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Problem drinkers won't be stopped by higher prices

At a public hearing into Indigenous alcohol abuse, Australia's largest alcohol retailers have told delegates that increasing the price of alcohol will not reduce its consumption amongst the Indigenous population.

A parliamentary committee on Indigenous Affairs was set up to discuss strategies that the major stakeholders in alcohol sales in Australia are taking to engage with Indigenous communities to reduce the consumption of alcohol. Representatives from the Brewers Association of Australia, the Winemakers Federation of Australia, the Distilled Spirits Industry Council and Woolworths Liquor Group addressed the committee.

In response to growing rates of hospitalisations among Indigenous people that were alcohol-related, Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion set up the committee that is led by Dr Sharman Stone. The committee asked retailers why they did not think that taxes or price increases on alcohol products would reduce consumption.

Beer poured in Darwin pub

Andrew Wilsmore, Woolworths Liquor Group manager of public affairs, said that, "The ones where you are actually trying to reduce harm - which is your harmful consumers - are reasonably price inelastic. We see it already with sly groggers in the NT. People are willing to pay $700 for a bottle of spirits."

Dr Stone asked the representatives to explain why the supply of alcohol was not being reduced in those areas prone to problem Indigenous drinkers. Woolworths stated that they had been "very focused on putting restrictions in place in 70 of its stores in remote communities, 15 of which are in the Northern Territory. Andrew Thomas, head of Woolworths government relations, said that that included reduced trading hours, blanket bans on cask wines in parts of the Territory and limits on promotions.

All representatives at the hearing are part of the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code Scheme, which oversees responsible alcohol advertising. They must therefore abide by the responsible service of alcohol policies.


Source  : ABC, 5 December 2014