Industry pressured for action on booze culture
17/04/2012 - Restrictions on the sale of heavy liquor, 3am closing times for pubs and clubs, 1am lockouts, and taxation reform are among the recommendations being put forward in light of a new survey which claims - shock horror - that Australia is a nation of boozers.
The Annual Alcohol Poll, released on Tuesday, found that 76 per cent of those surveyed thought Australia suffered from a drinking problem.
Seventy-nine per cent believed the issue would either worsen or remain the same over the next five to ten years.
Of the more than 1000 people surveyed for the third annual poll, 17 per cent viewed alcohol as the number one health threat facing the country, ahead of tobacco at 16 per cent and diabetes at eight per cent.
The research by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) also found that Australians were largely unaware of how many standard drinks were in a range of alcohol products, with 66 per cent underestimating how many drinks were in an average bottle of red wine.
FARE chief executive, Michael Thorn, said the results of the poll, now in its third year, were unsurprising.
"The poll consistently tells us two things. Firstly, there is an awareness and acceptance by Australians that we have a serious problem with excessive drinking," he told reporters in Sydney.
"Secondly, Australians want change; they believe this significant social issue has been ignored for too long."
Of particular concern were figures showing an increase in the number of Australians consuming six standard drinks or more on a typical occasion, rising from 12 per cent last year to 16 per cent of people this year.
To curb the culture of binge drinking, Thorn said the governments needed to stop "acquiescing in the face of pressure to vested alcohol interests" and start implementing reforms.
This would include a commonwealth-funded education campaign on alcohol guidelines and introducing mandatory health warning labels on liquor.
He also called on the government to combat the "cheap booze flooding our market" by reforming the taxation system.
"The budget is coming up shortly, the government is looking for money and by our estimates they could raise at least a billion and a half dollars by replacing the wine equalisation tax by a volumetric tax."
NSW police union president Scott Weber said the research highlighted the need for action, with 31 per cent of people reporting to have been affected by alcohol-fuelled violence.
"Seventy per cent of all police assaults are alcohol related," Weber said.
"We especially see with young people that they are going out there binge drinking and drinking to get drunk."
He called on NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell to put preventive measures in place, such as 3am closing times for clubs and pubs, 1am lockouts and restrictions on the sale of heavy liquor.
"We saw that in Newcastle and there was a 35 per cent reduction in assaults after dark," Thorn said.
"Now if we did this across the state that money could go back into education it could go back into the health system.
"We really know what the problem is, we know what needs to be done and how to do it and frankly governments around the country are failing Australians."
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