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NT ALCOHOL POLICIES AND LEGISLATION REVIEW

VOLUNTARY LABELLING IS AN INDUSTRY RESPONSIBILITY

Just in case you thought that creeping regulation had gone away – consider this. While we recognise that the Northern Territory is a unique environment, it is hard to comprehend the recent NT Liquor Review where the current proposals will see licensed stores in the NT regulated out of existence in seven years under a recommendation of ‘phasing out of store licences to reduce the number of corner grocery stores that sell alcohol’. This would mean their weekly sales may be reduced by 30 per cent or more, as takeaway liquor may only be permitted to be sold from a standalone business in which the primary focus of the business is the sale of alcohol. There are 675 people directly employed in a total of 95 licensed packaged liquor stores (including licensed corner stores) in the NT, so this recommendation is of great concern to our members, their customers and their employees. It seems an odd goal for the NT Government to destroy small local businesses which underpin local shopping precincts. Regulation that may see their weekly sales reduced by those proportions, will mean many of these small local stores and potentially other businesses around them will not be viable to continue operating and serve the needs of their local communities. There is no evidence to support the claim that alcohol sold from licensed mixed businesses is any more harmful in the unique NT environment than standalone liquor stores or drive-through bottle shops attached to hotel licences. On the contrary, liquor is integrated with groceries in stores in many countries around the world and there is no evidence that this increases alcohol related harm. The merit or otherwise of a liquor outlet should be determined by the standard of operation of the licence, not by the licence type. Current businesses could comply with the proposed change by simply removing all the food and grocery items from their stores and increasing the available range of alcohol. How would this contribute to a reduction in harm? That would result in no reduction in availability as the same number of licences will remain, albeit in larger premises and if the government policy has its way, they will be entirely focused on selling alcohol beverages. No evidence has been produced to support this narrative and so far, the NT Government appears to be reluctant to work with the Liquor Stores Association of NT (LSA NT) to develop a cooperative approach in achieving their harm reduction goals. ALSA’s local members in the LSA NT, stand ready to assist with a government funded education campaign for members, their staff and their customers.

The positive trends in Australians’ alcohol consumption are a clear indication of increasing public awareness of the importance of drinking responsibly and in moderation. While the vast majority drink sensibly, certain groups do still require the support of programs that focus on education, awareness and changing their behaviour regarding alcohol. Labelling can play an important part in providing complementary messaging to this broader public health awareness. In Australia this occurs via voluntary industry initiatives to promote the healthy use of alcohol through labelling or point-of-sale advertising, with agreements reached between industry and government. To support this, DrinkWise has developed consumer information messages for alcohol labels to assist Australian consumers to better understand the facts about alcohol consumption. Incorporating these messages on alcohol labels talks directly to consumers. The messages encourage people to ‘Get the Facts’ from the DrinkWise website – where they can find evidencebased information about alcohol. In 2010, DrinkWise successfully developed consumer information messages for voluntary inclusion on alcohol labels to allow Australian consumers to better understand the facts around alcohol consumption. Similarly, producers have the option of adopting the issuespecific message ‘It is safest not to drink while pregnant’ or the ‘pregnant lady’ pictogram. A recent audit has shown 62 per cent of all alcohol products now carry a pregnancy health warning label, and when broken down between types of alcohol and price points, this is much higher. It’s also much higher when looking at products consumed by volume – particularly those sold through large retailers, with many segments at or close to, 100 per cent. The focus of DrinkWise and industry associations is now encouraging similar uptake by the smaller, independent and emerging craft operators, who often sell direct to consumers and are just starting out. Public awareness around drinking and pregnancy is encouragingly high, with 98 per cent of Australian women stopping or significantly reducing their drinking when they find out they are pregnant. However, there is a limit to which labelling and awareness can solve the complex problems around harmful consumption by pregnant women. Behavioural change must be gained through public health campaigns with the cooperation of industry, not through restrictions on businesses. Australian governments are currently discussing the labelling issue via the Council of Australian Governments process and the temperance activists are continuing to push for draconian interventions and regulation, like compulsory labelling with shocking graphic images and warnings. With this in mind we should encourage all new and emerging participants in our industry to do their bit to help maintain the current high awareness levels.

TERRY MOTT

FERGUS TAYLOR

CEO ALSA

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ABA

12 | MAY 2018 NATIONAL LIQUOR NEWS

National Liquor News May 2018  

NATIONAL LIQUOR NEWS prides itself on delivering Australia’s liquor industry the most relevant and accurate news across the trade. It includ...

National Liquor News May 2018  

NATIONAL LIQUOR NEWS prides itself on delivering Australia’s liquor industry the most relevant and accurate news across the trade. It includ...