NT Govt asked to lift cheap grog prices

Public health experts want to see alcohol pricing reform in the NT.
Public health experts want to see alcohol pricing reform in the NT.

Health experts want at least $1.50 charged for each drink of alcohol in the NT.

They want minimum prices charged for standard drinks to combat some of the worst alcohol abuse rates in the world.

An alcohol floor price would arm the NT with a strong shield against cheap booze, alcohol researchers say.

Cheap wine is selling today in Katherine for $9.

With eight standard drinks in a bottle of wine, each drink would cost $1.12.

The price could be even less for cheap spirits. 

“The NT Government should introduce a floor price on alcohol; a profound intervention that would reduce harm and save lives,” a Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education spokesman said. 

“Establishing a minimum unit price of $1.50 per standard drink would not only target cheap alcohol products, but also result in a dramatic reduction in alcohol attributable hospitalisations and deaths.”

Public health experts met with Health Minister Natasha Fyles yesterday to discuss the plan and to argue strongly for its introduction.

The Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education is a Canberra based health lobby.

A floor price would reduce consumption among the heaviest drinkers while limiting any impact on those drinking at moderate levels, FARE said.

With a limited impact on alcohol products already priced above the $1.50 per standard drink threshold, the policy is likely to be supported by retailers, on-license venues and producers of mid-range and premium products, the spokesman said. 

A new research paper, The price is right: Setting a floor price for alcohol in the Northern Territory, published FARE recommends alcohol pricing reform.

In the NT, alcohol is now almost twice as affordable as it was 20 years ago, with the Territory also recording dangerous per capita levels of alcohol consumption placing it among the top 10 drinking nations in the world.

“The results of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program published in March this year highlighted that in the Northern Territory, alcohol consumption in both capital city and regional locations is almost three times the national average,” the spokesman said. 

In turn, the Territory pays a high toll with the number of alcohol attributable deaths, approximately three times the national average and with alcohol involved in more than half of all assaults.

FARE chief executive Michael Thorn said the Gunner Government now has a rare opportunity to confront the impact alcohol has on all Territorians.

“The evidence from other parts of the world where governments have introduced an alcohol floor price is clear. This measure is a proven, effective and powerful intervention that will significantly reduce harm and save lives,” Mr Thorn said.

Mr Thorn said an alcohol floor price would arm the NT with a strong shield against cheap booze.

“In the absence of Commonwealth leadership to address once and for all a flawed alcohol tax regime that encourages the production and supply of cheap wine, the introduction of an alcohol floor price would finally provide a way for the Territory to stop the harm from cheap alcohol,” Mr Thorn said.

 Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory chair Donna Ah Chee, said an alcohol floor price would deliver benefits across the Territory.

“Not only will an alcohol floor price reduce crime, hospitalisations, and hospital emergency department presentations, but will also cut rates of family and domestic violence, increase the safety of women and children, reduce child neglect and improve the wellbeing of all Territorians,” Ms Ah Chee said.

Mr Thorn said an alcohol floor price is a win for moderate and heavy drinkers alike.

“An alcohol floor price really benefits all Territorians, by lowering rates of acute harm among heavy drinkers, by reducing the burden of chronic disease, and all without imposing a burden on moderate drinkers,” Mr Thorn said.