Key NT liquor review recommendations fail the evidence test

19 October 2017

Northern Territorians will be disappointed with key recommendations from the Northern Territory Alcohol Policies and Legislation Review, like minimum pricing and restrictions on license density and advertising, because they have already been proven as failures that punish responsible drinkers and do not work to drive down alcohol misuse.

Alcohol Beverages Australia Executive Director Fergus Taylor said the proposed pricing, promotion and availability measures won’t stop the alcohol abuse the Government is sensibly trying to tackle, but instead will punish the vast majority of Territorians who drink responsibly, hitting them with unfair price rises, sanctions on their businesses and impacts on their freedoms.

“Banning discounts, raising the prices Territorians pay for their drinks and reducing their choice of where they can buy them is not the answer to the problems of alcohol misuse in the NT. A minimum unit price of $1.50 could add up to $6 to a regular case of beer and mean more than 550 popular wines sold across the NT will go up overnight if the government accepts this proposal,” Mr Taylor said.

“Minimum pricing ideas have been historically based on the now-disproven assumption that heavy drinkers will reduce consumption if prices rise. Australian and international evidence shows minimum pricing policies have failed, because those who misuse alcohol don’t just stop when the price goes up, and will often pay whatever it costs to keep drinking.

“Police media reports have quoted examples of remote community members paying up to $150 for bottles of bootlegger alcohol to get around bans, and these sales are not subject to any of the safeguards and controls that come with licensed operators.

“Calls for bans on advertising disregard the fact that ads are about brand choices and market share. They ignore the stringent regulation of the ABAC scheme that already successfully governs alcohol advertising content and placement to ensure it doesn’t contribute to alcohol harms, and also the latest government data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, which shows significant, decade-long positive trends in relation to alcohol consumption during a period of increased advertising.”

Similarly, causality between alcohol harms and the density of liquor licenses has never been credibly established and in reality, when new outlets are opened customers are taken away from existing ones unless they can compete on factors like customer service, price and convenience.
“The weight of credible evidence has disproven these strategies so it’s difficult to understand why the Review has included them, when its charter was to develop an evidence-based, overarching alcohol harm reduction framework,” Mr Taylor said.

“The Northern Territory Government is rightly determined to address anti-social behaviour and alcohol misuse, and there are multiple alternative options to these recommendations with strong public and industry support that can make a real difference.

“These include stronger penalties for anti-social and violent offenders, enforcing bail laws, diversifying night time entertainment options, more police on the streets and community-targeted, education-based intervention like Red Dust Role Models.

“It is vital for the Government to consider these, and the credible evidence upon which they are based before finalising its response to the Review, because complex societal issues cannot be solved by simply raising prices and reducing choices.

“While industry doesn’t welcome population-wide measures recommended by the Review, it does recognise tangible and targeted measures that will make a difference, like early childhood education and remote workforce development programs, and we urge the Government to adopt these credible solutions as a step towards healthier, stronger and safer NT communities.”

ENDS

Media enquiries:
Matt Frilingos, Media and Communications Manager
Ph: 0407 995 175 or matt@alcoholbeveragesaustralia.org.au