Beer tax ‘bad idea’

An anti-alcohol group wants the government to tax beer at higher levels in the next budget but publicans are unsurprisingly unhappy with the proposal. 

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) says the Federal Government should tax all alcohol by an extra ten per cent, and raise the price on draught beers by 50 to 500 per cent.

The goal is to have draught beer taxed at the same rate as packaged beer in bottle shops and FARE says the move would decrease drinking by almost ten per cent.

But Broken Hill’s publicans are not so sure it is a good idea. 

Owner of the Old Royal Tavern on Oxide Street, Steve Sliwka, said that a tax increase is more likely to increase dangerous drinking rather than deter it.

“People pre-load before they go out because going out is already expensive, we know that,” Mr Sliwka said.

“My background is in risk management and I know if you put barriers in place people will get around them. By hitting alcohol and venues, people will turn to something else, and then you can’t regulate it.

“The biggest employer in Broken Hill outside of government agencies is hospitality, it employs 13 per cent of town, even the mines come after that.

“Have a look at the impact of that if we don’t get turn over and people don’t buy and don’t come out, it’ll create a massive impact on jobs.”

FARE chief executive Michael Thorn said the idea may not be popular, but it would improve the health of the nation and provide a better deal for local microbrewers.

He likened it to the increased taxes on cigarettes, which he said even smokers had acknowledged had reduced smoking rates.

“These are not insignificant costs that are being borne by the taxpayer today as a consequence of drinking, let alone all the social costs that are attached to that – the disruption to families, the impact on employers, reductions in productivity,” he said.

“The costly consequences of drinking, including deaths, car accidents and crowd control issues, have been on full display this summer.

“Beer is beer is beer, and the tax should apply equally to all products irrespective of what form it comes in.”

FARE’s proposed taxes would also include a tax increase on wine, taxing at higher levels based on volume and strength.

The Australian Hotels Association (AHA), says there has already been a decrease in harm associated with alcohol in NSW.

It warned that any increase in taxes would lead to a drop in employment and other economic activity.

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t tackle the issues of dangerous drinking, but this isn’t necessarily the solution,” Mr Sliwka said.

He also said that one of the reasons people turn to craft beers is for the taste and higher alcohol content, and that higher alcohol content is part of why they get taxed at a higher rate.

“Alcohol is what’s taxed, so saying draught beers should be taxed like craft beers is wrong because they’re getting taxed less because they have less alcohol content,” Mr Sliwka said.

“We’re already one of the most expensive nations on earth in relation to alcohol, this move would wipe out pubs and clubs around Australia.”