This column was submitted by Alcohol Beverages Australia’s Executive Director, Fergus Taylor, in the December issue of National Liquor News.
As we move into 2018 the alcohol beverages industry in Australia can look back on 2017 and celebrate a year of unprecedented co-operation among members across a variety of challenging reputational and regulatory issues in all jurisdictions.
This co-operation not only provided for much needed balance into the mainstream public debate around alcohol consumption and regulation – it also helped to solidify trust and alignment among our growing group of key industry stakeholders, which is critical to enabling the benefits of effective and united representation for the industry into the future.
Whether its joining forces to approach state and federal political figures about the ongoing formal and informal review of liquor regulation across Australia, promoting the enormous contribution of the alcohol beverages industry to Australia’s social and economic fortunes, or even the seemingly never-ending defence of the industry against the misinformation and a scare-mongering of the Big Temperance activists – we are always stronger together and the results we’re achieving are both a testimony and an encouragement to this.
There was no better example of this co-operation than the Alcohol Beverages Australia Celebration of Industry dinner in Canberra in August when 200 plus ABA member association and corporate, and non-member association and corporate representatives, came together in The Great Hall in Parliament House Canberraall at Parliament House Canberra to entertain more than more than 80 federal politicians from all corners of the political spectrum.
The wonderful venue, food and entertainment provided a relaxed and convenient opportunity to showcase to these leading legislators some of the important and interesting developments the industry is championing across the country as it evolves to the tastes and needs of the millions of Australians that regularly enjoy our drinks. It also showed Canberra an industry that is capable and determined to develop its capacity to work together around common objectives.
As we move into 2018 it’s never been more important that we continue to build this co-operation and focus on the issues that unite us instead of those we see differently. The short-term gain of the sectorial battle is more often than not overshadowed by the longer-term loss of cohesion and momentum that divisions engender, meanwhile the operations of the anti-alcohol activists directed against our industry are becoming better resourced, more aggressive and more prepared to appeal to emotion than rely on evidence.
Despite an avalanche of credible, recent, comprehensive and conclusive evidence to support the safe and sensible production, marketing, advertising, promotion, availability and consumption of our products, despite the continuation of hugely positive trends in declining underage consumption and binge drinking that have been borne out of the major Government and industry research pieces of 2017, and despite the declines in violence and anti-social behaviour and improvements in community attitudes towards alcohol that people are increasingly experiencing there remain vocal and noisy calls for yet further restrictions to alcohol advertising and availability across Australia.
Our capacity to protect our industry from populist misinformation, public misconception and over regulation relies on an ongoing determination to work as one, with a united message to ensure the public and administrative debates around alcohol are only ever conducted against a backdrop of credible and independently scrutinised evidence.