A hangover from the alcopops tax

By Gavin McGrath
Updated November 2 2012 - 11:29am, first published March 12 2009 - 4:45am
A hangover from the alcopops tax
A hangover from the alcopops tax

DON'T worry, there’s no shortage of silly ideas that come out of Canberra each season.But one wonders what the person responsible was drinking when he or she came up with idea for the so-called “alcopops tax”.This tax, applied to soft drinks mixed with a certain amount (usually 5 per cent) of alcohol, looms as one of the silliest schemes yet from the Fortress of Ineptitude that is our national capital.I am not for one second suggesting coming up with a strategy to curb binge drinking is anything other than a worthy endeavour. But for heaven’s sake, if you are going to come up with a solution, how about coming up with one that might actually make some sense?When the government launched this tax (remember that word, it is important for later on) it apparently wanted us to believe the best way to reduce binge drinking was to make items with a controlled 5 per cent volume of alcohol more expensive, but not items that have an alcohol content of 12 per cent or even 40 per cent.Federal Treasure Wayne Swan earnestly insisted when he launched this wacky idea: "I have no doubt in my mind that this will target consumption by a group of people, who are engaging in drinking practices that are undesirable for them, and for the country".So suddenly a tin of Bundy and Coke, or vodka and pineapple, that cost $6 in a pub suddenly jumped to $12. `Ha ha!’ the cunning politicians must have thought. `Now Jayden or Jesse or Jemma, or whoever will only be able to afford four instead of eight. Problem solved!’.But you don’t have to be an 18-year-old with a bad hair colour job and a taste for Fanta with a touch of hard spirit, to work out it’s a whole lot cheaper to buy a 750ml bottle of vodka or bourbon, some home brand raspberry soft drink, and to make your own.And if my memory (which I believe is still largely intact even after 18 more years of “adult” age) serves me correctly, when I mixed my own as a brash 20-something (we didn’t really have alcopops back then), I don’t think I was taking much notice whether it was 5 per cent or 25 per cent.As The Courier reported in February, Access Economics released a report based on hospital data, paid for by the Distilled Spirits Council of Australia, that showed there had been no decrease in binge drinking admissions since the tax’s introduction _ no great surprises there of course. It followed a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that showed no link between ready-to-drink mixes and binge drinking. But do we really need a study to tell us something that is so bleeding obvious?One wonders how the politicians were sold on this idea. I imagine Swan, or Health Minister Nicola (No Cola?) Roxon weren’t drinking passionfruit Breezers at the time. Possibly a cabernet shiraz _ but no extra tax there of course.Even the term alcopop shows how out of touch with the people actually consuming “mixed drinks” the pollies are on this one. Alcopop? Who the hell calls them that?But perhaps the politicians aren’t so silly about after at all.Apparently the tax has netted $3.1 billion according to one report in The Australian.You know I’m right about this.

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