By James Atkinson
The Australian Government has been relying on wildly inaccurate research to justify its alcohol policy decisions, according to a leading economist, who addressed the Australian Liquor Stores Association (ALSA) conference in Queensland today.
Dr Eric Crampton, a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, last year released groundbreaking research demonstrating that the social cost of alcohol to the Australian community has been vastly overstated.
Crampton, who addressed the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday, told TheShout that health campaigners have for many years used erroneous research to push for tougher regulatory measures to curb problem drinking.
Using mainstream economic modelling, he found alcohol costs Australia $3.8 billion a year – less than the comparable tax take on alcohol – as compared with previous findings by academics attributing a figure of $15 billion.
"If voters think that costs are actually $15 billion, then that fuels policies that will be harmful to the industry and harmful to drinkers and others," Crampton told TheShout.
"I would like a better understanding of the figures in public debate, so that the relative importance of putting alcohol up for stricter regulatory treatment could be assessed a little more rationally," he said.
Crampton slammed faulty methodologies "that are purported to be economic arguments… used to make claims that are just nonsense, and build support for regulations that limit people's freedom".