Wednesday, June 08, 2011

At last, an end to cheap wine?

Let's hope.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon has signed off on a plan to develop a nationwide minimum floor price for alcohol in a move that could quadruple the price of cheap cask wine.

The newly established National Preventive Health Agency has been asked to “develop the concept” as part of a strategic plan approved by the minister but yet to be approved by her state counterparts.

The interim chief executive of the Agency Rhonda Galbally told The Herald that while she isn’t at liberty to reveal everything that is in the strategic plan approved by the minister she is prepared to confirm that it includes developing the concept of a uniform alcohol floor price that would apply nationwide.

The floor price would operate separately from alcohol tax and would make illegal for any retailer to sell alcohol below a certain price per standard drink, allowing retailers and manufacturers to share any extra profit that accrued.

The prices of most drinks including beer would be unaffected as they are already above the likely floor price.

In Alice Springs where Prime Minister Gillard has been visiting indigenous town camps Dr John Boffa of the Central Australian Aboriginal Health Congress welcomed the move but said the Territory shouldn’t wait years for the result of Ms Roxon’s review...

“We can cut self-harm, cut suicides and cut homicides by doing it now,” he said.

Dr Boffa wants a floor price of $1.20 per standard drink, about the price of a full-strength beer - well above the 30 cents per drink price of cheap cask wine.

“It would send a simple message - the price of beer won’t change, the price of spirits won’t change because there are no spirits currently sold at less than $1.20 even when discounted, but what would change is the price of awful cask wine that no-one other than young people and heavy drinkers go near.”

Northern Territory chief minister Paul Henderson was yesterday unconvinced telling a joint press conference with the Prime Minister he wanted to first examine the effect of sales restrictions due to come into force on July 1.

Published in today's SMH and Age

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