By Ian Neubauer

The Federal Government will keep $424 million raised from the 70 per cent RTD tax hike since it was introduced last year after it successfully passed the Excise Tariff Validation Bill through the Senate this morning (May 13).

Opposition spokesperson Peter Dutton said the Coalition voted to support the new bill because it did not want to see the money returned to distillers. But he maintained the tax hike was a tax grab rather than a serious attempt to tackle binge drinking among youths and that more serious action was required.

“We don’t want to see this money go back to the alcohol industry but we will continue to fight for better health outcomes,” he said.

The Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia (DSICA) said the Opposition’s logic flies in the face of the fact that its members had planned to donate the bulk of the refund to Drinkwise Australia and other health and education funds.

“DSICA has consistently gone on record as saying it didn’t want a refund but would rather see the money invested in a comprehensive strategy to address alcohol misuse,” said DSICA spokesperson Stephen Riden.

Contributions from DSICA members were estimated to eclipse $200 million – nearly four times the $54 million the government has committed to spend on its national binge-drinking strategy over the next two years.

But the Australian Greens – which voted in favour of the RTD tax hike bill alongside independent Senator Nick Xenophon in March in exchange for $50 million in alcohol education – expressed concern over when and if the Federal Government intended to make good on its commitment.

“We negotiated an agreement with the Government to include a health sponsorship fund, mandatory warning messages, enhanced counselling services and an expansion of social marketing campaigns,” said Greens health spokesperson, Senator Rachel Siewert.

“However, the Government is essentially thumbing its nose at the Senate, the Greens and their existing agreements by reintroducing the excise but not delivering the promised complementary measures.

“The Greens will be taking this attitude into consideration when deciding our position on the second Senate attempt at this tax,” she said.

The Shout Team

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

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