QUESTION: National Alcohol Strategy

During Question Time, Mark asked the Minister for Health and Wellbeing whether South Australia has already signed off on the the draft National Alcohol Strategy or whether the Minister is insisting that the strategy be redrafted to better reflect public health priorities. 


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: According to the ABC's Background Briefing program on Radio National on the weekend, the draft National Alcohol Strategy was meant to be finalised last year but it hasn't been because some states and territories have refused to endorse it because they are concerned it has been watered down by inappropriate alcohol industry involvement.

According to the program, initial drafts of the National Strategy prepared by public health experts have been completely rewritten so as to be almost unrecognisable. Even the version sent out for public consultation last year has been further watered down under the influence of the alcohol industry.

The ABC claims to have a leaked copy of the strategy and points to a number of areas that appear to be the victim of industry meddling. For example, references to Australia having a harmful alcohol culture glorified by the exploits of public figures and fuelled by the ready availability of cheap alcohol, have been replaced by a statement that says:

Alcohol is an intrinsic part of Australian culture and plays a central role in most people's social lives.

That is very similar to long-established industry talking points that seek to normalise an alcohol culture. The ABC claims that at least five jurisdictions have not yet signed off on the strategy, with Western Australia and the ACT refusing to endorse it because they believe it has been so badly weakened by industry involvement.

My question of the Minister is:

What is South Australia's position? Has our state already signed off on the strategy, or is the Minister joining with his WA and ACT counterparts, who are insisting that the strategy be redrafted to better reflect public health priorities?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing): I thank the honourable member for his question. Let's be clear: South Australia will continue to support a National Alcohol Strategy. We do believe that it is appropriate to have industry as part of the consultation. The honourable member's question seems to be predicated on an understanding of the process that differs from mine, but I will certainly check.

The honourable member seems to be suggesting that a version of the National Alcohol Strategy is available to be signed off bilaterally out of session by each of the members. My understanding is that we as Ministers were going to discuss it. I think the relevant body is the Ministerial Drug and Alcohol Forum, and, rather than signing off bilaterally out of session, my understanding is that we would next discuss it when we are in session.

In that context, I will be keen to look at the draft that arrives. I appreciate there have been a number of versions. I will certainly be keen to look at the version that is next presented to the forum and give South Australia's position on that.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Minister, at the forum to which you referred, does South Australia have any alternative proposals to present?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing): My understanding is that we are going to discuss a version. My understanding is that the expectation is that the Commonwealth will table the next version. As South Australian Minister, I am not preparing a South Australian version.