By Ian Neubauer
The Distilled Industry Spirits Council of Australia (DSICA) is this week delivering daily samples of newly emerging RTD “look-alike and taste-alike” products to senators and other Government representatives.
The move is designed to highlight what DSICA has described as “another unintended and potentially dangerous consequence” of the RTD tax hike.
The samples include high strength beers, cider products, wine-based RTDs and beer-based RTDs, also known as ’malternatives’.
They are being introduced by suppliers like Diageo and Independent Distillers and, as the products do not contain alcohol made from spirits, they circumvent the controversial tax hike.
Spirit-based RTDs currently attract 87 cents in excise duty per standard drink, compared to high-strength beers (42 cents), malternatives (40 cents), fruit-flavoured still and Sparkling wine-based RTDs (14 cents), and ciders (29 cents).
“The reality is that more and more of these wine and beer-based RTDs will come to market and more marketing muscle will be applied to beer, wine and cider, until a fairer taxation system for alcohol introduced,” said DSICA spokesperson, Stephen Riden.
“If the Government was serious about addressing problem drinking, it would do away with the narrow tax trial on spirit-based RTDs and start taxing products on the amount they contain.
“Australia’s public health groups have consistently called for such a measure,” he said.
Health and treasury departments have indicated they are working to close the loophole in the RTD tax hike bill that has fostered the introduction of RTD look-alikes.
But doing so would require rewording the legal definition of beer and open a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences in the lucrative brewing sector.
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