* Senator ready to vote down alcopops tax
* Government may have to refund millions
* Conflicting evidence of effectiveness
THE risk that the Federal Government will have to refund hundreds of millions of dollars from its alcopops tax hike escalated dramatically yesterday after the sole Senate crossbencher to back the measure withdrew his support.
Family First senator Steve Fielding attached new conditions to his vote on Labor’s decision to increase the excise on alcopops by 70 per cent last April.
“Last year, I indicated I would support this tax because the economic crisis was starting to bite and I wanted to help shore up our economy,” Senator Fielding said.
“But I can’t be blind to what this tax is failing to do.
“I cannot give this Government an open-ended ‘yes’ to this tax when our society is grappling with the problem of binge drinking and the Government turns it back.”
Family First will pass an alcopops Bill only if it includes a sunset clause allowing the tax to be wound up in another six months if the Government fails to tackle alcohol abuse, The Australian reports.
Senator Fielding announced his latest position on the tax after the spirits industry circulated a damaging report suggesting the tax hike had done nothing to curb risky drinking among the young.
The Access Economics report found hospital treatment rates for alcohol-related harm among 12- to 24-year-olds in May and June last year were higher than in previous years.
“If anything, hospitalisation rates of young people due to acute intoxication and harmful use of alcohol worsened in the months following the Government’s tax increase on ready-to-drink products,” report author Lynne Pezzullo said.
She said the analysis showed young people who moved away from premixed drinks, such as vodka and lemonade or rum and Coke, to other alcohol could end up buying more standard drinks for $20 than before they switched.
But Health Minister Nicola Roxon slammed the industry-sponsored report, saying more reputable studies showed alcohol-related hospital admissions rose rapidly after alcopops were exempted from the full-strength spirits excise rate in 2000.
“This shameful attempt at manipulation is as dodgy as a three-day-old kebab,” she said.
Meanwhile the Coalition says if the tax is voted down the money should not be refunded but used elsewhere to address binge drinking.
“If the Bill doesn’t pass … then we will be calling on the Government not to remit that tax back to the industry,” Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton told Sky News.
Instead, it should be spent on education, diversion and rehabilitation programs for young people.
“We can do it with that money.”
To read more go to The Australian
Posted by: euzoia | February 25, 2009
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