Health policy experts call for overhaul of alcohol tax

Posted on March 30, 2016 by Addiction Editor

alcohol taxHealth experts are calling on the Federal Government to implement major reforms to alcohol tax, arguing that the changes are long overdue.

The health policy researchers from Western Australia claim that the current alcohol tax system is incoherent and complex.

And the Royal Australasian College of Physicians has weighed into the debate, saying that consecutive governments have ignored the recommendations to change it.

In its federal budget submission the college states that alcohol tax reform could generate more than $1 billion in additional revenue every year.

There are plenty of programs across Australia aimed at reducing harmful drinking.

But experts in health policy at Curtin University in Perth warn that without changing the price of alcohol, binge drinking will remain a problem.

Julia Stafford is from the university’s McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth and says ‘regulating the price of alcohol is one of the most effective approaches to reducing harm from alcohol. We’re talking about small increases in tax rates, very modest changes to the way that alcohol is priced and taxed, because that’s what makes the difference.

In an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the centre’s pushing for significant reform of Australia’s alcohol tax system, arguing that “the time is right”, with tax reform high on the political agenda.

And central to its recommendations is a volumetric alcohol tax, where a drink is taxed more if it contains a higher level of alcohol.

Julia Stafford says the current approach makes no sense.

“Cask wine can be promoted and sold for as little as 18 cents per standard drink, or just $1.18 per litre. Cask wine is a great example of why we need real alcohol tax reform”.

She acknowledges that a volumetric alcohol tax has been discussed for some time, but says there’s now an overwhelming consensus from leading health authorities that it should be introduced.

And Professor Nick Talley from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians is questioning why that hasn’t already happened.

There have been nine government reviews, the first in 1995, that have made these recommendations. And it is remarkable that it hasn’t changed.

Now, there may have been good reasons in the past, but the Government needs revenue, we need to reduce the harms from alcohol and re-think drinking. Here’s an opportunity.

The college has made 15 recommendations in its federal budget submission and it claims that a more appropriate tax on wine could generate an extra $1.3 billion in annual revenue for the Government. To read more click here.

The Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference 2016, themed Alcohol – Other Drugs – Behavioural Addictions, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery will be held on the Gold Coast from the 19 – 20 May 2016. To view the high quality Conference Program CLICK HERE.

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