In this week’s instalment of citizen journalism, Independent Distillers executive chairman, Doug McKay, says the Budget revealed the Government is more interested in raising revenue than tackling binge drinking.
"Not one cent of the increased levy on ready-to-drink products will go toward the National Binge Drinking Strategy. We have to ask the question — was the decision to raise the levy just a smokescreen to raise general revenue?
There has been extensive public debate on the RTD levy since it was hurriedly announced and introduced by the Minister and so far, all the anecdotal evidence is that young people are merely adjusting their drinking habits towards the more dangerous practice of mixing their own spirits, or buying cheaper and often higher alcohol volume alternatives such as beer and wine.
The fact that the RTD tax has not resulted in a single new dollar being spent on the issue of binge drinking, as well as the lack of industry consultation from the Government prior to imposing it, can only lead to the conclusion that the tax is solely a revenue rasing measure and not a serious attempt to address the important issue of binge drinking.
The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found risky levels of drinking among young people has actually decreased in the past six years, so the Government’s logic for targeting RTDs was flawed from the outset.
Under the Government’s changes, RTDs are now subject to more than double the tax as full-strength beer and 14 times the tax as cask wine on a per standard drink basis. Surely rather than addressing a binge drinking problem, this approach sends the wrong message to young people about beer and wine.
The new tax is an unfair hit for the many Australians who enjoy our products responsibly. Most drinkers would support an industry-wide levy that directly funds programs to address the important issue of binge drinking, but a blatant tax gouge on a drink category that represents just 10 per cent of the Australian alcohol market cannot be justified.
Until the Government adopts measures which reflect an industry-wide approach and results in additional money to address binge drinking, then the Government’s approach is simply lip service and all about plugging a budget black hole.”
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