Volumetric alcohol tax to be debated

The National Alcohol Strategy suggests alcohol should be taxed based on alcohol percentage to help reduce alcohol-related harms. Image Shutterstock.
The National Alcohol Strategy suggests alcohol should be taxed based on alcohol percentage to help reduce alcohol-related harms. Image Shutterstock.

The region’s wine associations have said a percentage based tax on alcohol would be harmful to the South West wine industry. 

The statement comes after the Federal Government released the National Alcohol Strategy draft consultation, which recommended introducing a minimum floor price for alcohol and a volumetric tax to help curb alcohol-related harms among individuals, families and communities.

“If there is a flat tax across alcohol, which didn't recognise the boutique nature or role of premium wine, it would be hugely detrimental to the wine industry,” Geographe Wine Industry Association president Simon Holthouse said.

“Consideration needs to be not only taken for the quality of wine but also the nature of wine as a combination with food and tourism, which we see as central to the regions role in WA, as opposed to bulk volume cask wines that are heavily discounted.”

WA Acting Premier and Health Minister Roger Cook said small business owners, including those who offered boutique and premium wines, shouldn’t be impacted.

Mr Cook said the WA wine industry had been widely consulted. It is understood the government talked to  peak industry bodies and a prominent Margaret River winery.

The draft strategy suggested there was good evidence that a higher price for alcohol lead to lower consumption and less alcohol-related harm. 

Mr Cook said chronic disease was placing the health system under too much pressure.

“I would like to see a proper debate of a minimum floor price for units of alcohol sold across WA in a bid to reduce alcohol-related harms including health issues, violence and deaths,” he said.

“The minimum floor price is something I would like to further discuss with stakeholders along with other health and wellness ideas at the Preventive Health Summit.

“We still believe that alcohol taxation is best approached nationally, and that a volumetric tax warrants proper debate.”

Margaret River Wine Association marketing director Amanda Whiteland said the wine industry would support evidence based strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm and problematic drinking behaviour, however, the draft strategy focused on population wide, rather than targeted measures.

“Ill-conceived broad-brush strategies would affect jobs and growth in the region, particular in tourism and venues where premium wine is part of the food and destination experience,” she said.

“The tax would also drive-up prices and negatively affect profitability of the Margaret River wine producers who contribute over 70% of WA’s wine exports.”

Ms Whiteland said there was no evidence that lowering population wide alcohol consumption would lead to a reduction in harmful alcohol consumption or reducing the problematic behaviours.

She said the Winemakers Federation of Australia was coordinating a response, which the association would review in early February before it was sent to WA state ministers for health, agriculture and tourism and the Premier.

“We agree the recommendations are a concern if appropriate consultation with affected industries and communities is not undertaken,” she said.

The National Alcohol Strategy stated the harms associated with alcohol were equivalent to those of illicit drugs.

Submissions on the draft are due on February 12 and the revised policy will then be considered at a Council of Australian Governments meeting.