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Greens question plans for secret alcohol meeting

Greens question plans for secret alcohol meeting

Green MP Nandor Tanczos today questioned the role of a planned secret meeting in Queenstown to be hosted by the Alcohol Advisory Council of NZ (ALAC) with alcohol industry representatives and Associate Health Minister Damien O’Connor.

Papers released to the Green Party under the Official Information Act showed that ALAC had planned a $50,000 “elite” conference for September 2004, involving high-ranking Ministry of Health officials, Mr O’Connor, overseas experts and a raft of representatives from the alcohol industry.

Nandor said that it raised serious questions over the relationship of ALAC to the alcohol industry when, according to the documents, ALAC specifically excluded any public health groups that would not toe the line with the alcohol industry.

“ALAC has tried to say that it was not a secret meeting, but clearly they intended that no-one but the participants would know about it,” said Nandor, the Green Party Drug Law Reform spokesperson.

“It’s clear from the documents that the only people to be informed about the conference were the invitees, there was great concern that the meeting not be made public and the proceedings were not to be published.

“There was an explicit intention to keep any organisations seen to be critical of the alcohol industry out.

“People are a little cynical, given the historical domination of the ALAC board under the previous National government by people sympathetic to the liquor industry. While appointments under Labour were seen to restore the balance, this move re-ignites suspicion.

Nandor said that while the liquor industry should be taking responsibility for the messages it sends when promoting alcohol, it had in the past made only a token effort.

“There is nothing wrong with engaging the liquor industry,” said Nandor. “The concern is that such engagement should be open and transparent, and not attempt to shut out critical voices.

“This is an industry which engages in very aggressive promotion of its product, a dangerous drug, while telling us that its multi-million dollar advertising budget does not convince more people to drink, or to drink more. Yeah, right.

“Controlling problem drinking requires a raft of measures, including restrictions on advertising, better policing of the age limit, pricing controls and promoting moderation. The industry opposes most of these measures.”

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