Fresh push for Western Australia to implement minimum alcohol price

Photo: Shutterstock.
Photo: Shutterstock.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) has renewed its push for state governments across Australia to introduce a minimum floor price for alcohol.

A floor price would set a minimum dollar amount per standard drink below which alcohol cannot be sold, preventing alcohol retailers from selling bargain-basement booze.

The Northern Territory introduced a minimum floor price in 2018 meaning a standard alcoholic drink can no longer be legally sold for under $1.30.

Since then, there have been significant reductions in alcohol-related assaults, ambulance attendances, emergency department presentations, road crashes and child protection notifications, according to an independent report released last month.

The report has prompted the ADF to renew their push for all Australian jurisdictions to follow the lead of the Northern Territory and introduce a minimum unit price on alcohol.

ADF chief executive Dr Erin Lalor said the new legislation, alongside other measures, was reducing harmful alcohol consumption like it intended to.

"The Northern Territory government has shown leadership in recognising the strong link between price, alcohol consumption and related harms such as accidents, injuries, violence and ill-health," she said.

"This responsible legislation has complemented other harm reduction initiatives in the Northern Territory and is helping to build a healthier and safer community.

"Implementing a range of evidence-based measures, including a minimum unit price on alcohol, would make a big difference in reducing harmful alcohol consumption and improving the health and safety of Australians."

The idea of a minimum floor price was first flagged in WA in 2017 by state Health Minister Roger Cook to stop retailers selling discounted alcohol to binge drinkers, especially among young people.

A spokesman for the Minister said it was still an important measure to consider in the effort to tackle alcohol abuse across the state and he was still keen for discussions to continue.

"The Minister continues to welcome discussion on a minimum floor price on alcohol, along with other strategies that could reduce the pressure that alcohol-related harm places on our communities, health system and other frontline services," he said.

"Results from around the world consistently show a minimum floor price on alcohol has reduced alcohol-related health issues and crime.

"Recent reports from the Northern Territory about lower rates of violence and other reductions in harms are very encouraging.

"We continue to monitor their progress with interest."

In 2018, the Mandurah Mail launched a series reporting on the issue, exploring the benefits and disadvantages to a variety of community sectors.

At the time, a number of health experts believed it was the best way to reduce heavy drinking among young people and curb alcohol-related harm.

Public Health Association Australia chief executive officer Terry Slevin said the positives would far outweigh the negatives.

"West Australians experience concerning levels of harm from their own and others' drinking," Mr Slevin said.

"Minimum pricing could be one of the most important steps forward in WA to prevent and reduce problems linked to heavy drinking."

Former Australian Medical Association Western Australia (AMA WA) president Dr Omar Khorshid said the initiative would only impact high-risk groups.

"This will have no impact on the vast majority of people who drink socially, but it will make a difference to the heaviest drinkers and teenagers - those who are most responsive to changes in price and have the greatest harms associated with binge drinking," he said.

However those in the local economic industry were not convinced a minimum floor price would be the best way to tackle the issue of alcohol-related abuse.

Peel Chamber of Commerce and Industry general manager Andrew McKerrell said the impact would be felt beyond the business sector.

"I don't agree in removing a business' ability to operate independently in a competitive market," he said.

"Implementing a minimum price floor would also further encourage those in our society who use alcohol as a drug, to consume liquor at home and 'load up' before venturing out into the community which would drastically raise the chances of anti-social behaviour."

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