Alcohol-related harm playing second fiddle to supermarkets: Greens

Coles, Woolworths and the liquor retailers' lobby group were allowed to weaken the guidelines for alcohol promotion, NSW government documents obtained by the Greens reveal.

Greens NSW MP John Kaye said the alcohol industry was allowed more than 12 months to evaluate the Liquor Promotion Guidelines, public health groups and the community weren't afforded the same opportunity.

"Successive drafts were substantially weakened to suit the commercial interests of the bottle shop owners and, in particular, Coles and Woolworths," Kaye said.

The NSW government's Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing initially proposed a ban on alcohol promotions involving discounts of more than 50 percent off the 'normal retail price', but Kaye says the supermarket duopoly and the Liquor Store Association had this axed and replaced with the less restrictive requirement that harm minimisation measures to be applied to such promotions.

"The LSA and Woolworths argued that the purchase of larger quantities of alcohol as a result of a price discount does not lead to greater consumption. Relying on an analogy to breakfast cereal and toilet paper, the industry effectively denied that alcohol has addictive and habit-forming properties and delivers a pleasure reward that encourages abuse," he said.

"Lobbying by the liquor stores also achieved a general escape clause to be inserted at a number of key locations in the document."

Coles' claims that it wasn't aware of evidence linking price and promotion to alcohol-related harm went unnoticed, the Greens added.

"The Liquor Store Association got away with suggesting that because cut-price toilet paper does not lead to dangerous overuse, discounting alcohol would not result in excessive or rapid consumption.

"The O'Farrell government's behind-closed-doors process was biased by the exclusive access given to the industry. Lobbying by Coles, Woolworths and the Liquor Stores Association has  produced outcomes that maximise their opportunities to sell more of their goods while ignoring the evidence of the relationship between alcohol discounting and promotions and dangerous consumption," Kaye said.

He then requested that the minister for Tourism Major Events Hospitality and Racing, George Souris, go back to the August 2012 guidelines and allow them to be open to public consultation.

"The latest draft of the Guidelines are a testament to the political power of the retailers and in particular Coles and Woolworths. Reducing alcohol-related harms plays second fiddle to the supermarket chains in premier Barry O'Farrell's NSW," Kaye said.


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