University of NSW has belled the cat on claims Australians have been consuming alcohol to excess during the pandemic restrictions, by finding two thirds of people either decreased or made no change to their drinking habits.

The research can calm the hysteria of those groups seeking to impose more regulation on the lives of Australians who drink in moderation and enjoy a beer, wine or spirit as part of a social occasion.

Despite the challenges COVID has presented all Australians, the University research found those whose lifestyle patterns were changed by COVID were not motivated to manage negative feelings by drinking to deal with depression or anxiety.

It backs up analysis by Alcohol Beverages Australia showing the Federal Budget is facing a $670 million dollar shortfall over the next two years because of significantly lower revenue from alcohol taxes.

Tax receipts from wine are facing an 8% decline in 20-21 and a 15% drop in 21-22.  Revenue from beer excise is also set to be hard hit, set to fall 4% in 20-21 followed by a 10% drop in 21-22.

The reduction reflects reduced alcohol consumption by Australians from a combination of venue closures, social distancing requirements and the overall trend towards moderation.

CEO Alcohol Beverages Australia Andrew Wilsmore said: “Those scenes of long queues when Australians feared bottleshops could be closed created a perception that we were all drinking to excess at home but the reality, confirmed by Treasury and now University of NSW, is that Australians continued to drink in moderation. What’s hurt most are the restrictions on gatherings, events and the closure of hospitality and tourism venues which has impacted both business and government revenues.

“The UNSW study calls for a targeted rather than a universal approach to alcohol policy and public health messaging to ensure it address the specific needs of different groups.

“With tax being a blunt policy instrument and making up a third to nearly half of the price of a bottle of wine, beer or spirits – some of the highest rates in the OECD – now is the time for Government to examine the affordability of a drink to help lower the price of a night out and get people back into bars and restaurants and quickly create jobs.

“Our world class winemakers, brewers and distillers are facing a tough road ahead and our survey and member reports on the loss of the on-trade has not been made up for by an increase in off-trade sales.”

ENDS

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