Booze tax plan 'unfair'

THE part-owner of one of the Hunter’s few surviving independent bottle shops says businesses like his will suffer unnecessarily if a tax increase is imposed to cover the costs of alcohol-related violence.

The Newcastle Herald reported yesterday that a new national study, based largely on Newcastle, recommended bottle shops and discount liquor barns pay a levy on each unit of alcohol sold, with the proceeds going to hospitals, police and local councils.

Shane Gallagher, the part-owner of Rowies Liquor in Newcastle, said any increase on the current tax would increase prices and push more customers towards discount wholesale bottle barns, which have the buying power of major supermarket chains behind them. 

‘‘It would hurt the independents a lot,’’ he said.

‘‘Even though the chains would have to put their prices up too you get to a point where it becomes unaffordable and they are well below that.’’ 

Mr Gallagher said the irony would be that the independent bottle shops, which typically charge more for a bottle of wine or carton of beer, were not the ones revellers visited to pre-load before heading out.

‘‘I would think for this shop you would have less than 5per cent of our clientele who would buy stuff to pre-fuel before going out,’’ he said.

‘‘So if you’re going to bring a tax in then you’re hurting 95per cent of people who aren’t affected by it. 

‘‘We’ve noticed a drop off in the number of teenagers and twenty-somethings coming in and buying cartons of [pre-mix cans] since [a major retailer] opened up in Newcastle,’’ he said.

Mr Gallagher said the industry was no longer on a level playing field, pointing to the fact it was cheaper to buy beer from the major chains than it was from the breweries. 

He had little confidence a levy would curb behaviour, citing the 2008 federal government ‘‘alcopop tax’’, which he said had made things worse. 

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