The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance (ATA), a non-partisan grassroots advocacy body representing the interests of Australian taxpayers, today condemned measures stipulated in the draft National Alcohol Strategy which will see responsible consumers hit with whopping price hikes on their favourite beverages.
“Australians already pay some of the highest alcohol taxes in the world.” said Satyajeet Marar, Director of Policy at the ATA. “Setting unnecessary price floors per standard drink of alcohol will see a cask of wine shooting up from $10 to a whopping $45, a slab of beer going up to over $50 from $47 and budget-range sparkling wines going from $7 to $10. These measures will hurt the poor, including pensioners, students and low-wage earners, the most. The price hikes will also deeply damage small businesses including bottle shops and micro-brewers who already struggle under immense regulatory burdens. Established brands and large multinationals will suffer far less damage by comparison.
“We are constantly told that ‘sin taxes’ on all of us are necessary to discourage irresponsible behaviour by a minority of Australians. Yet the evidence shows that in countries such as Spain and Italy where the culture places less emphasis on binge drinking and there is less of a cultural link between drinking and violence, rates of poor drunken behaviour and immoderate consumption are significantly less despite lower taxes on alcohol. We have a drinking culture problem not an alcohol problem and measures that focus primarily on punishing alcohol consumption reinforce the message that alcohol is an excuse for irresponsible behaviour whilst punishing and patronising the majority of us who do the right thing.
“Though the ATA welcomes the draft strategy recommendation of standardised taxes based on alcohol content by volume rather than beverage type, this measure will not create a robust and competitive small business environment for our brewers and distillers if it comes with whopping price hikes on all beverages.
“We urge policy makers to adopt measures that genuinely target problem drinkers or problematic drinking behaviour rather than imposing further taxes on responsible, hard-working Australian adults who deserve a break. We further urge the government to adopt the recommendations of the Senate committee on the effect of red tape on the supply, sale and taxation of alcohol interim report, including efficient online services for the registration of manufacturing and storage licenses as well as the simplification of licensing processes and categories for liquor stores and developing liquor licensing fees based on empirical assessments of risk rather than social perceptions of risk. It’s high time that we gave responsible Australian adults and businesses a fair go.”