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Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs
Harmful use of alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
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Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs
Snowdon, Warren, MP
Van Manen, Bert, MP
Coulton, Mark, MP
Neumann, Shayne, MP
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Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs
(House of Reps-Thursday, 4 December 2014)
Content WindowStanding Committee on Indigenous Affairs - 04/12/2014 - Harmful use of alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
EVANS, Mr Paul, Chief Executive, Winemakers' Federation of Australia
WAWN, Mrs Denita Anne, Chief Executive Officer, Brewers Association of Australia and New Zealand Incorporated
BRODERICK, Mr Gordon James, Executive Director, Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia
CHAIR: I welcome representatives of brewers, the distilled spirits industry and winemakers to the committee. Would each of you like to make an opening statement? Would you like to begin, Mrs Wawn?
Mrs Wawn : Thank you very much. Certainly, from a producer's perspective and a brewer's perspective, our focus of assistance has been on a number of areas in terms of reduction of alcohol-related harms in the country. Predominantly, over the last few years, that has been the funding of DrinkWise, which the three associations were founding members of. DrinkWise provide a range of initiatives to promote a healthier and safer drinking culture in Australia, and they have done a number of specific campaigns, such as 'Kids absorb your drinking'. A more recent one focused on how to drink responsibly and was targeted at 18- to 24-year-olds. But, particularly in the Indigenous space, they have been working for a number of years with Red Dust, which is a group in Alice Springs focusing on healthier lifestyles through mentoring, and the funding from DrinkWise provides opportunities to train those mentors in that community. I understand that DrinkWise are currently having discussions with Red Dust to expand that program to specifically look at initiatives around foetal alcohol syndrome.
The second area where we have been working collectively, but also through DrinkWise, has been in respect to labelling. The industry provides a number of initiatives on labelling through a voluntary scheme related to, generally, a reference to DrinkWise. We also supply the pictograms on labels in terms of standard drinks in containers, and finally the foetal alcohol warning in terms of either the pictogram or the words 'it is safest not to drink while pregnant'. DrinkWise has also distributed pamphlets for point of sale.
Finally, the three associations here today are founding members of ABAC, which oversees alcohol marketing in Australia. This is a quasiregulatory body, which includes federal and state government representation on our management committee, that oversees marketing. We have a complaints panel that is headed up by Michael Lavarch, and we also have pre-vetting, where there is a requirement to pre-vet our advertisements against the code prior to publication. We have recently launched a new code—we will provide that new code to the secretariat—and we are currently undertaking a governance and operations review.
One thing I did want to indicate is that ABAC recently undertook community standards research—again, we can provide that to you—which looked from both a qualitative and quantitative point of view at whether or not we were in fact meeting community expectations. It was very pleasing to note that, when we looked at a number of advertisements, we were actually exceeding community expectations in terms of how the code restricts alcohol advertising to ensure that it has no attraction to children or shows success or supports parties, for example, by consuming alcohol—and it is a very well-established regulatory system.
Certainly, from a brewer's perspective, and I think everyone's perspective, we are supportive of the strong enforcement of liquor laws and against the actions of individuals when they are consuming and breaching laws in states and territories. Likewise, we are very focused on proactive education-targeted campaigns, hence our support of DrinkWise. Thank you very much.
CHAIR: Thank you, Mrs Wawn. Would our winegrower representative, Mr Evans, like to make an opening statement?
Mr Evans : Given the time, I think it is probably best that we move quickly to questions.
CHAIR: Thank you. And our spirits representative?
Mr Broderick : I substantially support what my colleague from the brewers has said. I would just make the observation that we have not made a written submission but we note the submission of the Australian Hotels Association Northern Territory, and we would substantially support that. Like everybody in the community, we abhor the harmful use of alcohol and are very pleased to see the latest, recently-released AIHW figures showing a continuing decline in the abuse of alcohol.
CHAIR: I guess I should add that unfortunately accident and emergency data out of our hospitals do not show a decline in the harm impacts of alcohol consumption—hence this inquiry, obviously.
I will begin with a question. You have just heard references to pricing from our Woolworths representatives, and there are different responses to different forms of taxation or pricing depending on whether you are a brewer, a winemaker or a spirits representative. Would you like to give us an overview? Are you agreeing with the premise that a lot of the research has brought forward that the price of alcohol will very much influence the consumption? In Australia we have had some extraordinarily cheap alcohol. Mr Snowdon referred to cask wine being cheaper than orange juice. It is also cheaper than—
Mr SNOWDON: water!
CHAIR: water in those places! What is your view on what we should do in regard to taxation or minimum pricing or any other price measures to reduce harmful consumption?
Mr Evans : I am happy to lead on that one—well, not happy, I should say, but I will lead on that one!
CHAIR: Good on you. So, our winemakers—let us hear your perspective.
Mr Evans : There is no secret that wine continues to be the cheapest form of alcohol, and that is something that the winemakers are concerned about. We believe that wine, at the retail point of sale, is too cheap. It has been mostly fuelled by the price-setting of cleanskins and bulk wine, and, indeed, the increase in the home brands of the retailers has not helped. And of course, for my members, who are branded members, the equity around brands has been diminished as a consequence. We have suffered below-inflation margin retail price increases for probably five or six years now, and of course the profitability impact has been significant, not just on us but also on grape growers. What we would like to do—and I would encourage the committee to think about this specific proposal—is: you would be aware that there is a wine equalisation tax rebate. The Winemakers' Federation's proposal is to remove that rebate from bulk unbranded wine and the wine destined for the home brands of the major retailers. What we believe that will do is: encourage some of that oversupply then to be sold in export markets rather than being sold domestically, and we would see that a lot of the economics currently driving that part of the market would be taken out, and you would see a consequent correction in supply and that would flow on to wholesale pricing and retail pricing. It would also increase the average price for grapes grown. So we share your concern that wine is too cheap. We would not share your view that there is a direct correlation between the price of wine and the ability to drive social policy outcomes. Will it reduce overall consumption? Absolutely. That consumption may or may not go elsewhere. But the key issue here is: does it impact the consumption patterns of at-risk drinkers? And that is what we believe is the key question.
The research on that is mixed. I do not think that you could say that there is a compelling body of evidence one way or the other. We have just undertaken, through the Australian Wine Research Institute, an international literature review on price sensitivity of at-risk consumers. I think the committee would be interested in that work. We will share that with you. It is a literature review, so there is no subjectivity; it is just what is out there. What it does show is that there are not a lot of Australian studies on this critical point, but it does give you a good overview of what is out there internationally and I am happy to forward that on to you. It is in a draft format and it is not peer-reviewed, so we would ask you to treat it confidentially. But we will pass that on.
So I would encourage the committee to look at that proposal, on bulk and unbranded wine, to remove the rebate. I know that there are other proposals out there to address the price of lower price wine. We believe that that proposal is in the best interests of the industry over the longer term and will not have the types of regional consequences that some other tax proposals in this space may have.
Mr SNOWDON: He supports a volumetric tax!
Mr Broderick : You will not be surprised if I say that spirits are already overtaxed. We have the second highest taxes on spirits in the world, second only to Sweden. We are now paying $1 per standard drink; so, if you look at the label of a bottle of whisky which contains 22 standard drinks, you are paying $22 to the government. The industry as a whole pays over $6 billion per annum in alcohol taxes, exclusive of GST, so the government does have a fair pot in its budget to address the issues that you are investigating.
We have a classic opportunity to look at what happens with price regulation of alcohol by looking at what happened when the Labor government increased the tax on ready-to-drinks, or alcopops as they are colloquially known, from the same rate as beer to the same rate as spirits. What we predicted happened: the overall consumption of alcohol actually went up during that period. There was a substantial decrease in the consumption of ready-to-drinks, but the consumers went to other beverages. There was an increase in wine consumption and there was an increase in spirit consumption, but RTD consumption went down. As my colleagues have just suggested, by selecting an increase in alcohol, you only push the problem somewhere else. It is very difficult to contain.
CHAIR: Mrs Wawn, do you want to comment on that?
Mrs Wawn : Yes, I appreciate that. To reiterate Mr Wilsmore's points earlier on, in Woolworths' evidence: price as a facilitator of changing consumption will have the most impact on moderate consumers, not on harmful consumers. Nevertheless, we do think there are inequities within the taxation arrangements as they currently are, given that beer is the lowest form of alcohol in the market. For example, it is paying significantly more than cheap wine. Some of those problems that Mr Evans outlined have been raised by the Brewers Association in terms of these issues.
We do think that the tax white paper process next year may provide an opportunity for a thorough examination of alcohol taxation in terms of both economic input to producers across the board and consumers from a public health point of view. That may be the best avenue for us to enable, potentially, a review of the taxation arrangements. We have just seen a recent international review around price as a lever for resolving alcohol related harm and we would certainly be happy to provide that, as well as the information that Mr Evans is going to provide.
Mr SNOWDON: You mentioned ABAC, and I certainly have very strong views about advertising at sporting events. We now have the Tooheys Blues versing the XXXX Maroons in the State of Origin, so every young kid sees a XXXX carton or a Tooheys Blue jumper and immediately identifies alcohol with sport. Do you think that is a valid thing to do, or do you think you might actually change your mass-marketing behaviour?
Mrs Wawn : I think I am probably the best placed to answer that .given that you have referred to two of my members! We are of the view that any advertising that derives from sponsorship has to be covered by the code, so any forms of advertising must ensure that they are not encouraging children and applying to children.
There is a difference here between the normalisation of alcohol in our community and the normalisation of harm related to alcohol consumption. The evidence clearly shows, from a general point of view, that parents and peers have far more of an influence on children's understanding of alcohol and their subsequent behaviours around consumption of alcohol than advertising does. In countries which have very strong restrictions in terms of advertising and sponsorship—for example, France—there is an increase in consumption by under-age drinkers and also binge drinking. Ninety per cent of viewers of televised sporting events that are sponsored by the alcohol industry are adults—and around 60 to 70 per cent of the 10 per cent of viewers who are under age are watching the events with an adult. So the focus is on males from the age of 25 to 55. There is little evidence to show that alcohol related harm arises from advertising or sponsorship.
Mr SNOWDON: It was a very interesting observation. He said advertising normalises alcohol behaviour. I enjoyed the Bundaberg Rum ad with the polar bear and all that sort of stuff. It was a very funny ad, but it targeted a message directly at people consuming in the sporting domain—rugby union, in this case—that it is great to drink Bundaberg Rum. That is fine. I am not a wowser, and I cannot claim to have a perfect record in terms of alcohol consumption, but I do think there is a real issue here. Tobacco is a very good example. We changed the rules around tobacco, and behaviours changed. If we changed the advertising rules around alcohol in a similar way, do you think behaviours would change? I think they would.
Mrs Wawn : I would disagree with you. We are not the same as tobacco; you can drink alcohol responsibly. I have two boys—an eight-year-old and a six-year-old—who are sports mad. Do they see those logos? Yes. Do I think it influences them in terms of consumption patterns? No. It is my behaviour, my husband's behaviour and the behaviour of those around us that demonstrates what appropriate consumption of alcohol is.
Mr SNOWDON: If you have an ad that has a team of footballers players guzzling on a beer—
Mrs Wawn : That does not happen anymore.
Mr SNOWDON: But that is how it is identified.
Mrs Wawn : The code specifically identifies what we can and cannot do. How we advertise now is dramatically different from how we advertised 30 years ago with the sporting heroes and so forth. As I said, I am very happy to provide to you the new code and also our community standards research. That was very enlightening to us in terms of what we needed to do. The areas we needed to improve in were that, firstly, our code did not cover marketing collateral such as giveaways, prizes and so forth, so we now cover that. Secondly, we were not communicating that we actually exist and that people can utilise the complaint service. So we have now started advertising the scheme and that people can complain.
CHAIR: It is always interesting to hear that 'advertising does not work at all' when in fact hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on it.
Mr VAN MANEN: I would like to take a different tack—and it follows on from my question to Woolworths earlier on. In 2011 an outcome from a legislative and governance forum on food regulation was that the industry was given two years to place pregnancy health warnings on alcohol products. In 2014 an evaluation report found that only 38 per cent of the 62 most commonly consumed alcohol products had pregnancy health warning labels. Can you explain why the coverage of products with warning labels was not more extensive after two years and can you provide an update on what proportion of alcohol products have pregnancy warning labels?
Mr Evans : I will kick off but I am sure my colleagues will want to add to this. In late 2012, the Winemakers' Federation wrote to all of industry, not just to its members, encouraging them to place the DrinkWise recommended pregnancy logo and messaging on their labels. That is the policy position of the federation—that the industry should be doing that. I should also say that at that time many of our members were already doing it, particularly our larger corporate members.
Since then and as part of the evaluation and our own analysis, we now believe that between 85 per cent and 90 per cent of wine in current production now carries that warning label. To put that into some perspective, there are approximately 2,500 wine producers so it is a long tail. We do not have six corporate members we can quickly go to to sought this out.
Mr Van Manen interjecting—
Mr Evans : Yes, and there are also supply chain and logistics issues with wine that is stored and so forth. We believe 85 per cent minimum in current production now has pregnancy labelling on it, which is good. There is more work to be done next year. It is one of our communications priorities to increase the level of take-up among the smaller wine makers who we believe are the next target market to get it into the nineties and beyond. We would love to be 100 per cent but our position on this is quite clear.
CHAIR: Did you recommend to your winegrowers the size and style of—
Mr Evans : We partnered with DrinkWise Australia.
CHAIR: Which is not government preferred necessarily. There is a concern—
Mr Evans : I was not aware that the government had a preferred—
CHAIR: Let me put it this way. There are competing out there—
Mr Evans : Sure. It is not front of label and it is not tobacco-like.
CHAIR: Yes. The one that is typically chosen is the smallest, which is unfortunate.
Mr Evans : Our view was to partner with DrinkWise Australia. We felt that their approach was the right one and we referred our winemakers and our brands to DrinkWise Australia to pick up their recommended logos and messaging.
CHAIR: Following on from Bert's question, I think the brewers are 66 per cent uptake of labels.
Mrs Wawn : No, that is actually not correct.
CHAIR: For 2014?
Mrs Wawn : If you look at the Siggins Miller report on page 6—and the brewers have supplied this report to the secretariat, when you look at market share adjusted rates, brewers at that stage was at 81 per cent, wine was at 78 per cent and the total overall was 62 per cent. I understand beer is now higher; it is in the nineties since that last analysis. From speaking to the DrinkWise CEO the other day, I understand that they will be undertaking an assessment of the Siggins Miller report against their initiative and whether or not there needs to be any amendments in terms of their guidelines. Certainly the uptake was quite significant for beer and that report has quite a lot of detail. As I said, the secretariat has been provided a copy of it.
CHAIR: Are you personally satisfied that the size and placement of these labels is adequate for a consumer to see and be able to interpret?
Mrs Wawn : The preference of brewers has been predominantly the pictogram, which I think Siggins Miller report indicates is more of a powerful message.
CHAIR: And size and placement?
Mrs Wawn : Size and placement generally yes. There is an awful lot that needs to go on that label and it is only one piece of information which we give voluntarily or are required by regulation to give. You know yourself from your review on foetal alcohol syndrome that the question is: what reliance are we providing on a label to give a woman an understanding of the impact of alcohol on pregnancy? One incidence of FASD is one too many but I would have hoped to have got that advice from my medical practitioner. I have said this on Hansard before: during both of my pregnancies my doctor said it was okay to have a few. That needs to change and that is far more powerful than looking at it on a label. I am very passionate about this. It is very frustrating that we are still seeing obstetricians and GPs giving women the wrong advice.
CHAIR: We could not agree with you more. We do see labelling as part of an overarching strategy in our national inquiry, which many of us participate in.
Mr Broderick : I would just like to report that as at June this year in the spirit industry, 70 per cent of our members' products were labelled with pregnancy warning labels, which represented 83 per cent of the total spirits market. Like my colleague from the wine industry, there is a long but small tail. Some of the more exotic spirits and liqueurs that come from overseas would not comply at the moment, but we are encouraging those overseas companies to voluntarily label as they relabel their products.
Mr COULTON: My question is probably to Mrs Wawn and Mr Broderick. In a previous life, I have been a licensee at a community event, an annual style event, and the change of the behaviour of the crowds that we were dealing with when we switched from spirits poured into cups to ready-to-drink drinks in cans and to mid-strength beer was quite remarkable. My observations were that the more intoxicated people became, the more their desire was to have a drink with a higher level of alcohol in it. We found that with the ready-to-drink ones, obviously they have to drink a fair bit of liquid to get the same amount of alcohol each time. There are a lot of discussions in this committee about controlling alcohol consumption in isolated communities, and I am just wondering what the trends might have been in recent times on the thoughts of restricting low-alcohol beer or ready-to-drink spirits in these communities, rather than straight spirits or high-alcohol beer.
Mrs Wawn : Certainly it is obviously a decision on the ground to decide what to do, but it is interesting that one in every four beers now sold in Australia is a mid-strength beer, and the highest selling beer in Australia is a mid-strength beer. Referring back to some of the tax arrangements, we do have price differentials between low-strength, mid-strength and high-strength beer in this country, which has, in part, played a role in the innovation occurring within the beer market. But we certainly believe that obviously, as a lower strength, it is one of those options that the liquor licensing commissions, the communities can take into account for the decisions they make around restrictions. It is up to them at that local level. As you said, there are circumstances where you are promoting lower strength products, coupled with providing things like free water and food and so forth; these all need to be considered in how you can manage alcohol consumption.
Mr COULTON: I do not want to start a fight, but I am also convinced that after someone has had the first two mouthfuls of beer you can give them anything and tell them what it is and they cannot tell the difference despite the carry on that they make.
Mr Snowdon interjecting—
Mr COULTON: I have done a few experiments of my own; they might not be completely legal in your terms! What about across the nation—that is, reducing alcohol across the board, reducing the alcohol content in all drinks? My feeling is that after the initial uproar, people would just continue on as per normal. I just wondered if you have any thoughts on that, and maybe Mr Broderick can throw into that as well.
Mr Broderick : Thank you for the question, as they would say in another place. We wish that the spirit industry had the same tax advantage that our colleagues in the beer industry have, where the first 1.15 per cent of alcohol is excise free. This encourages the production and consumption of mid-strength beverages. Several of my members make mid-strength RTDs: Bundaberg make one and Brown-Forman make a bourbon and cola of 3.5. Not terribly popular in the consumer world; would be more popular if we could reduce the price if the excise was reduced. As to reducing the strength of full-strength spirits, it is mandatory by law that they not go below 37 per cent alcohol by volume.
CHAIR: That is mandated by law?
Mr Broderick : Yes.
CHAIR: It is like meat pies and meat, isn't it? What was the purpose of mandating, do you think?
Mr Broderick : You have to set a standard. If it is below that—one of the members referred to vodka at two bottles for $16. It was not vodka; it was fortified wine. I am not having a go at Mr Evans, I am not one of his members either, but it would be fortified wine masquerading as vodka, and it would be paying the wine tax rather than the spirits tax—70 per cent of the price of a bottle of spirits goes to the government.
Mr COULTON: Can you make a rum or a Scotch that the same with a lower level of alcohol?
Mr Broderick : No. It would not have the same characteristics. That is why some people prefer their Scotch at 40 per cent or 43 per cent. The strength of the spirit changes the characteristic of the beverage.
Mr SNOWDON: And a person's behaviour.
Mr Broderick : I personally like one which is 55 per cent. It is a good aperitif after dinner.
CHAIR: Do you have a comment, Mr Evans?
Mr Evans : I am very clear on this: I do not think that regulators should be telling winemakers how to make their wine. There are many things that go into making wine: the tannin, the grapes, the variety—the list is very long. One of the defining characteristics is also alcohol content. I think the industry would be loath for that to be regulated or messed with. We compete in a global industry and certainly we would not support putting restrictions on the creativity of our winemakers. Having said that, there is innovation in lower alcohol wine, and there is now some investment and research going into that space. That will be driven by the market and that is where we think it should stay. Certainly our winemakers are craftsmen and alcohol content is one of those variables that they treasure dearly along with a number of other components in the winemaking process.
Mr NEUMANN: I apologise that I had to come back in. I was organising a press release. I come back to the issue of advertising. I am sorry that I am repeating what Mr Snowdon was talking about before. It was not that long ago that Tooheys Blues played the Four X Queensland Maroons in the State of Origin. When I came in you said to Mr Snowdon that you considered that alcohol was not the same as smoking. You can have a drink without having any impact on you, realistically; but every cigarette you take is doing you harm. I think we agree on that.
But gambling is another issue, which has come up at sporting events particularly. We have seen that. For my sins, in the last parliament I was on the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform. We heard lots of evidence in relation to that. Sally Gainsborough has done a lot of work on the normalisation of gambling through sporting events and advertising. We saw that watching State of Origin games, watching rugby league games—I am a Brisbane Bronco's tragic, in therapy, by the way, at how badly we have gone in the last few years. Watching football events on a Friday night, AFL or NRL, you see the odds. I have three little nephews who can quote the odds of the games. There clearly has been a community backlash about that and we have seen voluntary curtailments. Are you saying that there should not be any restrictions—are your members being involved in advertising through football events like that? Are you saying that it does not have an impact? If not, why do you advertise and sponsor these organisations?
Mrs Wawn : We recognise that alcohol is a special product. It is a drug. As a consequence, we acknowledge that we do need regulations on how we advertise. Not only do we have a range of regulations through government, but we also self-regulate through the ABAC scheme. That ABAC is one of the strictest in the world. We have just done a full analysis of all the other codes in the world, and it is one of the strictest in the world in terms of the restrictions we place—on ourselves—on how we advertise. That includes through television advertising through those sporting events.
Certainly, when we tested our code against community standards, we were exceeding their expectations on what they thought was appropriate for alcohol advertising. So, yes, we do believe we need restrictions, because of the type of product we have. We do have those restrictions in place. We have just done a review, and we think that it very much is meeting community expectations. We will continue to assess that in years to come. Certainly, there has obviously been a Preventive Health Agency review into alcohol advertising. I do not think we have seen, as yet, the final report. Certainly there was an indication there of a range of draft recommendations, but by and large they felt that the code was working well and that there was no need for government involvement in alcohol advertising. Yes, they made a serious of recommendations that we are looking at, but certainly we think that we are well and truly meeting expectations of the community in this space.
Mr NEUMANN: It is not normalising. You are not saying it is having any impact adversely on the public, you think?
Mr Evans : You are right that there is a lot of money that is and has been spent on alcohol advertising. And it is a good question—if it is not making an impact, what are you doing? We are seeing declining per capita consumption of alcohol. We are seeing the level of abstinence increase. So why are we spending all this money? We do it for two reasons: (1) we want our consumers to trade up—that is, pay more and go to more premium offerings; and (2) there is fierce competition between manufacturers and they want to take market share off one another.
Mr NEUMANN: Certainly also to get more consumers, surely?
Mr Evans : To grow the pie. This is the critical difference between us and the gambling industry. The gambling industry are relatively new in this online format, where we are seeing them advertise very aggressively. They are after new consumers who have never gambled in their lives. In my view this is new, virgin territory for them, and that is why they are aggressively advertising—because they know they can grow the pie. In our view the alcohol industry is working differently. Our individual companies advertise extensively to hold on to share, to grow share and to upscale their consumers onto more premium offerings. It is fundamentally different in its intent to what I believe is going on in the gambling industry.
CHAIR: So you are telling us you have not targeted young female drinkers?
Mr Evans : If they are over the age of consent.
CHAIR: Over the legitimate age; I am still calling them young.
Mr Evans : There is nothing illegal with that.
CHAIR: Your products you call Blondie, the diet type drinks and the alcopops, the sweet ones and the tonics.
Mr Evans : I will let my colleagues answer those.
CHAIR: It seems to me that there has been, globally, an enormous effort to recruit new drinkers, particularly amongst young women.
Mr SNOWDON: Half of pregnancies are unplanned. So the issue about whether there is a correlation between that alcohol consumption and other outcomes is something which I think needs to be explored. You may have a view about it.
CHAIR: We just challenge your idea that you are not trying to grow the pie into new areas. Culturally and traditionally in Australia, young women have not been binge drinking, for example, and have certainly not been drinking the same sorts of alcohols as men.
Mr Evans : I can only talk on behalf of the wine industry, but if that were the case we are doing a woeful job. Stats have been recently coming out about the more responsible drinking behaviours and cultures that we are seeing come through in our young people.
CHAIR: Stats will show you that women, young women in particular, are drinking more than the generation before.
Mr Evans : They are doing a lot of things more, and their consumption—
CHAIR: We are not talking about those other things; we are talking about the alcohol binge drinking.
Mr Evans : But there is a broader cultural context, isn't there? There is an equalisation in consumption and behaviours across all sorts of things where women are now reaching parity with males. I do not think you can take out alcohol—
CHAIR: We are only interested in alcohol in this inquiry.
Mr Evans : and say we are driving that. It is a broader equalisation of the sexes.
Mr Broderick : You cannot just say, 'We're only looking at alcohol.' You are talking about the normalisation of the consumption of alcohol. That infers that you are looking at what is happening in the total community. When I grew up, which unfortunately was a long time ago, women were not allowed into the public bar at hotels. They had a special ladies lounge. Or the wife would sit out in the car and the husband would bring—
Mr SNOWDON: A packet of chips!
Mr Broderick : a packet of chips and a beer out to the lady. Things have changed, thank goodness. Drinking alcohol is no longer the specific domain of the male.
CHAIR: That is right, and advertising has helped to promote that. That is the point I am making.
Mr SNOWDON: The point here is that targeted advertising at a particular cohort of the population, in this case young females, may have a detrimental effect on other outcomes. That is the issue. No-one disputes that fact that there is parity. There ought to be and it should be a lot better in many cases.
Mr Broderick : Sorry; but I disagree that the advertising is targeted at young women.
CHAIR: Okay. Leave it on the record. Thank you very much for your evidence. You are going to receive a transcript. I think you have all experienced this. You can check the facts and give us feedback. Also, Mrs Wawn and Mr Evans, I think you suggested you had some research that you wished us to take on board. We will do that. Anything else that you would like to add in the form of written submissions, please feel free to do that.
Mr SNOWDON: Can I just ask one last question? You do not represent the bulk; you are the top end of the market in terms of—
Mr Evans : No.
Mr SNOWDON: You are the bottled wine market basically?
Mr Evans : I think you could characterise us as the branded winemaking section of the wine industry.
Mr SNOWDON: This discussion about taxation—if it was going to affect your industry at all, it would affect the bottom end of the industry, not the top end of the industry?
Mr Evans : We are focusing on unbranded products, so that is clean skins. They are the ones that are down that end. We also want to remove it off bulk wine. This rebate comes into being at the last point of wholesale sale. So, what we are saying is that bulk wine is usually off the back of depressed grape prices—down as low as $80 a tonne in the Riverland this year—and that is going to opportunistic producers and it is that that ends up in the aisles for a price that we are all concerned about. Take the rebate off that and you will introduce a disincentive for that supply to be there in the first place, and then for it to be produced and then for it to be sold domestically.
Mr SNOWDON: Can I ask one last question? This goes to the supply question really. Some years ago I had a discussion—I am not sure whether it was with winemakers or whoever else in the wine industry—about bulk wine and cask wine as it was then in Alice Springs. I said: 'Why do you sell to that market? Why don't you just not sell that product into the market?' There was a very obtuse response. If you see that a particular product is having a detrimental impact on consumers, by seeing the consumption patterns of people, why wouldn't you just say, 'We won't sell that product to that market '?
Mr Evans : Can I address cask wine, because it is something we have not specifically talked about yet. FARE put out their research on preferences for Indigenous consumption. It was only two per cent for cask wine. That is half of what it is for the general population. That is the first point. Secondly, the volume of cask wine has been on the decline for—
Mr SNOWDON: I know. I understand. I am not trying to say there have not been changes in behaviour in the cask wine area. What I am trying to get at is: if you know that there is a particular product where there is evidence that its consumption by a particular group of people in a particular community has a detrimental outcome, why wouldn't you just pull out of the market and substitute it with something else?
Mr Evans : We have heard from the retailers. That is a retailers issue. We cannot do that. Can I say, though, that there are a lot of myths around casks that need to be addressed. I represent the largest producers of cask wine in Australia. I put this to you: cask wine can sit in your cabinet for six weeks. You do not have to pop the bottle and drink the whole thing, or waste half of it if you only want two standard drinks. It allows you to self-regulate in a very effective way, so there is a role for it in the market. The consumers in certain demographics like it, want it and we believe it has a legitimate role in the industry. There are a lot of myths around it that, quite frankly, need to be flushed out.
Mr SNOWDON: There is one myth you cannot explode about cask wines or pillows. When four-litre cask wines were being sold across the Northern Territory, there were wine casks everywhere and people drunk in the streets as a result of drinking cask wine. Once the wine levy was introduced, it changed that behaviour; and, when cask wines changed to two-litre casks, that changed behaviour. So I think you have to be a bit careful about how you describe cask wines. I have no problem with people drinking cask wine, to be fair, but it is not that; it is about its impact on a particular section of the population—which has changed.
Mr Evans : The question becomes: do you introduce measures on cask wine per se or do you do it amongst that targeted group? My proposition to you is that cask wine is enjoyed more by the general population, predominantly by fixed-income earners, and is drunk responsibly. If you want to raise its price through taxation, or ban it or put a levy on it, from a community interest test point of view, where is the outcome?
Mr SNOWDON: I do not think that is the argument here. What we are trying to say is that there are particular groups of the population in this case and there are a whole range of measures which are used—I am a particular fan of the banned drinkers register in the Northern Territory, which stopped people actually purchasing alcohol. It did not stop people purchasing cask wine. If you were not on the register, you could buy anything. So there are a mixture of things you can do.
Mr Evans : Absolutely.
Mr SNOWDON: But there is clear evidence around changing behaviour as a result of increased price. The banned drinkers register is another measure. But the wine cask levy had a dramatic impact on the consumption of wine and it had a positive impact on the community.
CHAIR: We will have to leave it there. If you have any further comments you want to make about cask wine, please feel free to supply them. That would be excellent.
Mr SNOWDON: Comments, not the wine!
CHAIR: Your comments! We really do thank you most sincerely for waiting a little longer. You will see the transcript probably in the next week or 10 days.
Mr Broderick : Thank you, Chair, and we wish the committee well. Thank you for your interest in the producer sector of the market. We wish you well in your deliberations and hope that you can come up with a solution, because we all share your concerns about the harmful use of alcohol in the community.
CHAIR: Yes, we appreciate that.
Mr SNOWDON: And Merry Christmas, everyone. We will be enjoying some of your product!
Mr Broderick : May all your drinks be responsible.