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The Labour party is looking to toughen up the New Zealand Government’s proposed Alcohol Law Reform Bill by introducing amendments including a minimum price and more power for local government to make licensing decisions.
However, Prime Minister John Key has announced he does not believe that minimum pricing will affect people’s drinking habits.
This comment concerns activist group, Alcohol Action NZ, with Professor Jennie Connor, medical spokesperson for Alcohol Action NZ, wondering where Key is getting his information from, especially since “A recent Canadian study has shown that a 10% increase in the minimum price of alcohol reduces its consumption by 16% relative to other drinks.”
Professor Connor suggests that the most effective option to deter binge drinking or ‘pre-loading’ is to combine a minimum unit price with tax increases on alcohol products.
Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Charles Chauvel agrees. “As a community, we need to get real about what encourages people to binge drink. We know that just like tobacco, the price of alcohol is a big influence on how often and how much we drink.”
However, ACT party leader John Banks disagrees, saying the reform punishes responsible drinkers rather than targeting the problem.
“Under Labour’s policy, buying a relatively cheap bottle of wine to go with dinner would be a thing of the past.”
Banks is aloso concerned about where the extra money from price increases would end up; “because a minimum price is not a tax, all the additional revenue from a price increase will flow straight out of consumers’ pockets, into the hands of liquor companies and retailers.”
Mr Banks also suggests that price hikes will not affect problem drinkers as they are usually not responsive to those kinds of measures.
“A minimum price on alcohol will penalise responsible drinkers and is a policy that should be dismissed,” Mr Banks said.
The proposed price increase may also be accompanied by a change in the age of purchase as the Government looks at a split age system. The age of purchase at an on-licence (bar, pub or club) will stay at 18 years while the age of purchase from a bottle store or supermarket will rise to 20 years.
The Alcohol Law Reform Bill had its first reading in November of 2010 and second reading in September of 2011, with Labour’s Supplementary Order Paper released in April 2012.
The bill faces a parliamentary debate to finalize the details and then a third reading before it can become law. Many drug and alcohol activism and community groups are supporting this move, which could reduce alcohol abuse and the ‘binge-drinking’ culture in New Zealand.