By Ian Neubauer
The justification behind the Australian Government’s 70 per cent RTD tax hike stands on even shakier ground this week after the New Zealand government released findings of a study that show taxes on particular categories of alcohol do not reduce problem drinking.
In September 2008, the New Zealand Department of Health and other agencies were asked to prepare a report by the country’s Ministerial Council on Drug Policy on Drug Policy in regard to RTDs — their supply to minors, rising ABVs and whether they were causing disproportionate harm.
The department was also asked to review the Australia’s RTD tax hike and the wisdom of implementing similar measures across the Tasman.
But after reviewing the report, the committee found there was no evidence that targeting or raising the price of particular categories of alcohol resulted in a reduction of alcohol-related harm.
The committee did however see merit in reducing ABVs and volumetric pricing.
Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia (DSICA) spokesperson, Steven Riden, said the Federal Government should follow New Zealand’s example of using evidence-based research for policy making and reverse the RTD tax hike.
“Even the very left wing New Zealand previous government backed away from a narrow tax on RTDs after finding that it’s not justified from the international evidence,” he said.
Australian Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has rejected the call, citing a 42 per cent decline in the quantity of RTDs sold since the tax hike was introduced without warning or industry consultation in April last year.
“In Australia, the evidence is that the ‘alcopops’ is working — far beyond original expectations,” the minister told The Australian.
But DSICA and a number of government-funded health agencies have said the minister’s argument is flawed, citing evidence of substitution to straight spirits and cask wine with significantly higher ABVs as a result of the tax hike.
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