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Alcopop tax unravelled.

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Senator the Hon Helen Coonan Shadow Minister for Human Services

Liberal frontbencher Helen Coonan this afternoon unravelled the Rudd Government's supposed health measure of the alcopop tax.

During Treasury Senate Estimates this afternoon, Senator Coonan questioned the logic behind limiting the tax increase on ready-to-drink (RTD) alcoholic beverages, citing an AC Nielsen survey from 28 May 2008.

The survey revealed a significant change in Australian drinking patterns, with a sharp decline in the sales of 'alcopops' but with massive hikes in the sales of full rate spirits - a 20% increase in sales of hip flasks and a 21% increase in sales of full rate spirits, such as vodka, scotch and rum.

Questioning Nigel Ray, Executive Director (Revenue) of the Treasury Department, Senator Coonan asked if the changes in consumption flagged in the AC Nielsen research were evidence of changing consumption patterns as a result of the tax increase.

''These sorts of variations are within the normal seasonal fluctuations,'' Mr Ray responded.

The fact that the Treasury Department is suggesting the changes in sales are attributed to ''normal seasonal fluctuations'' directly contradicts Health Minister Nicola Roxon's claim in Question Time last Thursday, who, in light of the same AC Nielsen survey said, ''The sale of alcopops has now dropped by almost 40 per cent - a measure the government is very pleased about.''

''In a direct contradiction, the Government and the Treasury Department are happy to take credit for the reduction in RTD's, but the apparent coincidental surge in sales of full rate spirits is simply part of 'normal seasonal fluctuations','' Senator Coonan said.

''Furthermore, what Nigel Ray said this afternoon is that Australians are being slugged with a $3.1 billion tax to change consumption by no greater amount than would have occurred regardless - all thanks to these ''normal seasonal fluctuations''.

''Labor cannot have it both ways.''