I couldn’t be happier with the government’s hands off approach to alcohol policy.
Here’s a little secret.
Ever wonder how year in and year out, Commonwealth government departments manage to function effectively following another annual Public Service Efficiency Dividend.
Sure; a few years back there was a lot of fat to be trimmed, however, now we’re at the point where government departments are still being asked to do more with less.
They can’t do more with less! They can’t even manage to do what they did the year before with less.
The Public Service Efficiency Dividend might be slightly inconvenient if you just lost your job of seven years in the Tax Office, or if you’re still standing in a queue 47 deep at your local Medicare branch that hasn’t moved since last Thursday.
But it’s great news for the Alcohol industry Lobby (AIL)
Government’s always had an open door policy when it comes to industry. Back in the day we could always avail ourselves of a stewed cuppa from the tea lady and a meeting with the department head at short notice.
But with the relentless drive to greater efficiency we’ve now all but moved in.
I’m not saying we have reserved parking and our own private elevator at the Department of Well-Being and Elderly, but that’s only because structural building concerns meant that the elevator project had to be put on hold until the summer.
Truth is, my colleagues and I at AIL are such frequent visitors to the Department that Frank down on the front desk long gave up on asking us to return our visitor passes. We all take our turns on the staff kitchen roster, and last week they gave me my own landline and added my name to the phone directory.
AIL’s keen to pitch in and lend a hand, to take the wheel even. Especially on a Friday, when so many of the Department’s staffers finally succumb to the rigours of doing not only their own job but also those of their long fallen comrades and the day when the Department seems determined to push most of its media activities out the door.
It’s also the reason why AIL is not really fussed about last week’s announcement that the Government is throwing $25 million to 12 sporting organisations in return for a commitment to give up alcohol sponsorship. I say sporting organisations but I use the term loosely. In truth, I’ve not even heard of some of these ragtag sporting bodies.
Last Saturday a few of my industry mates were enjoying a barbie, and had to put down the beer and the footy just long enough to Google a few of these so called sporting outfits. I even lost $50 betting against Skateboarding Australia. I’m still not totally convinced that a handful of spotty, hoody-wearing teenagers ever had the motivation or the smarts to leave the local half pipe long enough to open a bank account, let alone form a national sporting organisation.
And I’m apparently meant to be wowed that they managed to entice Football Federation Australia into the fold, just because a lot namby pamby Australians too scared to play a real man’s contact sport, happen to play soccer in great numbers.
Forget it. People do a lot of things in great numbers, but that doesn’t mean people want to watch them doing it.
I’m not even sure some of these sports actually have spectators. Sure every four years when the Olympics roll around we all pretend to be interested in women’s sport, that game with the sticks and the horses jumping hedges and fences, but truth be told when it comes to televised sports, it’s either footy (real footy) or cricket and everything else is a distant last unless you’re unfortunate enough to have a child that despite your best efforts at social engineering has discovered a love of volleyball.
Word on the street is that the Government was so desperate to attract marginalised sporting bodies leading up to the announcement that they even tried to entice Darts Australia on board. God love them, they refused to move their dart boards out of the pub.
It’s a win for everyone really. There’s only so many lamingtons you can make before you go a bit mad, or so Mavis down at the Good Shepherd tells me, and now our three Olympic canoeists don’t have to brave open water to get to London.
The rest of us can get on with watching the footy.
Bradman St Peters
Alcohol Industry Australia
Illustration by Andrew Henderson