Australia: Aussies want booze tax hikes, bans on ads
The Sydney Morning Herald
By Rania Spooner and Harriet Alexander
May 18, 2016
Australia’s love affair with booze is waning with more than half of us now in favour of alcohol tax rises and bans on advertising during sport.
Support for regulation has grown even though, as a nation, we haven’t really changed our drinking habits in the past five years. Well, there is a slight uptick in the percentage of people who drink to get drunk to 37 per cent, which equates to about 4 million drinkers.
The results of the annual Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education survey of 1800 Australians have been welcomed by public health advocates, who say Australians are fed up with problem drinking.
Older Australians made up the majority of the 24 per cent who drink at least three days a week. Almost two in five Australians over 50 drink at least three times in a week, compared to 18-24-year-olds (5 per cent). But when young drinkers do get on the sauce, they are more likely to drink six of more drinks on a typical night out.
More than 60 per cent of us drink at home, according to the poll, while only 15 per cent of drinkers said they imbibed at pubs and clubs.
Although we like our drinking, those surveyed wanted alcohol consumption policed and curtailed. Most surveyed said alcohol should not be sold from supermarkets, that clubs and pubs should close by 1am, and bottle shops should close by 10pm.
Alcohol advertising should be banned at sports events, according to 60 per cent of respondents, and 70 per cent wanted a television ban until 8.30pm.
The push for crackdowns has grown because we’re more aware of the social impacts of problem drinking, FARE chief executive Michael Thorn said.
“It has been gradual increases in support for availability controls and this year an absolute majority of support for tax increases for alcohol,” he said.
“We knew there was an issue around family violence and alcohol was probably involved but nobody knew what do we do about this.”
Nearly 80 per cent of those surveyed said Australia had a problem with alcohol abuse and wanted more to be done.
Giuseppe Minissale, chairman of Alcohol Beverages Australia, said bans on advertising would not solve alcohol misuse.
“Calls for bans on alcohol advertising are just attempts to demonise alcohol and shame people that drink responsibly,” he said.
We’re suspicious of the alcohol industry: 70 per cent of those surveyed said the alcohol industry should be doing more to address alcohol-related harm, 56 per cent said it had too much influence over government and 52 believed it was using donations to this end.
Julia Stafford, from the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth, said health groups also feared the influence the industry had on government.
“The alcohol industry is obviously very well-funded, has huge resources that health groups could only dream of and I do think we have reason to be concerned,” she said.
The Australian Hotels and Hospitality Association was among the top 15 political donors of 2014-15, spending a combined total of more than $400,000 on the Liberals, Nationals and the ALP.
Other big political donors from the alcohol industry included Clubs NSW, the Australian Hotels Association and Lion, which owns beer brands XXXX, Toohey and Hahn.
Mr Minissale said much of its contact with government was about targeting misuse.
“The alcohol industry employs hundreds of thousands of Australians and has every right to engage with the governments that regulate it,” he said.
The report also analysed how people’s views on alcohol varied according to their voting intention, revealing Greens voters were both the heaviest drinkers and the most concerned about alcohol-related harms.