POLL: ‘Violence tax’ push for booze barns

RELATED: Cut boozing,  beat crime 

BOTTLE shops and discount liquor barns should pay extra tax to cover the cost of alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour, according to a new national study based largely on Newcastle. 

The two-year study compared the effects that tough licensing regulation in Newcastle, and hotel industry self-regulation in Geelong, had on reducing booze-related crime. The author of Dealing with alcohol-related harm and the night-time economy, Deakin University researcher Associate Professor Peter Miller, said the practice of downing drinks before going out was significantly contributing to violence in Newcastle pubs and clubs. 

‘‘Current pricing means packaged liquor outlets contribute to alcohol-related harm in society without making a direct contribution to harm-reduction strategies.’’

‘‘This leaves local communities to address alcohol-related harm emanating [from] bottle shops, particularly cheap liquor promotions and sales,’’ he said.

‘‘It is important the polluter contributes to the cost arising from their activities.’’

Research found people who drank between one and five standard drinks before going to a venue were 1.5times as likely to experience harm than those who didn’t drink beforehand, while those who drank six to 10 drinks were twice as likely. 

For those who drank 25 or more standard drinks prior to going out, their risk increased by 4.5times.

Professor Miller said state and local governments should look at imposing levies on each unit of alcohol sold by bottle shops with the proceeds to go to police, hospitals and local councils. 

He said a standard stubby of beer equated to about 1.4units of alcohol but economic modelling would be required to determine the most effective levy per unit. 

The proposed levy differs from the 2008 Federal government ‘‘alcopop’’ tax, which increased the tax on ‘‘ready-to-drink’’ (RTD) and pre-mixed alcohol by 69per cent, because it was a blanket increase, he said.  

Newcastle Entertainment Precinct spokesman Russell Richardson, who owns both Fanny’s and the King Street Hotel, said the 2008 licensing conditions meant venues were banned from selling RTDs with an alcohol volume greater than 5per cent, while bottle shops continued to provide higher volume drinks for a fractional price. 

‘‘I’m not saying they are responsible because people have to be responsible for themselves but bottle shops need to be held accountable for some of the alcohol-related harm that is occurring in Newcastle,’’ Mr Richardson said.

A spokesman for one of Australia’s major wholesale alcohol suppliers, Woolworths Liquor Group, which owns bottle shop chains Dan Murphy’s and BWS among others, said it was: ‘‘committed to the responsible supply of alcohol in all communities in which we operate’’.

‘‘We continue to work closely with the government and the community and we are constantly working to ensure that the product range in our stores remain appropriate,’’ the spokesman said. 

National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund board chairman Superintendent Tony Cooke said alcohol-related violence in Australia remained at ‘‘unacceptable levels’’. 


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