The undoubted highlight of the 2015-2016 financial year was the passage of the Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence legislation through the Queensland Parliament last February. This reform package means Queensland now enjoys Australia’s most progressive system of alcohol regulation. The Palaszczuk Government are to be applauded for bringing about these world-leading reforms.
Led by Attorney General, the Hon Yvette D’Ath MP, and championed by long-time alcohol reform advocate, Minister for State Development and for Natural Resources and former facial surgeon, the Hon Dr Anthony Lynham MP, the Government delivered on its 2015 election promise to introduce earlier closing times for all pubs and clubs. Queensland now leads the nation in taking strong action to prevent alcohol-related street violence, putting it ahead of New South Wales where the O’Farrell Government introduced Sydney’s pioneering liquor laws in February 2014.
FARE pays tribute to Dr Lynham’s dedication, over many years, to evidence-based efforts to stop alcohol-related violence.
We also acknowledge the efforts of the Queensland Coalition for Action on Alcohol, especially Chairman Professor Jake Najman and Secretary Dennis Young. Working together in alliances has become the FARE way, and the accomplishments in Queensland show what can be achieved by partnering with those who share similar aspirations and values.
Sydney’s last drinks and lockout laws are working. Even better than expected. A decrease of more than 40 per cent in night-time assaults in Kings Cross and more than 20 per cent in the CBD is a testament to rational evidence-based public policy.
But these achievements have to be defended. In February, a campaign was launched to roll back the measures. To relax the trading hour restrictions. This alcohol industry-led campaign was vigorously countered by medical, law enforcement, and public health figures. Interested only in protecting reforms that have saved lives and prevented hospitalisations, FARE played a leading role in critiquing and exposing the alcohol industry’s self-serving analysis about the lockout laws.
Activity in other jurisdictions has been important too. FARE worked with the Alice Springs-based Peoples Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC) in the lead up to the Northern Territory election in August 2016. Territorians experience some of Australia’s highest rates of alcohol harm and over four years, the Country Liberal Party Government had lent its support to the alcohol industry and dismantled effective alcohol policy.
Strong alcohol-policies will become the order of the day once again, after the Giles Government was trounced in the election. It will be important that the incoming Gunner Labor Government acts quickly on its promise to re-establish the Banned Drinker Register regime and act on the recommendations of the 2015 Parliamentary Inquiry into Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).
Nationally, our Prevention 1st campaign has provided an opportunity work with colleagues from the Public Health Association of Australia, Alzheimer’s Australia, and the Consumers Health Forum of Australia to get preventive health policy back on the political agenda. The campaign has enjoyed some success in influencing policy offerings made during the 2016 Federal Election campaign – particularly by The Greens and Labor.
At the local level, FARE has been supporting the Casula community in Sydney’s south in its fight to stop the development of a large hotel near the local primary school. This has allowed the University of Newcastle to arrange pro bono legal support to fight this development in the New South Wales Land and Environment Court. A successful outcome will be an important precedent for all communities across the state.
Our #BoozeFreeSport campaign called on the National Rugby League to protect our kids and take alcohol out of the game. The petition led by rugby league great and FARE Director Steve Ella, and his daughter Kristen, was signed by more than 3,200 Australians and received thousands of passionate and concerned comments. It’s time our professional sporting codes demanded as much from themselves as they do from their players and responded to these high levels of community concern.
Much of this policy advocacy is underpinned by FARE’s research investment, including the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR) led by Professor Robin Room. This year, a new partnership was formed between FARE and La Trobe University, which secures the centre’s future and will further enhance one of the world’s leading specialist alcohol research centres.
Research was commissioned into Australia’s shambolic system of alcohol taxation. These reports show how badly Australia has been served by successive governments. Alcohol’s burden is estimated to cost $36 billion annually, with direct costs to governments nearing $10 billion. Yet, the alcohol industry’s tax contribution amounts to little more than $6 billion a year. The research showed a rational system of taxing alcohol could easily raise an additional $3 billion, contribute to ‘budget repair’, and cut alcohol harm by up to ten per cent.
Regrettably, the biggest impediment to realising change continues to be the influence of the alcohol industry – through its marketing activities, sale of cheap booze, and political activity that repeatedly discourages the nation’s leaders from embracing policy change that will save lives, reduce injury, and prevent disease.
FARE has actively sought to combat this through our Alcohol Truth campaign, which highlights the inappropriate behaviour of the alcohol industry and the wide reach of its influence. Business models reliant on risky drinkers and misleading advertising and inappropriate marketing will continue to be exposed.
Pregnant Pause, which urges women not to consume alcohol during pregnancy, has been revamped into a consumer-facing public awareness campaign and is supported by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government under the ACT Health Promotion Grants Program. The complementary Women Want To Know campaign, which encourages health professionals to routinely discuss alcohol and pregnancy with their patients, continues with funding support from the Commonwealth Government. Concerted efforts will be made to promote these campaigns even more widely next year.
Ultimately, FARE’s work is all about Australian families. Protecting them, ensuring young people are safe, and giving kids the best possible start in life. This is why alcohol policies that safeguard Australian families have been a recurrent theme in FARE’s work throughout 2016 – and will continue to be in 2017.
None of this would be possible without the benefit of FARE’s financial endowment and great care has been taken to preserve this legacy – no mean feat in challenging economic times. We recognise the enormous responsibility that we have to the people of Australia to safeguard this legacy and use it to stop harm caused by alcohol.
Together, the FARE team of directors and staff is bringing about change. We thank them for their dedication, energy, and commitment, and together pledge to strive even harder in 2017.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Since 2013, FARE has been working to stop the harm caused by alcohol. Our interest in the welfare of everyday Australians, like you, is the basis of our work.
We're focused on the future and ask for your support to continue our vital work. Whether you are an individual, or represent an organisation, small business, or large corporation, we look forward to discussing ways we can work together to stop the harm caused by alcohol, which has an impact on too many lives every year.