Complete Pisshead Reduction Scheme
Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-04-23
The government has completed an inquiry into the draft legislation for the CPRS (Complete Pisshead Reduction Scheme).
In a statement released today Penny Wrong lauded the scheme as the best way forward to decrease the harm from alcohol-fueled violence, relying on bidding between consumers for the rights to drink alcohol, despite many submissions to the inquiry that a simple alcohol tax would be easier to manage, more effective, and that the government’s targets were too little, too late.
"Alcohol, together with the costs of health impact on drinkers and their victims in car accidents and violence is a worldwide problem, and the Krudd government is committed to Australia leading the world in improving the situation. The scheme will allow us to meet our targets to reduce harm from alcohol by 2020 to 5% below levels in 2000, and will create a huge financial incentive for the necessary reduction in line with community demands. Obviously, this will mean difficulty for a number of industry sectors, so we’ll give them free allocations of alcohol permits to registered binge-drinkers to prevent destruction our alcohol and hospitality industries, who would otherwise lose customers."
Critics have said that as well as being a totally inadequate target, this does little to encourage individual drinkers to limit their consumption responsibly, and bingers that cause the biggest problems might actually drink more under the scheme. Many of these critics are saying that a simple tax on alcohol similar to the way the GST works would be better.
One criticised feature of the CPRS is the ability for drinkers to buy drinking permits from overseas, because there is no guarantee that the alcohol would have been drunk overseas anyway (permits in predominantly Moslem countries are cheap because most Moslems are forbidden to drink alcohol), and those cheap overseas permits actually encourage more drinking and harm within Australia. One opponent of the scheme who is in favor of a simple tax that increases dramatically over time depending on whether binge-drinking is curtailed or not says:
"The ability to trade alcohol permit with poor governance, the inability to check whether the alcohol would have been consumed in the first place, does absolutely nothing to help Australian society move towards one in which alcohol is treated responsibly. It certainly doesn’t reduce the amount of alcohol-induced ill-health and violence worldwide."
Professor Russ Gumnut, who produced a report proposing a CPRS at the government’s request, is similarly disappointed:
"I specifically argued that free distribution of permits would be almost useless, if not counterproductive, and that the 5% reduction target was simply inadequate. The scheme proposed by the government is fundamentally flawed. And who will be appointed to the Complete Pisshead Reduction Authority that monitors the scheme? Those experienced in the brewing and hospitality industries mainly, with only a token gesture to the desirability of expertise in health and sociological factors."
Industry spokespersons disagree, with a representative of the Australian Inebriation Profit Industries Association releasing the following statement:
"Like everyone else, we are concerned about this issue, and believe the government has put forward a package that avoids economic irresponsibility, and protects employment. Admittedly, the 5% target seems over-the-top, as we all know that happiness depends totally on per-capita consumption of alcohol. Nevertheless, we are very happy with the scheme.
Some members of the hospitality and beverages industry disagree:
"Some of us are trying to decrease our dependence on alcohol, by providing drinks with extremely low or zero alcohol content that still cater to adult tastes – ultralight beers and aerated fruit juice mixers for example, as well as increasing our revenue streams from provision of food by putting more seats and tables into our businesses rather than have large bars with standing room that simply encourage drinking. What employment losses there might be in low-skilled bar staff would be more than offset by more skilled employment either cooking or helping our customers choose the meals that suit both their tastes and health needs. It looks like this scheme is designed to suit the large conglomerates, and will make life difficult for boutique emerging companies that are developing alternatives to high-alcoholic content drinks."
Minister Wrong, in an interview aired on Lushline last night, made the following rebuttal to the scheme’s critics:
"This scheme is certainly a massive turnaround from the era of the previous government which was beholden to party donors from the alcohol industry. We are not do-nothings, and the scheme is the best balance possible. Those who want a greater reduction in the consequences of overconsumption of alcohol are irresponsible, want destruction of the hospitality industry and the traditional Australian way of life, because of their fundamentalist tee-totaller biases."