A recent rash of headlines in commercial media must have been just what the Treasurer was hoping for when journalists were briefed about Federal budget plans to reduce the excise on beer.
‘Cheaper beers may be part of next month’s federal budget’ promised The Daily Telegraph, and The Australian went with a similar line, ‘Cheaper beers may be part of federal budget’.
Covering the ‘Cheaper Beer Pledge’, a Nine Network reporter made clear that he thought this a good thing, including for the industry. “It will also secure much needed votes for the Coalition moving into the election so the Prime Minister obviously is listening to the voters and to industry leaders as they try to get back on their feet….” he added.
The Herald Sun also saw the move as a political vote-winner: ‘Beer wins elections’: Excise tax cut plan is a ‘political plug’.
As well as scoring promotional mainstream media coverage, industry groups including the Australian Hotels Association and Brewers Association are focusing their activities on marginal seats.
This week the health sector fought back.
General practitioners, medical specialists, public health advocates, community leaders and a stack of health organisations – including Cancer Council Australia, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), the Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council (SA), the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, the National Rural Health Alliance, Public Health Association of Australia and VicHealth – are among more than 80 signatories to an open letter sent this week to the Treasurer and Federal Health Minister, as well as media outlets.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE), which is coordinating the campaign, told Croakey today that organisations and individuals are still signing up to support the letter, while the Australian Dental Association is also planning to write to the Treasurer. A FARE spokeswoman invited Croakey readers who’d like to sign the letter to contact the organisation’s media team.
In an accompanying media statement, Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council CEO Adjunct Associate Professor Scott Wilson said at a time when many alcohol and other drug services are seeing an influx of people seeking help, the Government is sending the wrong message by considering alcohol tax cuts.
“We’re already seeing a flood of people trying to access services because of alcohol, and I shudder to think of the impact on the community, if the price of alcohol is cut,” he said.
Australasian College for Emergency Medicine President Dr Clare Skinner said that alcohol and other drug harm is one of the largest, preventable public health issues facing emergency departments (EDs). “Cutting alcohol taxes could drive more harm and further increase avoidable presentations to EDs,” she said.
FARE CEO Caterina Giorgi said alcohol lobbyists have been pushing to cut alcohol taxes for decades. “Now they are using the cover of the pandemic to push their agenda,” she said. “At a time when alcohol harms and demand for health and community services are rising, it makes no sense to cut alcohol taxes, which will increase alcohol harm.”
Will political imperatives trump health concerns? It wouldn’t be the first time…
See Croakey’s archive of articles on the commercial determinants of health.
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