Coles takes lead against ultra-cheap wine


June 23, 2011
The fight against the availability of ultra-cheap wine in Alice Springs has had a win, with Coles Liquor announcing that its Alice store from July 1 will set a minimum price of $7.99 for bottled wine, including cleanskins, and will no longer sell two litre casks of wine.
The move will make the minimum price of their standard drink of wine $1.14. The store will continue to sell one litre casks of wine, targeted at the tourist market, for $15 ($2 per standard drink). Coles Liquor national promotions, including discounting wine by 25-30%, will no longer be available in Alice Springs.
The changes will be reviewed for possible introduction in other stores across Australia “where there are sensitive community issues to manage,” said Managing Director of Coles Liquor Ian McLeod
in a letter to the Chief Minister on June 20.
The Alice move comes in the wake of a flurry of national publicity around the local campaign for setting a floor price for alcoholic drinks, with $1.20 – currently the price of the cheapest full-strength beer –  proposed as the minimum price for a standard drink.
This would eliminate the ultra-cheap wines – cleanskins which have been selling for as little as $2 a bottle. Campaigners – chiefly the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition through their spokesperson Dr John Boffa – have argued that these wines have undermined the effectiveness of the current restrictions regime in Alice. Before they came onto the market during 2009, the existing regime was credited with an 18% drop in pure alcohol consumption, brought about by a 70% switch to beer and an 85% switch away from cheap wine.
Campaigners say that a floor price could help reinstate the preference for beer over wine. NT Minister for Alcohol Policy, Delia Lawrie, has dismissed the possibility of her government’s action on a floor price, sticking to the line that the problem lies with a minority. They will be targeted through the government’s Banned Drinkers Register, while “it is drinks as usual for the rest of us”, according to Ms Lawrie’s throwaway line.
Meanwhile, our cashed-up youth appear to be unaffected by price: with hard liquor their preference they enter the drinking culture with abandon, according to our young interviewee.
See also a backgrounder on alcohol and alcohol policy by Kieran Finnane published June 22 in the online journal  Inside Story.


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