Drink Tank

The time is now

FARE’s nation-wide Annual Alcohol Poll was launched today in Sydney. The Poll provides an insight into Australia’s attitudes towards alcohol, and keeps the FARE team connected to how Australians feel about the way that we drink and its impacts on the community.

Each year the poll teaches us something new, whether it be about Australia’s willingness to indicate that they drink alcohol to get drunk (which 4 million Australians do), or whether it is about their awareness of how many standard drinks are in a 750mL bottle of red wine (29% of us think that it’s 4 or less, although the answer is closer to 8).

For me, someone working to encourage governments to take action to reduce alcohol-related harms, the most interesting findings are those that give us an indication of whether Australians think that we, as a country, have a problem with alcohol, and what the community thinks the policy actions are that we can take to address this problem.

Since 2010, a vast majority of Australians have indicated that they believe Australia has a problem with alcohol, and this year is no different with 76% of people flagging this. Another consistent finding is that a majority of Australians (75%) think that more action is needed to reduce alcohol-related harms.

With this year’s poll, we went a step further and asked whether people thought that alcohol-related problems would be reduced or get worse over the next 5-10 years. 79% of Australians believe the problem will either remain the same or get worse.

To me, this finding is the most concerning of all, because it shows that while Australians think alcohol is a problem and believe more needs to be done, they doubt that the Government will do anything to address it. And why would Australians think otherwise? Despite the 3,500 deaths each year from alcohol and the 80,000 hospitalisations, the Commonwealth Government has never committed to a comprehensive public education campaign to increase awareness of these harms to provide people with the support they need to reduce the risks from these harms.

And this is not the only area where the Government has shown its unwillingness to act. For example, last year the Government was given an opportunity to review alcohol taxation to ensure that alcohol products are taxed based upon their alcohol content and propensity to cause harms. But instead the Government chose not to act. This is despite the significant evidence-base to support such reforms.

Our poll has shown once again this year that price is a significant consideration in the purchasing preferences of young people and regular drinkers.
The poll has also shed light on other solutions that are favourable among the community, with 61% of Australians supporting the implementation of health warning labels on alcohol products, and 64% supporting the removal of alcohol advertising from television before 8:30pm. This information provides further insights for government on where to start in reducing alcohol-related harms.

When discussing the poll with a range of people, I am often asked what the take-home message is. For me the answer is simple – Australians think alcohol is a problem and they want governments to take clear and decisive action to address this problem. The community has started this work by indicating exactly what measures they are most in support of. The poll has again confirmed that the time for action is now – not just because FARE says so, but because Australia demands it.

For more information about the Poll, visit www.fare.org.au

Caterina Giorgi

Caterina is the Chief Executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education.


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