Minimum price for alcohol: What does Mandurah think?

Heather and John Carthew and Hunter Perry were both concerned about the idea of a minimum floor price for alcohol, but did believe it could have its benefits. Photos: Kaylee Meerton.
Heather and John Carthew and Hunter Perry were both concerned about the idea of a minimum floor price for alcohol, but did believe it could have its benefits. Photos: Kaylee Meerton.

Pressure has been mounting on the WA state government for much of this year 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.

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

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.

But with the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol in the Northern Territory in October came a renewed push for WA to follow suit.

The Mandurah Mail has recently been reporting on the issue, exploring the benefits and disadvantages to a variety of community sectors.

A number of health experts believe it is 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 fair 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.”

Australian Medical Association Western Australia (AMA WA) president Dr Omar Khorshid echoed the comments.

“We know the harm that really cheap grog has on our society,” he said.

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

“There are more alcohol-related emergency department presentations in WA than the rest of Australia, something that our doctors and nurses see every day.”

The health experts also agreed that 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,” Dr Khorshid said.

However those in the 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 (PCCI) 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,” Mr McKerrell 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.

“This would drastically raise the chances of anti-social behaviour due to increased consumption or worse, turning to alternate illicit substances.”

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A UK professor also weighed in on the issue during a recent Perth conference about implementing a minimum floor price.

Dr John Holmes suggested there were still many unanswered questions with regards to the research.

“We don’t know a lot about how producers and retailers will respond,” Dr Holmes said.

“We don’t know what retailers are going to do with this windfall of extra revenue – there is fear that they might spend it on additional marketing activity.

“What will happen to products below the minimum price threshold – will they simply increase in price, will producers or retailers withdraw them from the market because they can’t sell them effectively anymore?”

The contentious issue isn’t expected to disappear anytime soon, especially as the silly season approaches.

So what does Mandurah think about the prospect of implementing a minimum floor price for alcohol?

We took to the streets to get your opinion on a minimum price for alcohol.

Heather and John Carthew believed the initiative could have its benefits, but said they did not agree with it.

“I can see both sides of it really but we don’t drink a lot so why should we be penalised?” Mrs Carthew said.

“I actually see why they want to do it but then I think people should be able to control themselves and take ownership of their behaviour.

“It sounds a bit harsh but it’s a hard one – I’ve seen a lot as a nurse.”

Mr Carthew agreed.

“Yes, alcohol kills people,” he said.

“But look at cigarettes, they increased the price of those and that hasn’t done much.

“Why should the actions of some impact everybody? People need to take their own responsibility.”

Hunter Perry said it could be advantageous, depending on how it was implemented.

“I’ve lived in a country where alcohol is really cheap and now I’ve come back here so to me it already seems expensive,” he said.

“I think it could be good but it would be about striking that balance and not getting ridiculously overpriced so people can’t afford it at all anymore.

“It’s a good idea in theory but it has a potential to go wrong if not monitored correctly.”

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.