Last week TheShout reported on testimony given at the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Prohibition Bill 2015.
That include comments from Fergus Taylor, the Executive Director of Alcohol Beverages Australia, who said there is no causal relationship between advertising and youth consumption; and the outgoing CEO of DrinkWise, John Scott, who said that educating people on the risks of drinking to excess was a more successful route to follow than the prohibition of advertising.
Alec Wagstaff, the Chair of the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia (DSICA), also spoke at the inquiry, and said that while there is still work to be done, the alcohol industry has worked hard on reducing harmful drinking by young people and that it was committed to continuing that work.
“It will be surprising, possibly, to hear me say that we actually share the intent of this piece of legislation. We might well disagree on the process to get there but the alcohol industry absolutely is committed to reducing the level of alcohol harm,” Wagstaff told the inquiry.
“I think in some of the evidence that might have already been presented or will be given today, Australia has done a pretty good job and in fact we should be celebrating some of the work we have done in reducing harmful drinking by young people. That is not to say that the job is finished. We need to continue to do that. Industry generally is very committed to working with governments of all kind to further that and at the same time promote an industry that employs a lot of people and brings a lot of pleasure to those people who consume alcohol.
“In simple terms we would not support this piece of legislation on the basis that we think the existing measures with the co-regulatory schemes are adequate to do that and show the results that are necessary. If the situation were that the industry was not meeting its obligations, then I would have a different perspective. My argument would be it is an unnecessary piece of legislation that could have unintended negative consequences, whilst supporting the objective of trying to improve drinking behaviour.”
Speaking about the role of alcohol advertising, Wagstaff added: “One of the benefits of advertising is that it allows new entrants into the marketplace. In Australia we have something like 130 craft distillers starting their businesses—some in metropolitan Sydney, such as Archie Rose, which is within three or four kilometres of here. I think bans on alcohol advertising would have the unintended consequence of making it more difficult for those new entrants to attract attention to their brands.
“Anecdotally someone was explaining to me that in France the marketplace has stayed pretty much the same since they brought in alcohol-banning restrictions because it is very difficult to get brand-switching without brand marketing, so it actually favours the incumbent players, the people who have the brand recognition already.
“That is one example. The other example could be that employment drops in service industries. There is a large number of small marketing firms who do creative material for the alcohol industry.
“Clearly if that was not available they would have to find other things to do—they may well be able to do that or they may not. They are a couple of the sorts of examples I had in mind.”
One member of the inquiry panel, the Hon. Taylor Martin asked Wagstaff: “Do you believe, or does your organisation believe, that there is a causal relationship between alcohol marketing and high-risk alcohol consumption? Can responsible advertising mitigate that risk?”
Wagstaff responded by saying: “Certainly there is a role for advertising in terms of social behaviour, in terms of the DrinkWise type of advertising. There is a role for advertising and marketing to promote responsible alcohol consumption and to model that in the best way. From my experience—it is only from my experience—the causes of problem drinking are incredibly complex. They can involve social disadvantage, they can involve health and they can involve psychological profiles. So I think to link an advertising correlation to alcohol problems would be incredibly simplistic; it is a complex problem.”