Alcohol Beverages Australia has set the record straight on its involvement in the Federal Government’s National Alcohol Strategy.
It follows a report by ABC News that some state and territory ministers are “so concerned by the involvement of the alcohol industry in the new draft of the strategy, they are now refusing to endorse it”.
However, the ABA says it was invited to make a submission to the Department of Health on the National Alcohol Strategy as part of a wide consultation process.
A spokesperson noted: “ABA appreciates the opportunity to be involved, and we believe this is entirely reasonable given the economic contribution our industry makes to the Australian economy.
“We await the final version to be made public, along with everyone else and appreciate the opportunity to be involved.”
The ABA added that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), a federally funded agency, has released statistics on alcohol to show that consumption of alcohol in Australia continues to decline and are at a 50-year low.
The AIHW statistics also show that the proportion of people drinking in excess of lifetime and single occasion risk guidelines has been declining since 2010 and continues to decline.
“These statistics reflect the Government’s policies and the initiatives that the industry does to reduce harm – such as working with Drinkwise and other measures – are working,” the spokesperson said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is currently seeking to finalise the government’s National Alcohol Strategy.
When the draft strategy was released in December 2017 for public consultation, it did not include direct input from the alcohol industry.
However, when the industry complained about being excluded, Hunt invited representatives to a roundtable discussion in July 2018 with policy-makers and health experts.
According to the ABC, some ministers and health experts aren’t happy with the revised strategy, saying it is “significantly weaker”.
“I’m not sure why we need to see it watered down,” Western Australian Health Minister Roger Cook said. “Minister Hunt now needs to re-examine his conscience.”
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said industry inclusion in strategy governance “presents a commercial conflict of interest”.
She added that the changes had “significantly reduced the quality of the document”.
However, ABA Chair Bryan Fry said he thinks the alcohol industry should be involved in helping develop the National Alcohol Strategy.
“We believe that the second draft that sits at the moment that does have consultation in there is much stronger,” he concluded.