The alcopop tax saga has come to a close. After fierce lobbying by Big Alcohol in the lead up to the vote in the Senate, the bill was finally shot down when Family First Senator Stephen Fielding joined forces with the Opposition. And really it’s a bit like when you leave a beer in the freezer. It’s exploded all over the place.
There are plenty of losers in this situation. Not only the government, and the $1.6bn hole in revenue this is going to make, but also Senator Fielding himself. His opposition to the tax all along has been because he wanted the government to be doing more to tackle binge drinking in young people. Well, Senator Fielding, how about the $70million boost for alcohol warning advertisements negotiated by the Greens and Senator Xenaphon? All gone now.
Your job, Senator Fielding, was to draw extra attention to the issue and get some action taken. You did that well, but having done so, you should have voted for the bill. You’re not in government, you don’t have a mandate to dictate policy. You got greedy, asked for too much, refused to budge and it backfired. So what have you achieved? Do you think the people who voted for you will thank you for making it easier and cheaper for young people to get riotously drunk? Family First? I don’t think so. Congratulations on reducing both the amount of money government has to spend fighting binge drinking and also the money they’re planning to spend on it.
The winners here are Big Alcohol and teenagers looking for a cheap night out which doesn’t involve cask wine. The Coalition aren’t winners here. These constant problems in the Senate leave the country with the distinct possibility of a double dissolution of parliament and subsequent elections. I can’t see the Coalition doing well there, considering the recent leadership squabbling. Plus, their political strategy at the moment is to vote against everything the government puts up, with the only justification being ‘we could do it better’. It might be cute politics, but it’s not winning support amongst the public. We’d like a concrete alternative vision thank you very much. Otherwise, let the government do the job they were voted in to do.