What now for alcopop tax?

The parliamentary vote rejection has left a question mark over the $300 million already collected in alcopop taxes.

The future of the $300 million in tax revenue collected under the alcopops tax hike is in doubt, with the Distilled Spirits Industry Council says it is not interested in getting the money back.

The Government’s alcopops bill was ultimately rejected by the Senate last night after Family First Senator Steve Fielding refused to support the legislation.

The rejection cuts a total of $1.5 billion out of the Government’s budget over the next four years.

The Opposition has offered to vote so that the money already collected does not have to be given back to the distillers.

But Health Minister Nicola Roxon has rejected that, saying it is illogical to say the tax is OK for 12 months but not forever.

Distilled Spirits Industry Council spokesman, Stephen Riden, said the industry is not calling for a refund of the $300 million already collected by the Government since the Budget last year.

However, he said he is pleased with the outcome of the vote.

“We’re quite glad that a measure that was poorly conceived and was never going to work, yet was punitive towards our industry and based around frankly a lot of emotive argument, has been defeated,” he said.

The Government said consumption of alcopops will rise now that the Senate has rejected an increased tax.

According to Roxon, the Senate’s decision means the drinks will soon be much cheaper again.

“I fear that in just a few short weeks we will have the consumption rates back up where they were before this,” she said.

“Senator Fielding and the Liberals have just made these sweet lolly drinks cheaper for teenagers to buy.”

Senator Fielding has defended his decision to reject the bill and the anti-binge drinking measures it contained.

“The Rudd Government has hijacked the debate and turned binge drinking into a tax problem,” he said.

But Roxon has defended her decision not to give in to Senator Fielding’s demand that she ban alcohol ads during daytime sports broadcasts.

“I think that a decision to change advertising that affects the sporting industry, the broadcasting industry and many more should be one that should be taken properly and in a considered way and is a decision for Government not a decision for Senator Fielding,” she said.

The Opposition’s Peter Dutton said increasing the tax was not the answer to binge drinking.

“This was always about a tax grab dressed up as a health measure,” he said.

According to the Greens, $50 million of anti-binge drinking measures included in the bill cannot now go ahead.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said he is still hoping for a miracle on the alcopops tax increase, as the Senate will probably have to sit for an extra day tomorrow which means the alcopops bill could be voted on again.

“That’s what we’re here for, this is what happens at the end of the session and I’m just hoping we can get through this. I’m also hoping for a small political miracle with the alcopops tax,” he said.

— ABC News

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