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Monday, 16 March 2009
Page: 1539

Senator EGGLESTON (1:57 PM) —In the very short time that I have to begin this speech on the Customs Tariff Amendment (2009 Measures No. 1) Bill 2009 and related bill, I say that this alcopops tax is no more than a revenue raising gesture, and it certainly does not deal with the real, underlying problem of the impact of excessive alcohol consumption in our community or the need to reform the entire system under which alcohol is taxed.

Rather than selectively increasing tax on one form of alcoholic drink, the so-called alcopops, it is time that alcoholic drinks were taxed on a volumetric basis—that is, by a standard tax on the percentage of alcohol in any drink. And that is a view shared by a wide variety of professional and community organisations who are concerned about the impact of alcoholism in our community, including the Australian Medical Association; the Australian Council of Social Service; the Productivity Commission; the National Centre for Research into Prevention of Drug Abuse; the Salvation Army, which has always had a great concern about the impact of alcoholism in our community; and the Alcohol Advisory Council of WA, among others. These bodies all have the view that rather than having different levels of tax on the alcohol in various drinks we should go to a very simple volumetric system so that if there is more alcohol in a drink it will cost you more.

The fact has been demonstrated by Curtin University, in some pivotal research done several years ago in the Northern Territory, that cost is a deterrent to excessive alcohol consumption. In fact, under our present system, the tax on a standard glass of wine, with 12 per cent alcohol, is six times less than the tax on a glass of low-alcohol beer. That simply underlines the fact that there is a need to reform the taxation system for alcoholic drinks and until that is done we are not in any way seriously going to deal with the problems that alcoholism has caused in our community.

Debate interrupted.