Government has a crack when you open a coldie
23 January 2020
THE price of a beer in Australia is fast getting beyond the reach of everyday Aussies. There is something fundamentally wrong about that.
It's no secret Australians like a beer.
Though 80% of us enjoy a tipple of some sort, especially over the Australia Day long weekend, we're actually drinking more responsibly than any point in the last 50 years.
Yet, the biggest cost in the price of an Australian-made beer is tax. It's not the ingredients, production costs, advertising, transport or even retail overheads or profit. It's what the Australian Government takes in tax.
Most people are shocked to learn that tax makes up almost half (42%) of the price of a typical stubby. In a carton of full-strength beer, at 4.9% alcohol, the $52.00 retail price sees $21.84 evaporate in tax. Of the 24 stubbies or cans you buy, you're shouting 10 for the taxman.
It's a lucrative little lurk, too. Last year, $3.6 billion was quietly siphoned from Aussie pockets in beer taxes.
Anyone who has knocked back a cold one on their overseas travels knows the bittersweet sting that comes with the realisation that we're paying through the nose for a beer at home.
On stubbies, cans and longnecks, we cough up $2.23 per litre of alcohol in tax. In Australian dollar terms, in Germany it's 12 cents, in Spain 14 cents, in the US 28 cents, in Canada 37 cents and in France 47 cents. Even the Kiwis pay roughly half what we do at $1.18.
Not only are we paying many, many times more than those nations we typically compare ourselves with, but our beer tax goes up, again, next week.
This sneaky slug has been ramping up every February and August for the last 35 years. February 3 will see the 71st consecutive six-monthly beer tax hike, with the taxman's automatic CPI increase delving that much deeper into your pocket.
Meanwhile, Australia 's markedly improved drinking culture, as evidenced by Australian Bureau of Statistics data showing alcohol consumption per capita at a 50-year low, is palpable.
As individuals, and as a society, Australians are more informed about, and better equipped the deal with, alcohol consumption than ever before. The moderation message has sunk in and, socially, we are more likely to intervene if someone we know is taking it too far. A decade or two ago that would have been unthinkable.
According to the ABS, 84% of Australians drink within recommended guidelines. That's two standard drinks a day. Binge drinking is at its lowest level on record, down from 21% in 2004 to 16%.
Underage drinking continues a dramatic decline. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that 82% of teens in Australia do not drink alcohol at all, compared to 54% in 2004. Those that have tried a drink are doing so older, and drinking less, than ever before.
Today, moderation is especially pronounced among beer drinkers.
Over the past decade low- and mid-strength beers have been embraced, now accounting for more than a quarter (26.5%) of all beer sales in Australia. That makes us the world-leader in market-share for low alcohol beers.
In fact, the top two best-selling brews in Australia over the last 12 months are both mid-strength beers. It proves beer is different, providing multiple options for people to moderate their consumption and still enjoy a beer with mates.
Yet, Aussies are paying an artificially-inflated premium via exorbitant and ever-escalating beer tax.
It's time Aussies got tax off for their good behaviour.
The poll result above ran as part of the online version of this article on the Daily Telegraph website.
Published in the Daily Telegraph on 23 January 2020. Brett Heffernan is Chief Executive Officer of the Brewers Association of Australia
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