June 27, 2011
The Alice Springs Town Council will be writing to Coles, Woolworths and local IGA stores (now Lhere Artepe Enterprises Supermarkets) asking them to reverse their recently announced decision to set a minimum price for cheap bottled wine in their local outlets and to withdraw cask wine from sale.
The vote was five in favour, three against. The three included Mayor Damien Ryan who asked aldermen to allow the letter to go out under the CEO’s signature, rather than his. On protest from Alderman Samih Habib Bitar he accepted that he would sign the letter.
The motion was put by Ald Murray Stewart, seconded Ald Eli Melky. Alds Brendan Heenan, Liz Martin and Habib Bitar voted in favour. The Mayor was joined by Alds Jane Clark and John Rawnsley in voting against.
Ald Stewart described the move by the big retailers as “most unjust” for Alice Springs and as discriminatory, especially towards seniors and tourists, including grey nomads, traveling on a budget. He also raised the potential danger for Indigenous women of drunks armed with a bottle rather than a cask.
This concern was echoed by Ald Habib Bitar, who said the retailers will have “blood on their hands”.
Ald Stewart was dismayed that the move had come on the eve of the rollout of the NT Government’s latest alcohol reforms. He also accused “the corporates” of profiteering, with the increased profit on the sale of cheap wines going into their pockets and not towards community benefit, such as rehabilitation services for alcoholics.
Ald Clark said she could not support “the aspersions” cast on the motives of the corporates. She said they had been lobbied by organisations arguing for the public health benefit of a floor price and this could have been their motivation.
She noted that cask wines will still be available through some outlets, and said she would like to see how the reduced volume of sales, through the actions of the supermarket retailers, “pans out”.
Ald Rawnsley said it was “courageous” to put the motion up as it’s a “sensitive debate” but he disagreed with it. He said while the move could be seen as discriminatory, on the balance it might be constructive, just as Basics Card is seen to be by many. He sympathised however with the “angst” of pensioners.
Mayor Ryan said he couldn’t recall aldermen voicing concern over discrimination in relation to Basics Card. In his view the retailers were looking at the “triple bottom line” and taking responsibility for the impact of their products on the community.