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Fed: Uncertain whether RTD tax hike has reduced binge drinking: inquiry

By Melissa Jenkins
16 Mar 2009 1:44 PM

CANBERRA, March 16 AAP - It is too soon to be certain whether a tax hike on alcopops has had any impact on binge-drinking, a parliamentary inquiry has found.

The government increased the excise on ready-to-drink (RTD) alcoholic beverages by 70 per cent last April, citing it as an important part of a suite of measures to tackle youth binge-drinking.

It needs to get supporting legislation through parliament by Thursday for the tax increase to stand, and is relying on the support of seven crossbench senators, as the opposition has vowed to vote against the measure.

A majority of senators on a Labor-dominated committee on Monday recommended the upper house pass the legislation, although the Australian Greens said the tax hike should only be approved as part of a more comprehensive approach to reducing alcohol-related harm.

Coalition members of the committee, in a dissenting report, opposed the measure.

The committee acknowledged it was too soon to be certain the measure had reduced teenage binge-drinking, but noted that as sales of alcopops had declined since the tax hike it was reasonable to assume consumption had also declined.

"... Although it was not possible to definitively conclude that this reduction in consumption had resulted in a reduction in levels of risky and high-risk consumption of RTDs by young women, leading to improved health outcomes," the committee's report said.

Coalition senators recommended the parliament validate the tax already collected so it would not be returned to distillers.

They recommended the revenue already collected be invested in an alcohol abuse prevention and education package.