Alcohol floor price may breach Australian Constitution


2588 cask wine 3By ERWIN CHLANDA
The grey nomad trade in wine casks “will go completely” as a result of the alcohol floor price introduced in the NT last week, according to Winemakers Federation of Australia CE Tony Battaglene.
He says although the cost shift appears to possibly breach the Australian Constitution, his organisation will support the NT Government because of its “special problems” around alcohol.
“We are supporting the NT government in developing good methodology to assess its effectiveness,” says Mr Battaglene.
“We would hate to see other states bringing in a measure that is not only illegal but doesn’t work.”
2588 cask wine 2He says two litre casks, popular with travelling seniors, a mainstay of the tourism industry in The Centre, will go up from $16 to $28.
Enquiries in Port Augusta by the Alice Springs News Online reveal that four-litre casks are available for $18. They would cost $62 in the Territory at the now mandated price of $1.30 per standard drink.
This is a more than three-fold increase.
Four litres wine casks are advertised online for a little as $9 each – one-seventh of what they would cost in the NT.
Section 92 of the Australian Constitution, under the heading “Trade within the Commonwealth to be free” says: “Trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.”
Mr Battaglene, although being aware that the floor price may be “problematic” under the Constitution, says at this time the Federation is taking no legal action.
2588 cask wine 1He says mail-order suppliers are now required by the NT Government to obtain a permit and to adhere to the new floor price.
“They claim to have the ability of controlling and enforcing the regulation, although it is not clear how,” says Mr Battaglene.
We are seeking comment from Chief Minister Michael Gunner.


  1. The port yellow label disappeared of the shelves. This was supposed to fix the drinking problems.
    Flagons followed. More drinking problems.
    Intervention followed with the basic card: More drinking problems.
    Restrictions and regulations with supply hours: More drinking problems.
    Not so long ago, Aborigines could not drink alcohol. Soon nobody will be able to do so.
    I have a question: If Alice is a restricted area could interstate travelers can have their vehicles taken by the police if they carry alcohol?
    Would signs be erected on the Stuart highway to give warning?

  2. No more cheap wine for cooking, therefore bye bye to a lot of good recipes!
    Why the early harvest wine is not exempt from the mandated price of $1.30 per standard drink as it has less alcohol?
    Can we still buy Christmas gourmet wine hamper online? Would online shops will have to advertise two prices: one for Australia, one for NT? This will not be good advertising for NT.
    Oversea Amazon online has abandoned us because of the Australian demands: I cannot any longer buy French books, DVD music as there is no supplier in Australia.
    Australia the land of the free? This is a joke.

  3. I agree Evelyne, it seems every time the government come up with a plan to “help” The Alice it falls flat with no result.
    What they don’t understand is when people are addicted to a substance they will find a way to get it.
    Increasing the price won’t stop problem drinkers it will just mean more crime to make up the difference in their cost.

  4. Reading Evelyne’s and James’s comments reminds me of a high school teacher I knew who used to say: “It’s easier to criticise ideas than to come up with one of your own,” or words to that effect.
    Come on, guys. Tell us how you would solve the problem.

  5. Dominico, I agree with your teacher: “Criticism is easy, and art is difficult.”
    It is a philosophy I had adopted and used in my family and work life: Do not come to me with a complaint unless you come with a remedy.
    The government has ideas based on collective responsibility, by which individuals who are part of such collectives to be responsible for other people’s actions which leads to collective punishment.
    For me the notion of collective culpability seems to deny individual moral responsibility and free choices.
    If adults want to kill themselves with alcohol and other drugs I will respect their wish. Why spending energy and money to save people who do not want to be saved?
    Money, time and energy should be spend protecting innocents and not punish them.
    My solution: Instead of dry areas and rehabilitation centers built a camp for addicts, where home deliveries will satisfy their needs until they run out of money, drop dead or want to change their ways.
    Security should keep them in, and prevent visitors. I can hear the uproar, but no, I am not a Nazi, but like Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote, I will say to them: “I disapprove of your lifestyle, but I will defend to the death your right to live it.”

  6. The fact that no action is being taken by the Winemakers Federation, preferring instead to work with the NT Government; that there have been no casks larger than two litres in the NT for several years and in Alice Springs for several more, because they are banned, we should be encouraged by their example, along with other retailers who have shown similar intent.
    Tourist tipple and alcohol problems in the NT are interrelated. In a recent post, I pointed out the illogic of sacrificing current levels of visible alcohol-related harm to the tourist economy, which will only cause further decline.
    The Mandatory Treatment Act (2013), since repealed, highlighted how harmful and disempowering alcohol restrictions can be, particularly where Indigenous communities have not been involved in their development.
    While Steve Brown appears to consider it a “do gooder” issue and appeals for ice containment, he ignores the need for alcohol supply restriction in the general community, a product, it could be argued, of laissez faire capitalism over 50 years, culminating in corner stores trading in takeaway alcohol seven days a week.
    Mr Brown compounds his approach by wishing that crystal methamphetamine (ice) was not a problem, allegedly within Indigenous communities.
    It would be better if he, and others of a similar opinion, evinced the same desire for alcohol management through community coalitions backed by government regulation or government‐initiated community partnerships, which according to a recent article in the Australian and New Zealand Public Health Journal, “have been successful in harnessing local knowledge and Indigenous social systems to curb the unintended impacts of alcohol regulation”.
    The article revealed that improved health and social outcomes, for example, by tethering demand reduction programs to supply restrictions had been achieved.
    Outrage over the disempowerment of Grey Nomads to purchase a cask of cheap wine, while the harmful use of alcohol among Territorians continues at levels in excess of the national average, ignores the possibility of a community-led solution, even when governments repeal poorly consulted legislation such as the MTA.
    In the mid-1980s, Territorians died from being stabbed by glass flagons. Casks were introduced by governments working with the winemakers and less harm eventuated.
    It didn’t curtail harmful levels of consumption, nor the granting of takeaway licenses, but the NT Government, acting on recommendations from Justice Riley’s Report, is facing up to the cost of those unacceptable levels and investigating ways of working with the underlying cultural problems.
    Learning from history on which evidence-based legislation like soft packaging and a demand reduction floor price is based seems more appropriate than sticking one’s head in the sand.

  7. Alcohol related problems are not race related. All races are affected.
    Can someone tell me what proportion of my taxes have to be spent on alcohol related problems?
    So put up the prices and let all consumers of alcohol pay for the problems. Medical and social.
    Let’s use are taxes to advance our society not to patch up society.

  8. Who gets the extra money involved?
    [ED – The bottle shops, according to a spokesman for the Attorney General. Cheers, Erwin Chlanda, Editor.]

  9. Maybe with the extra income the bottle shops can pay for their own security and the police can get back to more important duties, save the tax payer dollars.

  10. Interesting observation Erwin. I normally drink XXX Summer bright and before this silly floor price came in, picked it up for about $46 per carton of 24 stubbies, preferring not to pay the RRP of $55 – $56.
    I bought a carton on Sunday night after work and was shocked when I was told that it had gone up to $62. (Gapview). I then settled on a similar alcohol content beer of Iron Jack, which is usually on sale for about $48, that has gone up to $52.
    I was led to believe that beer was not the drink of choice for the alcoholics around town, and there would be virtually no difference to a carton of beer.
    An increase from $55 to $62 (RRP) 11% is not exactly a negligible increase.
    I will need to see what it gets discounted to, so as to get an accurate difference in the discounted rate.
    Many social drinkers who did not drink the cheap stuff were probably happy to give it a go if it made a difference, but like reduction in trading hours, showing of ID, a ban on longnecks and all the other restrictions, this idea probably has bugger all chance of working.
    Maybe having to show a current payslip might solve the issue, but once again that will affect the tourists, and the pensioners and anybody else that can drink responsibly.
    Unfortunately with the price of alcohol, speed and ice may become the drug of choice.
    Easy to get, cheap to buy, and made with instructions freely available on the net.
    Evelyn, I was told by a workmate yesterday that a workmate has had his wine club membership cancelled because their prices would not comply with these new laws.
    Seems the Alice and NT may well lose more normal, hard working, responsible people who contribute to society, leaving to live in any other state where life can continue at normal levels, without everybody being punished for the actions of the few, by a government beholden to the loony left whose grip on the trees is becoming tighter every day.

  11. @ Russel Guy: The extra money does not go to help alcoholics, but put more in the coffers of bottle shops. [ED – The bottle shops, according to a spokesman for the Attorney General. Cheers, Erwin Chlanda, Editor.]
    It was the same for down sizing the casks form four litres to two litres, because 2l + 2l may be = 4l but they are more expensive.
    @ Local1: Ourcellar had no membership, I talked with them and was told to do my order by phone and I will receive my wine. I did it and am waiting. Paul (the agent) told me he was not aware of “mail-order suppliers are now required by the NT Government to obtain a permit and to adhere to the new floor price”.
    OurCellar delivers to all parts of Australia except the following restricted dry zone postcodes: 4605, 4713, 4816, 4825, 4830, 4871, 4874, 4876, 4895.
    I suppose my delivery will come from Darwin. Wait and see.

  12. This is rather heavy handed market manipulation typical of a Bernie Sanders-esque Government style (read; big government, non capitalist, high taxing, no personal responsibility and therefore no true personal liberty).
    It was foolish to assume that lower strength products would not be impacted. What is likely to have occurred is that this policy has widened the price gap between certain products. This then allows the relatively cheaper products to be pushed up in price whilst still maintaining their entry level price point.
    Imagine if all car yards were Government regulated to only sell Ferraris, Bentleys and Toyota Corollas – you can bet your bottom dollar that this would inflate the cost of Corollas.
    Regarding the bottle shops now having extra money to fund security to undertake the somewhat dubious legal and racially charged (though successful) work of the police auxiliaries – Why?
    They are merely selling a legal product. Looking at the demographics that the police auxiliaries’ target: Being an extremely low socioeconomic group, it is apparent they are mostly trying to prevent tax payer funded welfare dollars being spent on grog.
    Don’t make the private sector fix the public sectors mistakes.

  13. To the horrible people at PAAC I hope you are now satisfied you have denied the grey nomads their little pleasure of two litre wine casks and the occasional slab of beer.
    It won’t make one iota of difference to the problem drinkers. They will just beg, borrow, steal the extra money and still keep drinking.
    Shame on the NT Government listening to you!

  14. It is a source of continuing amazement that any attempt to rein in our use of alcohol is met with obstruction and derision.

  15. Hal, substitute the word “any attempt” for “every attempt” and you may get a clearer understanding of people’s concerns.
    This is not a one off. Showing ID, banning longnecks, banning casks, the silly one asking where you intended to drink, police outside bottle shops, restricted trading hours.
    The problem is every solution affects everybody, yet the core group still drink, steal, bash and humbug. Unfortunately what is the answer? This is always the question.

  16. Because of varying excise and taxation rates for different alcohol products (with the wine lobby spectacularly standing over successive governments), cask wine is taxed at a much lower rate than beer (one report said 5c per standard drink compared to 39c for beer).
    Who thinks it is a good idea that beer drinkers subsidise cask wine drinkers?
    The Northern Territory Government’s floor price (recommended by an expert committee after extensive public consultation) tries to rectify that absurdity. The Australian Government abdicated its responsibility by ignoring the same recommendation by the Henry Review into Australia’s Future Tax System.
    Any increase in the price of products beyond that scope is clearly gouging by the retailers.
    Every measure to minimise the destruction alcohol is causing in the Northern Territory should be welcomed by all.

  17. I have been working in Arnhemland this year and regularly fly in small aircraft to remote locations. The story the charter pilots tell of flying single cartons of beer and a pack of smokes to remote communities is mind-boggling!
    Sometimes its a bottle of rum or whatever the fancy of the day is. However the issue is what these people pay for such commodities. $800 for a pack of smokes and a carton is about the norm – and that doesn’t include the cost of the charter.
    So a government trying to manipulate alcohol pricing is complete pie in the sky. If you want something bad enough you will pay anything for it.
    Another thing the bureaucrats don’t understand is Indigenous culture.
    The rules are clearly white man informed. They affect white man’s ideology more than Indigenous. When you have a 40,000 year old culture of sharing everything, then it perfectly acceptable for 10 mates to chip in fifty bucks each to buy a bottle of rum!

  18. Re: Strikey, posted October 13, 2018 at 11:36 pm.
    “When you have a 40,000 year old culture of sharing everything, then it perfectly acceptable for 10 mates to chip in fifty bucks each to buy a bottle of rum!”
    Culture is not fixed.
    Culture is about acceptable behavior, sharing is part of every culture.
    Each culture applies measures which reflect their environment, each adapts to suit their environment, their physical and social survival.
    Culture is slow to change, yet each culture experiences ongoing change, ongoing adaptation.
    Failing to recognize, to understand, limitations and changes within each cultural group demonstrates ignorance or disrespect.
    Every generation re-writes what is culturally acceptable to them.

  19. I received my wines with no problems: Sydney / Melbourne / Adelaide / Alice Springs. Even with the freight it is cheaper than IGA next door.


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