Combatting a complex issue: Mandurah mayor on board with minimum alcohol floor price

Mandurah mayor Rhys Williams said he would support a minimum floor price for alcohol to be introduced across WA in an attempt to combat alcohol-related harm.

The Mandurah Mail last week reported a renewed push from the Western Australia Alcohol and Youth Action Coalition to implement the “important public health initiative” to reduce heavy drinking, particularly among young people.

The City of Mandurah are one of 70 health and community organisations that form part of the Coalition, after former mayor Marina Vergone threw her support behind the group in 2016. Mandurah are one of only two local governments involved.

While the City of Mandurah do not an official position on the issue, Mr Williams said he personally believed in and backed the floor price.

“Any mechanism to discourage young people from drinking excessive alcohol is worth being explored,” he said.

“There are too many people in our community and in particular too many young people who, for whatever reason in life, are becoming too reliant on alcohol.

“Generally I’m not supportive of levers that are about enforcement over behaviour but I think in this case it’s not going to have a big impact on people who are already making good decisions.”

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Mr Williams said alcohol in the community is an extremely complex issue, but something Mandurah has to address.

“Regional communities tend to have higher prevalence of these sorts of social complexities and that’s part of the challenge,” he said.

“It’s clear we have a culture in Australia that is focused on drinking in moderation, that’s just part of who we are.

“It’s an outlet for people who might not have that self-confidence. Particularly in young men, it’s also about coping with that masculine culture.”

The city originally joined the Coalition to be involved in strategies to reduce the preventable harm associated with alcohol and deal with “worrying statistics surrounding youth intoxication”.

In the same year, council implemented the Our Mandurah Community Youth Alcohol Strategy, which aims to reduce alcohol-related harm and the effects of alcohol misuse in young people aged 12-24 years in the Mandurah community.

The City of Mandurah's 'Our Mandurah Community Youth Alcohol Strategy'.

The City of Mandurah's 'Our Mandurah Community Youth Alcohol Strategy'.

“Council know there are pockets of our young people that are drinking regularly and we also know that ... the best way to help young people steer away from excessive alcohol habits is education,” Mr Williams said.

“We know that the best way to create a generation that makes good lifestyle choices is to empower them to make healthy lifestyle choices.

“Making sure that our young people are healthy and given every chance at a successful life is one of our biggest focus areas.”

The strategy has already seen a number of tangible results, including a 100 per cent success rate in the latest underage shopper test.

“Last time we did some work on this through the Liquor Accord, we sent around some young mystery shoppers and none of our venues sold them alcohol across Mandurah, not one,” Mr Williams said.

“When we first started that, it was a different story.”

The strategy will expire in 2019 but council is expected to prioritise the issue and review and adopt the next phase of the plan.

These are long-term issues so you’re not going to turn it around in Australian culture in two or four years.

Mandurah mayor Rhys Williams

Mandurah MP David Templeman said the state government would be keen for community discussion to continue on the issue.

“The minimum floor price was one of a number of recommendations to address alcohol harm emanating from the WA Preventive Health Summit held in February,” he said.

“The introduction of a minimum price on alcohol in Western Australia remains of interest because of its potential to prevent alcohol-related harm and reduce pressure on our health system.

“We are closely monitoring the Northern Territory Government's introduction of a minimum price on alcohol.”

Mr Williams said the process would be a long one to tackle alcohol abuse in Mandurah.

“We should be cautious of searching for a silver bullet because there isn’t really a silver bullet when it comes to really complex social issues,” he said.

“These are long-term issues so you’re not going to turn it around in Australian culture in two or four years.

“We ought to remember when we’re addressing these things that it’s not just about laws to stop people from drinking but it’s about helping people to be the best versions of themselves.”

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

To read more about the City of Mandurah’s current alcohol-related initiatives, visit the website.

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.