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Members of Parliament call for action on alcohol advertising

In one area of Parliament House on Monday Morning, Liberal Party members were planning a leadership challenge. In another area, Federal Members of Parliament from all parties called for legislation on alcohol promotion alongside the release of the 3rd Annual Report of the Alcohol Advertising Review Board (AARB).

Dr Sharman Stone MP, Chair of the Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs asked, “Why are we still so captured by the alcohol industry?”

“We need to take steps to ban alcohol advertising whenever it may influence children. Alcohol advertising associated with sport is particularly influential on children. We need to close the loophole that allows alcohol advertising during live sport broadcasts,” said Dr Stone.

Senator Richard Di Natale, Leader of the Australian Greens and former GP, said: “The time has come to get grog ads out of sport. Sport is a healthy pursuit and contains a lot of positive messages for kids but now when I sit down with my kids to watch the cricket or the footy, every second ad is for beer or betting odds. Like most parents, I don’t want sport being hijacked to sell my kids unhealthy or addictive adult products.”

“As a society, we already accept that it is appropriate to restrict certain types of programming to adult viewing times. Those restrictions are undermined by giant loopholes with regard to sports broadcasts,” says Senator Di Natale.

Melissa Parke MP, Member for Fremantle, recognised the harm alcohol causes in the community and called for proper regulation of advertising as part of the cultural change needed around alcohol.

Ms Parke took further important action with a strong statement in the House of Representatives: “The AARB highlights a serious gap in Australia’s current approach to regulating the promotion of alcohol. Given the very considerable direct and indirect harm caused by alcohol, it simply does not make sense that we take a hands-off and a light-touch approach through self-regulation, when the industry continues to promote dangerous drinking and often promotes such conduct to young people.”

The support shown by these Members of Parliament for effective action to curb alcohol advertising is very welcome, hugely encouraging and shows that this is not an issue restricted to any one side of politics.

New market research reflects the extent of public support for effective regulation of alcohol promotion. An independent national survey of 1,098 Australians in July 2015, commissioned by the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth, found that:

  • 72 per cent of Australians support legal controls to reduce young people’s exposure to alcohol advertising, with only six per cent opposed.
  • 69 per cent of Australians support phasing out the promotion of alcohol through sports sponsorship, with only ten per cent opposed.
  • 76 per cent of Australians support limiting alcohol advertising on television to late night programming only.
  • 74 per cent of Australians support phasing out television advertisements for alcohol during sports broadcasts.

Not only is there compelling evidence for effective regulation to protect children from alcohol promotion, there is strong public support for action. Again, this is very welcome and hugely encouraging.

The Alcohol Advertising Review Board (AARB) continues to play an important role in health groups’ advocacy for independent, legislated controls on alcohol promotion. The AARB’s latest Annual Report highlights:

  • Alcohol advertising shockers of 2014-15, including the ‘Worst Ad’ as voted by the AARB panel: a Customer Review by a ’12 year old’ of an alcopops 2 litre cask on the Dan Murphy’s website.
  • ‘A Day in the Life of a Child’, which demonstrates how many times a 15 year old child could hypothetically be exposed to alcohol ads in one day, based on complaints to the AARB.
  • Myth-busting about the Free TV Australia Code of Practice review.

Don’t forget, you can make a complaint to the Alcohol Advertising Review Board when you see an alcohol ad that concerns you.

Julia Stafford

Julia Stafford is the Alcohol Program Manager at Cancer Council Western Australia.

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