Alcopops Fizz…

This is a guest post from Scaper…

“The Coalition– has escaped a damaging Senate vote on the alcopops tax hike for another six weeks after time ran out for the government’s attempts to push through the bill.

On Monday, opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton announced that the Coalition would back the controversial 70 per cent excise increase on alcopops, in place since April last year but yet to be passed into law.”

Well, it certainly was a busy week for government business, was there anything positive achieved in both houses?

Ever since this tax was proposed I’ve had the belief that it was for revenue purposes, not to discourage the young from binge drinking but there seems to be evidence to the contrary.

“The government has promised that the measure will help reduce binge drinking among teenage girls, citing as a sign of its success figures showing a drop in the number of standard drinks consumed in the aftermath of the alcopops excise hike.”

So it appears that this measure is being effective or is it? There is no analytical evidence on the use of elicit drugs so we would like to believe that some are reducing their drinking capacity opposed to shifting their use.

Now I remember a while back that a health study concluded that consuming four standard drinks in one sitting constitutes binge drinking, so based on this and observance of people’s drinking habits indicate that a greater proportion of the drinkers in this country are bingers!

Maybe when our ambition to become a republic is realised we can rename the nation ‘Bingestralia’, and our national emblem could be a hop and a grape on a bucket?

I’ve made it known here that I have given up getting pissed and my observations since of television is that alcohol consumption is saturating this entertainment medium but is that where the real problem lies?

We would like to believe such but the reality is, children’s main influence is their parents that they observe getting pissed to their eyeballs at best on social occasions and at worst several times a week which they aspire to which is a deeply ingrained cultural issue that to be frank, there would have to be generational change that I do not see eventuating.

So, let us not kid ourselves that increasing excise is going to have much affect and until the cultural issues are attempted to be addressed this alcopop excise increase is nothing more than taxation equalisation.

Double Dissolution Defused?

In all the fun and games yesterday, the opposition helped pass the Alcopops legislation, although four coalition MP’s voted against the legislation.

Of course, the coalition rightly want to spin this as helping the budget, but the more cynical would see it as removing a possible DD trigger – especially with the fun and games in the lower house yesterday.

Alcopops Bill Takes Aim at Double Dissolution

In what could be described as a masterstroke of political tactics, the Federal Government is set to reintroduce its previously failed Alcopops Bill to Parliament.

The move will simultaneously paint the Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull as an Obstructionist – a perception that is beginning to take shape in the public domain – as well as potentially bring on an early election if the Bill is once again knocked back.

The Australian reports that if the Liberal leader refuses to reverse his opposition to the $1.6 billion tax increase, Senate rejection of the bill could provide a constitutional trigger for a double dissolution of the parliament and a fresh election, depending on the nature of the bill and the timing involved.

While the Treasurer stressed that the Government was not planning an early election, his deliberate move to raise the possibility, combined with a savage attack on Mr Turnbull as obstructionist, heralded a marked shift in government tactics to paint the Opposition Leader as negative and out of touch.

As health groups applauded the Government’s push to revive its rejected tax increase, Mr Turnbull counter-attacked last night, saying the measure on so-called alcopops was a cynical tax grab and accusing Mr Swan of adopting the bullying tactics of a man unable to get his own way.

Family First senator Steve Fielding, whose vote was instrumental in sinking the first alcopops bill in March, said he would reject it again unless the Government agreed to ban alcohol advertising during television broadcasts of sport.

When the Senate rejects legislation twice with a three-month interval between each vote, the Government has the right to seek the Governor-General’s permission to dissolve parliament.

Asked about this yesterday, Mr Swan said: “Malcolm Turnbull might load the gun, but we certainly have no intention of firing it. What we want to do is put our legislation up into the Senate and have it passed.”

Mr Swan said Mr Turnbull had opposed a string of government initiatives, including the alcopops tax, a national broadband network, two economic stimulus packages (including the biggest school modernisation program in Australian history and cash payments to pensioners and carers) and new spending on hospitals.

The other side just want to be opportunistic and play politics with a serious measure that deals with a serious public health problem,” Mr Swan said.

“Mr Turnbull and the Liberals have been negative, they’ve been obstructionist.”

Mr Turnbull told The Australian last night he did not necessarily accept that the alcopops bill could be an election trigger, because the Constitution was very complex.

But he said he had no intention of supporting the bill and rejected the claim that he was being obstructionist. “This is what every bully says when he can’t get his own way,” Mr Turnbull said.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out and whether Fielding will repeat his last performance…

Senator Fielding – Senator for Drinking

Tonight Senator Fielding has joined the coalition and has voted against the tax increase for alcopops.

The Medical Journal of Australia published that the tax reduced the consumption of alcopops by 91 million drinks, and that this reduction did not result in a corresponding lift in other alcohol sales. So the tax worked.

Senator Fielding now has to explain why he promotes an increase in drinking.

Federal Legislation

This is just a quick thread for a couple of important pieces of legislation that is before parliament at the moment:

  • Alcopops. This is the legislation to make the changes introduced last year into law, and it looks like being blocked in the senate. From what I can see, the tax change did exactly as intended – it reduced the consumption of alcopops and the research shows that this did not translate into a corresponding increase in hard liquor.
  • Electoral Reform. This is being blocked in the senate by the coalition, under the guise that it does not go far enough.

Are these potential triggers for a double dissolution?


On the subject of alcopops, Tony of South Yarra, also makes this observation:

The government’s ill-conceived ‘alcopops’ tax is about to be voted down in the senate. Introduced ostensibly as the main weapon in Labor’s ‘war’ on binge drinking among teenage girls, it has failed to win the support of any of the non-government senators:

The Government faces the prospect of paying back almost $300 million to the alcohol industry and forgoing $1.6 billion in tax revenue after the Greens, independent Nick Xenophon and Family First’s Steve Fielding refused to endorse the tax.

The government is steeling itself for more trouble in the senate, with its emissions trading scheme and industrial relations reforms both looking unlikely to find the necessary upper-house support:

Greens senators Bob Brown, Rachel Siewert and independent Nick Xenophon made it clear they were not to be trifled with on the alcopops bill or other key government legislation.

“They (Labor) need to see that we are quite strong, quite determined and not going to be treated in this way by the (health) minister or the government,” Senator Brown said.

“We are serious about this and it’s up to the government to act like a government that understands the functioning of the Senate instead of expecting that the Senate is simply going to give it what it wants every time,” he said.

As Don Chipp would no doubt remind us if he were alive today, the role of the senate, and the balance-of-power cross-bench senators in particular, is to ‘keep the bastards honest’. Long may it be so.