Penalising responsible drinkers is not the answer



Sir – Reports claiming that the heaviest drinking 10% of people imbibe more than half of all alcohol consumed in Australia highlights the need for targeted solutions that will assist problem drinkers.


There is a clear disconnect between the research findings and the policy response sought by the researchers, which is to make alcohol, including low alcohol beer, even more expensive.


It’s a unique point of view that suggests, if 10% of people are drinking the majority of alcohol, that prices need to be significantly increased for the other 90% of people, most of whom are consuming alcohol responsibly.


If anything, this research reinforces the need for targeted, rather than population-wide, measures to tackle the array of social and cultural drivers leading some people to drink at excessive levels. Those interventions must be relevant to the needs and circumstances of those at-risk individuals or groups.


With the Australian Bureau of Statistics reporting that 84% of Australians drink within recommended guidelines and, as a society, we are consuming less alcohol today than any point in the last 55 years, the knee-jerk desire to penalise people doing the right thing doesn’t stack up.


First up, beer isn’t cheap. In fact, based on a typical carton of 24 375ml stubbies at 4.9% ABV beer retailing at $51, $21.35 (or 42%) is tax. Despite demonstrable cultural change and better-informed decisions around alcohol consumption, Australians pay more tax on beer than virtually the rest of the world.


Australia leads the world in market-share for light and mid-strength beers at 26.5% of sales volume. Further, the trend to lower strength beers has also seen full-strength Australian beers average 4.4% ABV, down from the once typical 5%.


So Australians are drinking less beer, as well as less alcohol, but paying a premium for it.


Meanwhile, the evidence clearly indicates that heavy and more frequent drinkers are less sensitive to price than light to moderate drinkers.


We need to address the underlying issues of those who are taking it too far. There is no evidence to support the proposition that population-wide alcohol access restrictions or price increases are the answer.


Brett Heffernan
CEO Brewers Association of Australia




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4 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Floyd
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 10:54 am

    Higher prices slows consumption?
    What a joke.
    If an alcoholic wants a drink they’ll do anything to get a drink.

    View Comment
  2. Anne Scott
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 10:53 am

    Happy Hour with a stubbie, a real one, is not a health problem, a pleasure and good for vitamin B. What about all the sugar consumed, that should be taxed more.

    View Comment
  3. Psuedo Guru
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 9:16 am

    Tobacco and Alcohol cause major illness that taxpayers fund. Higher taxes slow sales.

    View Comment
  4. Anne Scott
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 5:49 am

    Yes, we worked that one out. European beer is cheaper, all that transport with a heavy product,
    and they’ll still be making a profit.

    View Comment

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