Heavy drinkers don’t feature in booze study

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By ERWIN CHLANDA

A report states it is “debunking” alcohol industry claims that the minimum price for alcohol is penalising all drinkers, saying moderate tipplers are spending just $3.07 more a year, a “less than one percent increase”.

But the report by the Curtin University’s National Drug Research Institute is silent about any decrease of consumption by the problem drinkers, who are causing much of the current social mayhem in Alice Springs.

Information about that would be a useful gauge of the increasingly irritating restrictions of alcohol trading hours, and amounts that can be bought per person per day, and of the spending of public money by the government for protecting the alcohol merchants’ property and stock and the government’s other numerous initiatives.

These included the “Alcohol Secure and Safety program”, providing financial assistance to liquor licensees “for worker safety and securing their products”, according to Chief Minister Natasha Fyles, with the government paying three-quarters of the cost under the $9m program.

Under the program products include “CCTV, security screens, roller shutters, lighting and smoke cloak distraction systems”.

Eligible businesses can access a maximum of $15,000 on a 25:75 co-contribution basis.

“This means businesses only have to contribute 25% of the total cost of approved works,” says Ms Fyles.

Meanwhile, under the “floor price” mandated in October 2018 the standard drink (10g of pure alcohol) must cost no less than $1.30.

Nic Taylor, who headed up the research, says the study regards two standard drinks a day and not more than 10 a week as the recommended guideline.

That’s 520 standard drinks in 12 months. Dr Taylor came across a few revellers who put away 7300 standard drinks in that period.

The study is likely to be a bit skewed “because heavy drinkers are hard to get hold of on the phone”.

A 15-minute phone survey was conducted by Roy Morgan Research using a combination of Random Digit Dialling methods (for landline telephones) and random selection of mobile phone numbers from existing lists of NT numbers kept by Roy Morgan.

The study contacted 1000 people. Participants who preferred cask wine were excluded from the study “as the MUP [Minimum Unit Price] directly targeted cask wine consumption and the aim of the study was to examine individuals not directly targeted by the MUP,” according to the study’s website.

(Alcohol in containers larger than two litres has been banned from sale in central Australia. That of course has taken care of much of the cheap plonk. One person can now only buy one of the following each day: spirits, two litre cask wine or one bottle of fortified wine. It’s worth noting that government information pages are unhelpfully incomplete about the restrictions on purchases, including pages linked from tourism sites.)

Says Dr Taylor: “Within Australia, alcohol use and related harms are disproportionately experienced in the NT, with social costs in the NT estimated to be $1.4 billion annually.”

Excluding people targeted by the MUP of course means the study does not deal with the cohort that is likely to be responsible for most of the crime and anti-social behaviour in town. The research tells us nothing about them.

The study also eliminated teetotallers resulting in a final sample of 766 respondents, 62% consuming less than the 520 standard drinks a year.

The impact of MUP on that cohort was the aim of the study although they don’t rate a mention in the public and hysterical national media debate about Alice Springs.

Chief Minister Fyles says her government is seeking to curb alcohol-related harm “from risk-based licensing to the Banned Drinkers Register, from the minimum floor price to our Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors, and with record funding for alcohol treatment services and domestic, family and sexual violence, we continue to invest heavily in this space.”

Minister for Business Paul Kirby says Alcohol Secure will help licensed premises to “secure their liquor stock against theft and damage”.

PHOTO provided by the NT Government to promote the Alcohol Secure and Safety program. The graph is part of the report which is published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

3 COMMENTS

  1. The study discussed in this article was designed to find out whether the floor price has made alcohol less affordable for Territorians. It found that most of us are not affected by the floor price.
    However the floor price has impacted heavy and dangerous drinkers, so they may now be drinking less.
    The research was conducted in 2019, across NT, well before this year’s focus of media attention on Alice Springs.
    Without the floor price the current situation may be even worse than it is, but new research would be needed to investigate this possibility.
    Check out the study here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1326020023046307?via%3Dihub

  2. Sorry, I totally disagree with the comments of @Rosalie Schultz, mainly because of what I have witnessed on the black market with some of our Indigenous charging other Indigenous $200 for a bottle of Bundy Rum.
    A card game can raise $30,000+ in one sitting. The price makes no difference at all.

  3. @ Sandy: They are not “our Indigenous”.
    I think you refer to people, and I would suggest a more respectful term that reflects you are commenting upon your observation on the habits of human beings could be “Aboriginal people”.

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