Senate alcopop vote a setback for the health of Australians [media release]

19 March, 2009

Media Release – Wednesday 18 March, 2009

A coalition of health agencies has slammed the Senate’s decision today to reject the “alcopops bill”.

The coalition, made up of the Australian Drug Foundation, Cancer Council Victoria, Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre and VicHealth, is adamant that more needs to be done by the Government to promote a safer drinking culture in Australia.

“This is a very sad day for the health of many Australians,” said Alcohol Policy Coalition member Michael Livingston (Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre), commenting on the loss of new tax and health measures designed to curb Australia’s heavy drinking culture.

Cancer Council Victoria’s Craig Sinclair: “We are extremely disappointed that binge drinking will continue unabated. The failure of a raft of positive measures to address binge drinking to pass in the Senate is a big win for the alcohol industry. Now the onus is on the industry to live up to its promise to use the funds collected to invest in reducing harm associated with drinking rather than line their coffers.”

Geoff Munro, policy head of the Australian Drug Foundation, believes the Liberals, Nationals and Senator Fielding have failed young Australians. “They have also failed so many people in the health sector who have contributed so much to tackle alcohol abuse and to control alcohol advertising as we’ve approached today’s vote. And now it is all for nothing.”

“This was the best opportunity – the best in a decade – to make significant headway in tackling under-aged drinking and in reducing harm across the country,” Mr Munro said. “Twelve months ago, Fielding was a lone voice calling for alcohol control. Today he stands condemned as the person who could not act on his own advice.

“The Senators who voted against the tax have voted for cheap alcopops, the favourite drink of under-aged drinkers – at the very time when medical authorities are urging young people not to drink any alcohol until they are over 18.

VicHealth’s CEO, Todd Harper said: “It is incredibly disappointing that a majority of senators spoke in favour of more effective controls on alcohol yet they delivered exactly the opposite – a green light for the alcopops industry to continue marketing cheap alcopops to young people.

“The only winner from today’s sorry state of events is the alcohol industry.”

The Alcohol Policy Coalition (the Coalition) is comprised of health agencies – Australian Drug Foundation, Cancer Council Victoria, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, and VicHealth – who share a concern about the level of alcohol misuse in the community. The Coalition’s long-term goal is to reduce the negative health and social consequences of alcohol.

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