By Ian Neubauer

The RTD tax hike is on the brink of being passed in an amended state following the striking of a deal between crossbench senators and the Rudd Government.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said today (Mar 17) her party had cut a deal with the government that will make it take more comprehensive action against binge drinking.

“The arrangement negotiated between myself, Senator Brown, independent Senator Xenophon and Health Minister Nicola Roxon will see the Government’s $1.6 billion Alcopops tax legislation spent on a range of health measures to address alcohol related harm,” she said. 

“Under the agreement we have negotiated, the Government will provide $50 million to substitution sponsorship for community and sporting groups and mandatory health warnings on alcohol advertising, amongst other measures.”

The deal harks back to a promise made by Prime Minister Rudd in March last year — only weeks before the RTD tax hike was introduced — to spend $53 million to tackle binge drinking in Australia.

However, only $5.2 million has been spent to date, with the new deal doing little more than forcing the Rudd Government to keep a promise it has seemingly reneged on.

Senator Siewert described the negotiations as a win for the community that will help alleviate binge drinking in Australia.

However, an industry source who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the deal as a sellout, saying it represented but a drop in the ocean compared to the additional revenue earned by the tax hike, which currently stands at $290 million.

A parliamentary spokesperson told TheShout at 3:00pm today the bill could be passed by the time Parliament wraps up this afternoon.

The spokesperson said the passing of the bill was still dependent on the acquiescence of independent Senator Steve Fielding, who may demand further concessions from the government before he casts his vote.

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The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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