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Taxpayer Money Used To Attack Alcohol Advertising

28 November, 2003


The Beer Wine and Spirits Council, representing 90% of the beer market, is pleased that the Ministry of Health has cancelled its contracts with Alcohol Healthwatch, where taxpayer money was used to lobby MP’s with anti alcohol information.

Chief executive of the Beer Wine and Spirits Council, Nicki Stewart, says the industry is astounded to discover that nearly $800,000 of taxpayer money has been channelled into Alcohol Healthwatch to mount a negative political campaign against the industry.

“The Government needs to have integrity and be seen to be impartial and transparent in its making of the law”, she says.

“By paying a non government organisation (NGO) to promote its position, the Ministry of Health demonstrates it has preconceived notions of how issues around the sale, advertising and consumption of alcohol should be regulated. We would have expected them to be impartially assessing, or at least letting our elected representatives assess, the merits of the information put in front of them”.

Nicki Stewart says a good example of how misleading this sort of practice can be, is the requirement in the contract with Alcohol Healthwatch that “approximately 5 complaints are made per annum to challenge the marketing of alcohol to young people”.

“This sort of requirement means go and find complaints to make, and if you can’t find any – what happens then?”

“The industry has worked hard in the area of advertising and since 1995, the number of complaints about the advertising of alcohol has dropped by 60%. Of all complaints about advertising in 2002, only 4-7% were about alcohol.”

“Funding an NGO to be adversarial and underground in its advocacy is not the way to bring about positive change in society. As an industry we welcome working with government agencies towards sensible regulations and good health outcomes for adults in their consumption and enjoyment of beer.”


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