Diageo Australia managing director and National Alcohol Beverage Industries Council (NABIC) chairman, Tim Salt, has called into question the findings of an Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation (AER Foundation) report.
“Ms Cheryl Bart AO
Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation Ltd
Dear Ms Bart
RE: AERF media statement claims that alcohol misuse costs $36 billion annually
I am writing to you, as the Chair of the National Alcohol Beverage Industries Council (NABIC), to share industry’s concern about unfounded research claims in an AERF media statement on 24 August.
The AERF media statement misrepresented findings from a recent report by the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, and packages these results in a way that was contrary to guidance published in the report. The end result was an unsubstantiated, attention-grabbing headline – “Total cost of alcohol misuse [is] now estimated at $36 billion annually”.
There is no mention of a $36 billion figure in the 212 page report, but there are numerous warnings against totalling the separate numbers throughout the report1. This warning is repeated in the report summary. Nevertheless, the “research team” attempted to tabulate a figure, which falls short of the $36 billion claim by a staggering $7 billion.
In the absence of any evidence in the original report, we formally request the AERF to substantiate its public claim with evidence. As it stands, there is clear doubt about the veracity of this $36 billion claim and we will be writing to policy-makers to bring their attention to this matter.
The National Alcohol Beverage Industries Council also calls into question the approach chosen for this study. The “Henry Review” Report on Australia’s taxation also questions the approach of the parent study by Collins and Lapsley, and the researchers acknowledge that Collins and Lapsley would not agree with their entire approach.
However, the letter is not solely about the report itself. It is about the AERF’s blatant misrepresentation of its own commissioned work for publicity purposes. It highlights the AERFâ€Ÿs approach to accuracy and evidence in the debate and the credibility of any future claims by AERF if this claim stands unchallenged.
At a time when there is increasing concern about alcohol issues, it is imperative that research delivers sound evidence on which both the public and private sectors can take action.
NABIC shares Government and community concern about the harmful use of alcohol, just as there are benefits from moderate consumption. We fully support the need to build a shared, deeper understanding of the scale and impact of alcohol misuses in Australia.
We remain open to working with the AERF and other interested parties to achieve this end.
I look forward to receiving a response from you.