Alcohol is more affordable, more available and more heavily promoted than ever before. It is available around the clock, seven days a week, is promoted relentlessly and is as cheap as 35 cents per standard drink. This is concerning because the sale, promotion and availability of alcohol contributes to the excessive consumption of alcohol and its associated harms.
In June 2014, the Queensland Government released the Safe Night Out Strategy (the Strategy) in an effort to reduce alcohol-related violence in Queensland’s pubs, clubs and bars.
The Strategy has a focus on education campaigns, increased police powers and introducing ‘safe night precincts’. However the Strategy does not include measures proven to reduce alcohol harms, including reducing the availability of alcohol through trading hour and density controls. The Strategy also focuses predominantly on on-licence premises, in select parts of Queensland. The most effective measures to reduce alcohol harms are well known. These include addressing the price of alcohol, reducing the availability of alcohol, and restricting its advertising and promotion to reduce exposure, particularly to young people. The Queensland Government should introduce the most effective strategies available to reduce harm, and support effective strategies at the Commonwealth Government level. Queensland needs a comprehensive evidence-based plan for all Queenslanders that is based on the evidence of what works to reduce alcohol harms. This plan needs to look not just at on-licence premises such as pubs and clubs, but also off-licence premises such as packaged liquor outlets, where Australians purchase 80 per cent of their alcohol. The density of off-licence premises is particularly important given these contribute to violence including domestic violence, as well as long-term health harms.
QCAA has developed such a plan. It includes evidence-based solutions to reduce alcohol harms across Queensland. The plan acknowledges that no single approach will be effective in reducing alcohol harms and that a range of evidence-based strategies are needed to achieve the best possible outcomes. The overwhelming majority of Queenslanders believe that Australia has a problem with alcohol (78 per cent) and that more needs to be done to address alcohol harms (77 per cent). Despite this, they do not think that these problems will be addressed anytime soon, with 81 per cent believing that alcohol-related problems will worsen, or at best remain the same over the next five to ten years. Queenslanders also think that alcohol companies (69 per cent), clubs and pubs (68 per cent) and Governments (65 per cent) are not doing enough to address alcohol harms.
Queensland cannot continue to disregard the evidence. Queenslanders need a strategic approach to action on alcohol that incorporates the most effective strategies to reduce harm, rather than the scattergun approach that we have seen so far that employs the least effective strategies.
QCAA calls on an incoming Queensland Government to address the availability, price and promotion of alcohol through state based legislation and regulation. QCAA also calls on the Queensland Government to support policies at the Commonwealth Government level to reduce alcohol harms, including reforming alcohol taxation and introducing mandatory health warning labels on all alcohol products.