Senator Fielding and the opposition acted destructively and against scientific evidence in blocking the “alcopops tax”.
On March 20th 2009 Senator Fielding voted with the opposition to veto the Rudd government’s “alcopops tax” – an excise on ready-to-drink, premixed spirit products (RTDs) introduced in April 2008. In vetoing the tax, Fielding and the opposition acted destructively and against the interests of Australia’s children and young people. Alcopops effectively function as a training drink that helps children transition from lemonade to alcohol use. Children use alcopops because they are cheap and readily available. In defending his decision Fielding made the incorrect claim that the the introduction of the alcopops tax had not impacted alcohol use behaviour. Industry data collated by AC Nielsen showed that sales of RTDs plummeted by 36% in the quarter following the introduction of the alcopops tax in April 2008, while sales of spirits increased by only 8.8%. The Australian Tax Office (ATO) and Customs data further confirmed the AC Nielsen figures. The ATO found a 54% decline in RTDs and only a 7% increase in spirits. The overall picture showed that the alcopops tax had placed a barrier in front of a product that was designed to encourage Australian children to drink alcohol. By voting in favour of the alcopops tax, Fielding and the opposition could have sent a clear message to the alcohol industry that Australian politicians are prepared to use taxation to reduce alcohol misuse.