National Alcohol Strategy
The draft National Alcohol Strategy, released for public consultation in December 2017 by the Ministerial Drug and Alcohol Forum, describes priority actions to prevent and minimise alcohol-related harm. The Australian wine industry strongly supports targeted policies and programs aimed at achieving this goal. However, we have significant concerns with the draft Strategy as it fails to highlight the positive long term trends of improved drinking habits in the community and analyse the reasons for that improvement. The majority of the identified actions are broad-based regulatory and pricing measures, including minimum pricing, increased taxation and availability restrictions. Many of the actions also simply call for tightening of current restrictions.
Government evidence already exists clearly identifying where alcohol harm is prevalent and scarce budgetary funds should be strategically and surgically targeted to address the causal factors leading to that harm. There is also no acknowledgement of the efforts made by industry in promoting responsible consumption messaging, for example, including voluntary programs such as pregnancy labelling and point-of-sale messaging, or industry’s strong support for existing secondary supply laws.
The Government’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016 has demonstrated positive trends. Since 2004, the percentage of 12-17 year olds abstaining from alcohol has increased from 54% to 82%. For the same age group their drinking at lifetime risky drinking levels has decreased from 6% to 1%, and those drinking at levels risking harm on single occasions decreased from 17% to 5%, in the same time period. More pregnant women are also abstaining from alcohol consumption during pregnancy (56% in 2016 c.f. 40% in 2007). More considered analysis is required to work out the key drivers of these improvements.
We are also very concerned that the document explicitly excludes industry as an ongoing partner and stakeholder in future program development and delivery.