Discussion paper

International evidence consistently points towards the physical, economic, social, and psychological availability of alcohol as important mediating variables in the prevalence of alcohol-related harm. Commentators have highlighted that Australia and the United Kingdom (UK) have similar drinking cultures and share commonalities in patterns of alcohol harm, particularly in relation to crime and violence. While both jurisdictions regulate the physical availability of alcohol, to date there has been no comparative analysis of policy approaches to reduce alcohol harm in Australia and the UK.

This discussion paper provides an overview of tangible policy options for Australian and UK governments and makes recommendations about the use of alcohol availability controls to mitigate harm. Alongside case study examples from each jurisdiction, it provides information about the legislative, regulatory, and policy options for introducing a range of availability controls. It also assesses political and community appetites for the introduction of these measures and, where possible, outlines the resource requirements for implementation.

A snapshot ‘alcohol availability policy scorecard’ provides an overview of the 14 policies analysed in this report. Interventions were scored based on effectiveness in reducing harm and value for money.

The three highest scoring alcohol policies were:

● last drink laws, presently found in New South Wales and Queensland, Australia

● statement of licensing policies (SLPs), found across the UK, and

● cumulative impact policies (CIPs), used in England and Wales.

Low scoring policies include alcohol industry voluntary schemes and alcohol industry schemes found in both Australia and the UK, and the late night levy operating in England and Wales.

Jurisdictions within each country have also attempted to refocus their licensing laws towards minimising the harm alcohol can cause, with Scotland introducing a health objective and ‘harm minimisation’ found in some Australian states. While these approaches differ, they have faced similar obstacles and issues. There seems to be scope for shared learnings and recommendations on the most effective goals to focus on, evidence to use, and the importance of informing decisions with a very close analysis of the issues found in the particular location.

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