Apr 302008

To my mind, allocating an excise on candied alcoholic drinks is a logical progression. Sure, it’s yet another tax boon to the federal government, ought to be something encompassed by the GST, as should all taxes on consumables. However, this article is nothing more than a baseless opportunistic beat-up.

As anyone who enjoys a glass of wine knows, a bottle of wine is almost always enjoyed in company, which means a supposed 8 standard drinks is halved or divided even further. In company, over dinner or on a sunny afternoon over nibbles, in my experience lasts maybe thirty minutes between three people. That’s 2.66 (recurring if you count sniffing the empty) drinks each. During an interview I heard on Radio National last weekend, it’s apparent that young female drinkers especially, drink these ready-to-drink ‘alcopops’, which rate at 5% alcohol by volume in Australia, with the expressed purpose of getting inebriated as quickly as possible for the least cost. That’s binge drinking. I’m yet to encounter anyone who drinks wine for pleasure to do so for the same purpose.
That’s not to say that bumping up the cost of these lollie drinks is going to deter those who really like them and drink them to excess for the buzz. Of course, there’s the other option, as yet to encounter an excise increase to forestall teenage lushes (let’s be honest and admit that it’s the generation Y types that Nanny is ostensibly out to get), and that’s to buy a bottle of the spirit of choice and a few cans of suitable soft drink or fruit juice. There’s home brewed beer, which can pack a real punch I can tell you, and home distilleries (that apparently are illegal, but still freely available) which will provide the ardent hobbyist with pure alcohol to be flavoured as they wish. Neither method is taxed in the same manner as the binge drinker’s supposedly favoured tipple, and neither they ought to be.
As a ‘boomer’, I’ve done my fair share of over-indulging in younger days, and frankly I don’t think I’ve been unduly harmed by doing so. Some of the memories are vague, but I’m still here and quite rational, thanks very much. Drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, driving fast cars and even eating junk food are all accepted, legal social mores. Parts of life in the modern world, even to the extent of being rights of passage in some cases. Being the grumpy old man that I am today, I have no time for Gen Y’ers who deliberately go out in public to make fools of themselves, however, in earlier life, I’ve probably done similar. If that’s their thing, then I say ‘enjoy’. Just don’t impinge on my space. There’s an old saw which says, “you drink, you get drunk, you fall down”. There’s another which says, “shit happens”.
Raising revenue from a perceived social problem won’t resolve that problem. Is binge drinking a problem? Personally, I don’t think so. Is taxing a legally available and socially acceptable consumable really going to resolve a social problem? Maybe, but as I’ve already outlined, there are other avenues for the truly determined. In fact, there are always other avenues. I’m a smoker. Not a heavy smoker, maybe three or four a day, but I continue to smoke because I enjoy the experience, and besides, I’m an adult. If I choose to to smoke, I will and no legislative impost will stop me. I dare say the very same mentality will apply on behalf of those who enjoy ‘alcopops’. Problem solved, Nanny?

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