CHEAP bottles of booze could be on the way out if the WA Government introduces a minimum price on alcohol however opponents say it would unfairly penalise responsible drinkers.
The Northern Territory became the first jurisdiction in Australia to put a floor price on alcohol when new laws came into effect last week putting a minimum price of $1.30 per unit on alcohol.
A bottle of wine has around seven alcohol units which would make $4 bottles of wine a thing of the past.
A new survey of 806 WA adults shows three in five support the introduction of a minimum price on alcohol.
The results of the survey by the Curtin University-based McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth are outlined in a new report titled, ‘The case for a minimum (floor) price for alcohol in Western Australia’, released today by the WA Alcohol and Youth Action Coalition.
However Australian Taxpayers Alliance director of policy Satyajeet Marar said a price floor on alcohol was a misguided proposal that unfairly penalised responsible drinkers and businesses.
“Alcohol consumption has been falling across Western nations in recent years, including in Australia,” he said.
“Introducing a price floor is regressive and unlikely to be effective.
“Alcohol consumption increases with income and heavy drinkers as well as wealthier drinkers are not sensitive to price floors.
“A price floor will unduly penalise poor and middle-class drinkers who already lose a greater proportion of their income when they purchase beverages.”
But McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth executive officer Julia Stafford said a price floor on alcohol would reduce the health and social impacts of cheap alcohol in WA.
“Minimum pricing would only affect the prices of the cheapest products – those that are favoured by the heaviest drinkers, while having minimal effect on light and moderate drinkers,” she said.
“A floor price is now in effect in the NT and we encourage the WA Government to be the next to adopt this evidence-based solution to reduce drinking amongst the heaviest drinkers and ease the burden of alcohol on the state’s ambulances, hospitals, police, and treatment services.
“Young people are particularly sensitive to the price of alcohol and evidence shows young, high-risk drinkers’ drink choices are influenced by price.”
The report follows widespread support for a floor price at the WA Preventive Health Summit in March.
Liquor Stores Association of WA chief executive Peter Peck said a floor price on alcohol was a bandaid solution and would not work if implemented on a state-by-state basis.
“If a floor price is just introduced in WA then it creates the opportunity for people to smuggle in sly grog from another state,” he said.
“Also problematic is that there is no requirement in our postal system to identify that alcohol is being posted.
“A floor price is an idea floating around but realistically the only way it would work would be to introduce it nationally.
“But the fact is people eventually find their way around restrictions and it becomes a never ending cycle.
“If the world is a place where you can’t cope on a daily basis you will find something to make it more bearable whether it is alcohol or another substance.”
Mr Peck said authorities were watching the NT closely to see if any court action was launched by parties who argue the floor price on liquor is a restriction of trade.
Health Minister Roger Cook said the introduction of a minimum price on alcohol remains of interest because of its potential to prevent alcohol-related harm and reduce pressure on our health system.
“The State Government is keen for community discussion on this issue to continue. We are closely monitoring the Northern Territory Government’s introduction of a minimum price on alcohol.”