By Ian Neubauer
The Federal Government is considering the introduction of mandatory health warnings for alcohol to win the support of crossbench senators when the RTD tax hike is voted on in Parliament this week.
Introduced without industry consultation last April, the tax hike has been derided as a ‘tax grab’ by the Greens and Independent Senators Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding, who are demanding the Government do more to tackle the binge-drinking culture and crack down on alcohol marketing.
The demands include health warnings on alcohol, a minimum floor price per standard drink and banning alcohol advertising on TV during sport matches and prior to 8:30pm.
Prime Minister Rudd indicated this weekend he was in favour of warnings on some categories of alcohol and will investigate the minimum floor price policy. But he said he was against tougher curbs on advertising.
“As a general principle, I’m in full support of ensuring that we’ve got full knowledge out there for consumers in terms of what they are drinking or what they are eating, in terms of its potential impact on their health. But as I said, I’m sure there are technical debates between the health experts in different categories of drinks, and what works most effectively in different cases,” he said.
“[But] look[ing] on the overall question of advertising, my general approach has been that consumers have the ultimate right of choice on these matters. They can be informed about what’s available out there in the product market, but at the same time there are public advertising campaigns in most of the states to be warning people also the impact of excessive drinking on their health. I think it’s important to get this balance right and that’s certainly been our approach.”
The RTD tax hike is scheduled to be introduced in the Senate today (Mar 16) for debate that will culminate in a vote to pass or repel it by the end of the week.
However, the RTD tax hike bill will have to play second fiddle to the fair work bill, which holds priority in the Senate schedule.
“At this point in time we are expecting the fair work bill to be dealt with first,” a parliamentary spokesperson told TheShout this morning. “But if they have a problem with [the fair work bill] and the debate is delayed while they wait for new information, they may move on and introduce the [RTD tax hike bill].”
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