Govt considers further alcohol restrictions

By Derek Cheng

Convenience stores will be explicitly prohibited from selling alcohol in changes made to the Alcohol Reform Bill. Photo / Paul Taylor
Convenience stores will be explicitly prohibited from selling alcohol in changes made to the Alcohol Reform Bill. Photo / Paul Taylor

The Government will set up an expert forum to look into further restrictions on alcohol advertising and sponsorship, as its refusal to budge on higher alcohol prices comes under fire.

The Alcohol Reform Bill was reported back from the justice and electoral select committee today. Most of the major elements were unchanged, including:

# A split alcohol purchase age of 18 for bars and restaurants and 20 for liquor shops and supermarkets

# Making it illegal to supply under 18s with alcohol without parental consent

# National trading hours of 7am-11pm for liquor outlets and 8am-4am for bars and clubs, though these can be altered by local authorities

# Empowering local authorities to grant licences based on the concentration, location and hours of alcohol outlets

One change to the bill would require supermarkets to keep alcohol in one place as a condition of their licence, preventing them from merchandising alcohol products at the end of aisles, near the entrance or at checkouts.

While the Police, Fire Service and Defence Force canteens are exempt from the bill, another change would make it the responsibility of the heads of those agencies to ensure their canteens were run as close as possible to the legal requirements for clubs, such as not selling alcohol to intoxicated people and providing free drinking water.

Others changes include:

# A requirement for those who sell alcohol to provide price and sales data to the Government, which is considering a minimum price regime.

# Explicitly prohibiting convenience stores from selling alcohol.

# Allowing limited exceptions to the national maximum trading hours (8am - 4am) for genuine events (such as live northern hemisphere sporting fixtures and champagne breakfasts) through the special licence process.

The Green Party quickly issued a press release calling for more action to restrict alcohol advertising and sponsorship, and for higher prices.

"It's disappointing that the Bill does nothing to stop supermarkets from engaging in the predatory practice of selling alcohol at extraordinarily cheap prices to lure customers, especially young customers, into their store," Green MP Sue Kedgley said.

"We'll never reduce our binge drinking culture if we allow alcohol to be sold so cheaply that young people can load up for binge drinking sessions every weekend."

The bill as introduced includes some restrictions, such as a ban on advertising that has "special appeal" to people under 20, and on any promotion with the promise of free booze.

"What came through strongly in submissions to the select committee is that people want the Government to go further than that," Mr Power said.

The forum's terms of reference were still being drawn up and the panel members will be appointed next year.

"The forum could examine current research and international developments, as well as the outcomes from the Advertising Standard Authority's current review of the code for advertising liquor," Mr Power said.

"The forum could also consider what impact further restrictions, such as those proposed by the Law Commission, would have on the recipients of sponsorship funding such as community organisations and sports teams."

The Law Commission report on alcohol harm, which preceded the bill, recommended an eventual ban on all alcohol advertising, except for objective product information, and sponsorship.

It also recommended increasing the price of alcohol products by about 10 per cent by hiking the excise tax on alcohol by 50 per cent.

The Government has rejected that in favour of investigating minimum pricing.

The committee heard over 1600 submissions and more than 7000 form submissions from organisations, corporates and general public.

All parliamentary parties are expected to support the bill at the second reading.

- NZ Herald

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