsorship and
promotions, including compulsory pre-vetting of alcohol ads by an independent
panel of public health experts.
want to close the loophole that allows alcohol advertising during live daytime
sports telecasts. We believe that it clearly contradicts the logic and the
intent of the restrictions on advertising alcohol to children as contained
within the code and there is no justification for this loophole. However, we
also note evidence on the viewing patterns of 14-19 year olds suggests that
merely restricting television alcohol advertising until after 9pm at night (and
failing to address pay TV) will do little to reduce their exposure to these ads
and more comprehensive advertising and sponsorship bans are clearly needed.
that there is already sufficient evidence on which to act, and the high levels
of alcohol-related harm mean that we should act quickly and comprehensively. We
also note in passing the failure of the previous government to act on this
pressing issue during its eleven years in office, and the manner in which the
amendments it introduced in 2000 that reduced the excise rates on RTDs created
the opportunity for the distillation industry to achieve substantial market
penetration of 'alcopops'.
Greens believe that public opinion has shifted substantially on the issue of
alcohol in sport, as was recently demonstrated by the public response to a
number of high profile stories involving binge-drinking celebrity sports stars,
violence and sexual abuse. Australian kids look up to their sporting heroes,
and Australian families want to see our major sporting events remain
financially viable – but they are becoming increasingly fed up with bad
behaviour off the field or their enjoyment of their events being ruined by
drunken yobbos in the stands.
of tobacco shows us clearly that it is possible to use substitution funding to
support the phasing out of alcohol sponsorship of sporting and cultural events.
We believe that this is an idea that's time has come – the Rudd Government
needs to show leadership in this area, and begin to move towards phasing out
remain concerned that too many of the resources currently devoted to
preventative public health strategies is poorly targeted. While we welcome the
commitment by the Commonwealth to invest $800M over six years to the National
Partnership on Prevention through COAG, we remain concerned that a significant
proportion of this funding will be direct transfers to States and Territories
to prop up existing programs. While a minority of these programs are well
targeted and effective measures, we are disappointed that on the whole this is
simply more of the same. Unless the Commonwealth is prepared to tackle the big
issues of alcohol and junk food advertising and promotions, these efforts are
likely to prove ineffective by comparison to the much greater resources
industry is able to bring to bear to promote harmful products that are
attractive to children and young Australians.
that large, well designed health warning labels with strong and well-targeted
messages can play a key role in reminding drinkers at the point of consumption
of strong health and safety messages.
Greens believe that reducing the availability of alcohol through restricting
the number of alcohol outlets and trading hours should be backed up by
place-based strategies to reducing alcohol-related harm and violence and
improve the safety and public amenity of late night entertainment precincts and
other problem areas. We need to promote a culture of responsible alcohol
consumption, not a culture of drunkenness.
that we need a more joined-up and better resourced approach to referral,
treatment and rehabilitation services for problem drinkers that maximises the
benefits of early intervention, and ensures that those seeking help can access appropriate support in a timely and effective
The Australian Greens advocate a sustained,
comprehensive, long-term strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm, decrease the
incidence of underage drinking and alcohol-related violence, improve referral,
treatment and support for problem drinkers, and promote a culture of safe and
responsible alcohol consumption.
The RTD excise needs to be part of a more
comprehensive approach to reducing alcohol-related harm.
More of the revenue raised from the RTD excise should
be directed to addressing alcohol-related harm through evidence based
The phasing out alcohol sponsorship over 5 years and
its replacement with substitute funding that promotes public health
Mandated safe drinking messages on all alcohol
advertisements and at point of sale.
Better regulation of alcohol advertising: – to remove
industry self-regulation, to close the loophole that allows advertising
alcohol to children during sport, and to require mandatory pre-vetting of
alcohol ads by a panel of independent public health experts.
Alcohol labelling regulations that stipulate
distinctive, graphic and well-designed health warning labels.
Promote a national drug and alcohol helpline as part
of this campaign that links through to existing drug and alcohol
counselling and advice services in States and Territories.
Support a joined-up client-focussed approach to alcohol
referral, treatment and rehabilitation that ensures that those seeking
services can access them in a timely fashion and are seamlessly supported
throughout their rehabilitation process.
All states and territories should mandate the
collection of alcohol sales data from licensees.
Resource an early warning
monitoring system which regularly assesses consumption and harm among
sentinel groups of young at-risk people across Australia.
Emergency department electronic
recording procedures should be standardised across the country and allow
identification of alcohol-related events as is currently the case for
hospital admissions, and Police reports of violence, road crashes and
disorderly offences should flagged where they are alcohol-related.
Develop early identification and referral services
for at-risk drinkers to maximise the benefits of early intervention,
particularly among younger drinkers.
Resource dedicated brief intervention nurses in
hospital emergency departments to identify and respond to alcohol-related
Resource state and local governments to introduce
place-based strategies in late-night entertainment precincts and other
problem drinking areas to reduce alcohol-related harm and violence and
improve public safety and amenity.
Well-resourced and targeted evidence-based public
education and social marketing campaigns to educate at-risk groups of the
risks associated with problem drinking and promote a culture of
States and Territories should reduce the availability
of alcohol through tighter restrictions on the number of alcohol outlets
and tighter limits on trading hours.
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