In this week’s installment of citizen journalism, Independent Distillers executive chairman, Doug McKay, decries a recent Federal Government announcement that it will close a loophole in the RTD tax hike that has fostered the introduction of ‘malternatives’  in Australia.

“This announcement shows a government tinkering around the edges of alcohol tax reform with no concern for the young people they claim to want to help. The Rudd Government is painting the alcohol companies as dodgy operators exploiting a loophole, when we are clearly operating within the rules that the Government changed when they introduced the RTD tax earlier this year.

These drinks are not RTDs with a squirt of beer. They are beer, fermented with yeast made in breweries, exactly the same as more than 100 existing flavoured beers already on the market in Australia. Fruit flavoured beers are very popular with sophisticated drinkers in Europe and malternatives constitute the vast majority of pre-mixed drinks in the US.

The Government has failed to explain how ‘malternatives’ are different from the flavoured beers made locally by Fosters and Lion Nathan, like Hahn Barefoot Radler, Miller Chill, Fosters Beez Neez, imports like Bitburger Lemon and many others from the microbrewery sector already on the market in Australia and not the subject of this politically motivated attack. And why isn’t the Government targeting wine-based RTDs, like West Coast Cooler, which are taxed as wine and have been around for decades?

The Rudd Government is good at beating its chest and talking tough, but has failed to make the hard decisions necessary to really address binge drinking.

The Government should immediately introduce a volumetric tax on all alcohol. It’s fair, easy to understand and would make the most potent types of alcohol the most expensive. It would tax alcohol products based on their alcohol content — not what they are made from.

Groups including the Australian General Practice Network, the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Forum and the National Drug Research Institute all support a volumetric tax as are a number of peak alcohol industry associations.

This type of tax would provide greater incentives to the alcohol industry to look at new lower alcohol drinks and would make lower alcohol drinks more affordable than more potent beer, wine and spirits.

If the Rudd Government is fair dinkum about tackling binge drinking this would be a first meaningful step, rather than the ridiculous situation of tinkering with an RTD tax which by every measure is a failure.”

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The Shout Team

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

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