By Ian Neubauer
The Australian Drug Foundation (ADF) has described an offer by distillers to put RTD tax hike revenue into harm minimisation activities as deceitful.
“[RTD] producers have offered to forgo $200 million collected by the tax on premixed spirits if the Opposition, minor parties and independents reject it,” said ADF spokesperson, Geoff Munroe.
“This sounds impressive, but it shows how desperate is the spirits industry to kill the tax on its youth-friendly drinks. $200 million is a fraction of what [RTD] producers will make from future underage drinkers. Economics researcher Chris Doran estimates underage drinkers consume alcohol worth $200 million each year.
“The heaviest teenage drinkers consume premixed spirits so it is understandable the producers will do anything to swing the Senate,” he continued. “If the tax is defeated… the $200 million becomes an insurance policy that ensures the golden stream continues.”
The Distillers Spirits Industry Council of Australia (DSICA) said that ADF’s claims fail to recognise that 75 per cent of RTDs are dark-spirit based and drunk nearly exclusively by men of legal drinking age.
The claims also contradict the Government’s key advisor on health statistics — the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) — which in its Senate submission found “there has been virtually no change in the pattern of risky drinking over the period, including amongst young Australians”.
Australian Greens Senator Rachel Stewart — whose party holds the balance of power in the Senate and could veto the tax hike — concurred with the AIHW, accusing Prime Minister Rudd of overstated claims of a ‘binge-drinking’ epidemic.
“The real surge in Australia’s drinking statistics happened in the 80s and 90s and we’ve been paying the price ever since,” the Senator said. “The Australian Greens are not convinced that one-off, partial measures like the tax on RTD alcohol will succeed in isolation.”
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