Corporates write their own alcohol policy? John MintoPosted on August 27, 2012 by admin in Mana Blog
It’s an outrage.
If you ever wanted confirmation that government policy is made by politicians in closed-door meetings with corporate lobbyists rather than on the floor of parliament then the government decision to back down on regulating alcopops is proof positive.
This week Justice Minister Judith Collins caved in to the booze industry and decided not to regulate the most socially damaging alcohol products – alcopops or RTDs (ready to drink).
Instead the industry is to come up with its own voluntary code to regulate the size and strength of these sweet, high-strength drinks which are at the heart of the alcohol-abuse crisis gripping the country.
An astonishing 500,000 RTDs are sold every day in New Zealand. They are the drink of choice for teenagers and particularly teenage girls.
We see the results on the streets of our towns and cities every Friday and Saturday night.
Two years ago the Law Commission produced a report to government with recommendations to regulate and control the binge-drinking epidemic amongst young New Zealanders. In the media release issued with that report the Commission’s chair Geoffrey Palmer singled out RTDs in particular:
“A can of beer or an RTD can be bought for one or two dollars in many retail outlets. This is less than we pay for bottled water. One of the consequences of alcohol being promoted and sold at pocket-money prices is that we risk losing sight of its status as a legal drug, capable of causing serious harm to others.”
The government rejected the Commission’s proposed tax increase which would have pushed the price of RTDs up by 10%. Two years later the government appeared ready to at least regulate the strength of these drinks. Collins proposed setting a maximum alcohol content of 5% for RTDs to bring them closer to the alcohol level in beer rather than the up-to-8% level typically sold everywhere.
The industry reacted with loud complaints that this would be in breach of transtasman trade agreements. The government scoffed at the attack but then backed off the 5% and announced the alcohol level would be set at 6%. Still not good enough for the booze barons who secured a closed-door meeting with the Minister and got her agreement the industry would be allowed to set its own rules for the size and strength of these lethal products.
Lethal indeed as the number of young New Zealanders killed through alcohol poisoning, alcohol-related car crashes and violent incidents testify.
Can the industry be trusted to do the job itself?
The simple answer is no. Why would the industry enact proposals which would curb consumption and cut their profits?
There is already a voluntary code on alcohol advertising which is breached at will. For example the code says companies will not advertise sexual success alongside alcohol use. The industry claims advertising promoting the Tui girls don’t violate this code – yeah right!
And DB Breweries have already said they don’t trust their competitors to stick to any voluntary reduction in alcohol strength for RTDs.
With all this evidence of a cynical self-serving industry, happy to exploit young New Zealanders for profit the government is letting them loose to make the rules and referee the game themselves.
Crusher Collins may have the balls to pick on boy racers but she’s gone weak at the knees facing the booze barons.
Who knows what went on in the Minister’s office – was her backdown associated with threats of withdrawing funding from National at the next election? Or was it a nod and a wink for a bigger donation next time?
Either way young, vulnerable New Zealanders are the losers.