Drink Tank

The price is right

If the Northern Territory (NT) was a country, its per capita consumption would place it in the top ten drinking nations in the world. Not an enviable achievement. This is in spite of a 20 per cent decline in the per capita consumption of alcohol over the past decade.

The continuing high levels of consumption kills and maims, it perpetuates disadvantage, especially intergenerational disadvantage due to the harms to the developing child in pregnancy and the early years, and has a disproportionate impact on the NT’s Aboriginal population.

Families are torn apart, education is compromised, and people rarely escape the cycle of poverty and deprivation.

In response, we propose a profound intervention that will save lives; the introduction of a floor price on alcohol.

In 2016 people could purchase 1.7 times as much wine as was possible in 1997 for every dollar spent. This is a direct consequence of the failure of successive Commonwealth Governments to fix the problems with the Wine Equalisation Tax (WET), which encourages the production of cheap bulk wine – the choice of Australia’s heaviest drinkers and pre-loading young people.

And because the Commonwealth refuses to act, despite the overwhelming evidence of the harm the WET causes, jurisdictions like the NT, experiencing the highest level of harm, have no other option but to act independently to stop the harm cheap booze causes.

We propose that the NT Government introduces a $1.50 per standard drink floor price across the Territory as a primary intervention to reduce alcohol-related harm.

In adopting a floor price for alcohol, the Gunner Government would furnish itself with one of the most effective alcohol policies available to governments to stop harm caused by cheap alcohol, while not interfering with the sale of a wide variety of affordable and quality alcohol products.

A floor price is a highly targeted intervention, reducing consumption among the heaviest consumers while limiting any impact on those drinking at moderate levels. And in turn, lowering rates of acute harm and reducing the burden of chronic disease without adversely affecting ordinary drinkers.

It will reduce crime, incarcerations, hospitalisations and hospital emergency department presentations. It will cut rates of family and domestic violence, increase the safety of women and children, reduce child neglect and improve the wellbeing of all Territorians.

Michael Thorn

Michael was was Chief Executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) from January 2011 until November 2019

Donna Ah Chee

Donna Ah Chee is the Chair of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT).

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