State government continue to mull over minimum alcohol price

The WA Alcohol and Youth Action Coalition are continuing to push the State Government to introduce a minimum floor price for alcohol. Photo: Shutterstock.
The WA Alcohol and Youth Action Coalition are continuing to push the State Government to introduce a minimum floor price for alcohol. Photo: Shutterstock.

Pressure is mounting again on the WA state government to introduce a minimum floor price for alcohol.

A number of health experts and community organisations believe it is the best way to reduce heavy drinking among young people and curb alcohol-related harm.

What is a floor price?

A floor price would set a minimum dollar amount per standard drink below which alcohol cannot be sold.

The measure would prevent alcohol retailers from selling bargain-basement booze.

Health experts have suggested an appropriate threshold price may be between $1.00 and $1.50 per standard drink, indexed to changes in WA income levels over time.

They agree that a decision on the most fitting figure must consider local data including income levels and alcohol purchasing and consumption patterns.

The minimum pricing would be applied to alcohol sales from both off-premise retailers like bottle shops and on-premise venues including clubs, bars and restaurants.

However most on-premise venues already sell alcoholic beverages well above a floor price drink.

The effect of a minimum floor price of $1.25 on prices of commonly purchased alcohol products from Dan Murphy's.

The effect of a minimum floor price of $1.25 on prices of commonly purchased alcohol products from Dan Murphy's.

The idea was first flagged by Health Minister Roger Cook in September 2017 to stop retailers selling discounted alcohol to binge drinkers, especially among young people.

Politicians skipped over the issue in February during liquor reform talks, with no mention or consideration of the controversial measure.

The issue was then discussed as a key recommendation put forward by health experts at the WA Preventive Health Summit in March.

Since then, the government has been very quiet.

But with the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol in the Northern Territory earlier this month, comes a renewed push for WA to follow suit.

After years of advocacy, the NT is the first Australian jurisdiction to implement a floor price with a minimum floor of $1.30 per standard drink now in effect.

Minimum alcohol pricing would bring the greatest benefit to those in the community who are struggling to limit their alcohol intake, and who are experiencing higher rates of illness because of it.

PHAA chief executive officer Terry Slavin

Seventy health and community organisations that form the Western Australia Alcohol and Youth Action  Coalition are urging the state government to implement the “important public health initiative”.

The Coalition recently released a report outlining how minimum floor pricing would reduce alcohol harms in the community.

The report included alarming statistics on drinking rates among young people in WA.

  • In 2016, risky drinking rates were higher in WA than the rates Australia wide.
  • In 2016, the proportion of binge drinkers in WA was highest among people in their 20s.
  • In 2015, there were 565 alcohol-attributed deaths among people aged 15 and above.
  • In 2014, 30 per cent of those 12-17 year-old WA students who drank alcohol in the past week drank at levels that exceeded the adult drinking guidelines.
  • In 2012-2013, WA males aged 20-29 years were hospitalised at a rate more than triple the national average.
There are more alcohol-related emergency department presentations in WA than the rest of Australia.

There are more alcohol-related emergency department presentations in WA than the rest of Australia.

The Public Health Association Australia (PHAA) joined the Coalition to try and make progress towards reducing health inequities.

Excessive alcohol consumption is the source of significant health and social harms, particularly among young West Australians.

Excessive alcohol consumption is the source of significant health and social harms, particularly among young West Australians.

PHAA chief executive officer Terry Slevin said cheap alcohol comes at a cost.

“West Australians experience concerning levels of harm from their own and others’ drinking,” he said.

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

Cheap alcohol has never been more available and at such cheap prices, with some wine products now sold for as little as 24 cents per standard drink.

Mr Slevin said a major benefit of the minimum alcohol pricing would be a reduction in alcohol-related harm from high-risk groups.

“Minimum pricing only affects the prices of the cheapest alcohol products which are favoured by heavier drinkers and therefore targets the heaviest drinkers across all income groups, while having limited impact on moderate drinkers,” he said.

“Minimum alcohol pricing would bring the greatest benefit to those in the community who are struggling to limit their alcohol intake, and who are experiencing higher rates of illness because of it.

“We need to be much more proactive in tackling high levels of drinking in Australia, and that starts with the availability (and marketing) of alcohol in the community.”

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The report suggests that the community is in strong support of the initiative with 58 per cent of WA adults backing the government preventing the sale of excessively cheap alcohol.

Overseas, Canada, Scotland and some Eastern European countries have already implemented minimum alcohol prices.

Since the 1990s, Canada have experienced reduced drinking, traffic offences, alcohol-related violence, hospital admissions and deaths.

To read the full report from the WA Alcohol and Youth Action Coalition, visit the wesbite.

The Mandurah Mail team will continue to develop this controversial issue with further investigation in the upcoming weeks.

What are your thoughts on implementing a minimum floor price for alcohol in WA? To share your opinion get in touch with the Mandurah Mail team via editor.mandurahmail@fairfaxmedia.com.