Malcolm Turnbull’s no fool: he knows that to knock off the alcopops tax and hand the grog companies are revenue bonanza would be political suicide.
So he’s going for the half pregnant stance: validate the tax hike of the past year, but not from now on.
But Malcolm, his opposition parties and Senator Steve Fielding who may or may not oppose it, have missed a key opportunity to do some good and impose a total ban on all advertising and sponsorship of grog in this country.
It’s not that radical; France, where alcohol plays an even bigger part in everyday life than in Australia (with some big companies involved, including Pernod Ricard, which owns the Orlando/Jacobs Creek wine businesses in Australia), has banned it completely.
The laws covering the banning and other restrictions on grog marketing and sponsorship have been tightened progressively in recent year, with the latest move happening at the start of March with the raising of the French minimum age and banning so-called open bars and happy hours marketing of alcohol.
France is very strict. According to the US Government’s trade commission, it’s the toughest ban in Europe, and much tougher than Australia’s controls.
Here’s what the Commission said on website about France, other European countries, Canada and Australia:
France bans alcohol beverage company sponsorships of sports events; prohibits alcohol ads on television; restricts the content of radio and print ads (to specific elements such as product name, ingredients, alcohol strength, method of production, and conditions of sale); and requires that ads include moderation messages.
Norway and Sweden prohibit advertising to the public of all alcoholic beverages over 2.5% (Norway) or 3.5% (Sweden) alcohol percent by volume (APV). Denmark prohibits radio and television ads for alcohol over 2.8% APV. Finland prohibits advertising for products over 22% APV, and regulates advertising for products with lower APV.
Italy restricts alcohol advertising on television until after 8pm, Portugal until after 10pm, and Spain until after 9:30pm. Greece limits the number of advertisements per brand, per day on television and radio.
Ireland prohibits spirits advertisements on television and radio, and prohibits the broadcast of alcohol ads before sports programs.
The United Kingdom (UK) prohibits alcohol ads on television that use “treatments” and “personalities” with “particular appeal” to those under 18 (the legal drinking age). The UK also requires that individuals associated in ads with the consumption of beverages containing over 1.2% alcohol by volume must be, and appear to be, 25 years old. In 1997, the UK dropped a ban on distilled spirits advertising on television.
Canada has a restriction similar to the EU requirement. Its Code for Broadcast Advertising of Alcoholic Beverages prohibits directing TV ads to persons under the legal drinking age, associating any alcohol beverage with youth or youth symbols, and portraying alcohol beverages in relation to an activity attractive primarily to people under the legal drinking age. Canada’s provincial governments may also impose their own requirements.
In Australia, the alcohol and advertising industries, in consultation with the Australian government, have developed and adopted the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code. The code, which covers virtually all advertising of alcohol beverages in print and broadcast media, is funded and operated jointly by retailers and the beer, distilled spirits and wine industries. It provides that ads should “not have a strong or evident appeal to children or adolescents” and should “not encourage … underage drinking.” The code also sets up an independent Complaints Adjudication Panel to assess any complaints about alcohol advertising.
Australia’s rules are weaker than some of the major alcohol producing and consuming countries in the world: like Italy, Spain and France. So if it can be done there, it can be done here.
The likes of Fosters, Lion Nathan and the local arms of foreign alcohol giants like Diageo (and wannabees like Coca Cola Amatil) can have the clout that Pernod Ricard has in France, or some of the big Italian companies. Diaego, the big UK grog group, has significant interest in France and Italy, as does Anheuser-Busch-InBev and SABMIller, the world’s first and second biggest beer groups, which controls major brands in France and Italy and other parts of Europe.
The Spanish Government also makes a point of running a harder line against spirits, compared with wine.
In France, all wine sold in the country must now carry a picture of a pregnant woman with a prohibition line (a big black slash) through it, much like a do not enter sign for roads in Europe. Every ad in French media, press whether for an upmarket label, or ordinary house label wine or spirit has to carry a warning that says: Alcohol misuse is dangerous for you health, consume moderately.
Two weeks ago, the French parliament banned so-called “open bars” and “happy hours” where for a small sum, young people can drink all that they can. The minimum drinking age in France has been lifted from 16 to 18. Wine tasting is exempted.
The English expression “binge drinking” has been adopted by the French press to describe a phenomenon that has alarmed a country that prided itself of its tradition of introducing teenagers to wine gradually at the family dinner table.
Ireland’s per capita litre consumption has increased from 7.0 in 1970 to 14.5 in 2001 according to the World Health Organization and 13.5 in 2004. This compares with 20.4 in France in 1970 down to 13.0 in 2004.
Australia’s alcohol consumption has fallen from around 11.6 litres per head in 1970 to 9.8 litres in 2004-05.
In France, hospital admissions of young people because of alcohol-related causes rose by 50% between 2004 and 2007.
According to The Australian Bureau of Statistics:
In the seven years from 1998-99 to 2004-05, the overall number of hospital separations with principal diagnosis of mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol increased from 23,490 to 35,152; the number per 1,000 population increased by 39% for all ages during that time period (by 41% for those under 20 years). From 1993-94 to 2000-01, there were over half a million hospitalisations due to risky and high-risk drinking in Australia.