Committee urges passing of alcopop tax as Fielding meets with Roxon to find compromise

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 16th March 2009

A parliamentary committee has today urged the Senate to pass the controversial alcopops tax hike, despite admitting it was unsure if the measure had any impact on binge drinking since being introduced in April last year. The news comes as Health Minister Nicola Roxon meets with Family First Senator Steve Fielding, whose support is crucial to passing the bill.

The Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs released a report into the impact of the 70 per cent tax hike on ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages (‘alcopops’). The legislation needs to be passed by the end of this week.

The Committee advised that there was no clear evidence to show the impact of the tax increase, bemoaning a lack of clear data.

The Labor Government requires the support of all seven crossbench senators, with the Coalition remaining steadfast in their claim that the tax is a mere revenue raiser. The five Greens Senators and Independent Nick Xenophon have all indicated they will support the legislation but Mr Fielding is yet to commit his support.

Senator Fielding last week said that the Rudd government was now seriously considering introducing Family First’s proposals for health warning labels on alcohol products and advertising restrictions after a meeting with Ms Roxon. They are meeting again today and Mr Fielding is indicating he will help vote down the bill if progress on these proposals is not made.

“If the government hasn’t moved on these issues I’m reluctantly being forced into a position of not being able to support the tax beyond six months,” he advised. “I’ve told the Minister that Family First’s proposals for health warning labels on bottles and closing the loophole that allows advertising of alcohol products during sporting programs any time of the day must be part of the government’s binge drinking solution.”

“The government could do these measures but so far it has not. Instead it turns to a tax that many, including Family First, believe does nothing to address binge drinking but brings in money,” Mr Fielding said. “Family First will be moving ahead with its intention to move a sunset clause that gives the government six months to attack and address this issue beyond just a tax grab.”