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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6423

Senator MURPHY (5:05 PM) —I do not want the committee to think that I have taken this in a light-hearted fashion with regard to the government's and the opposition's position, because it is an important issue, as I said before. I think it is important that we do address all three levels. I accept what Senator Murray says, that this is not something to be treated in a light-hearted fashion, and I certainly was not. I guess it is just the circumstances that we find ourselves in, confronted by a government and an opposition that are simply not prepared to look at this in any way, shape or form at this point in time. I have to say that I accept Senator Conroy saying `at this point in time', so there is a glimmer of hope, there is at least some light in the far-off distance, and so we should continue to pursue this. I put this in a more comprehensive form in addressing both packaged and on-tap ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages, because that is what is important. As I emphasised before, there is a reasonable volume—22 million to 25 million cases—of ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages consumed each year, so it is an important issue. As we all know, young people have a tendency to drink these types of alcoholic beverages—that may change in the future but that is the trend—and they do so in large part on premises. It is a very important issue.

As Senator Murray pointed out, the changes that the Labor Party brought in with respect to excise on low-alcohol beer have been significant. That in turn has seen the brewing industry introduce a whole variety of mid-strength beers as well. I think that move that a Labor government took has been of great benefit and it is a move that we should be looking to take now rather than leaving it forever. This is something that should be addressed in the short term rather than in the long term. Now that we have put these amendments on the table I hope that they will not just be shoved away but that there will be some serious thought given to this matter. I will certainly take it up with the shadow Treasurer so that we can progress some responsible change from a health point of view in respect of alcohol consumption in this country.

Question negatived.