"While recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare clearly show that there has been no recent spike in binge-drinking among Australian youth, the alcopop industry shouldn't be too quick to claim that the statistics show all is well with Australia's youth drinking culture," said Senator Rachel Siewert today.
"Kevin Rudd has made a strategic error and can justifiably be accused of over-stating his claims of a binge-drinking epidemic," she said.
"What is disappointing is that this claim was entirely unnecessary and now this ongoing argument over whether there has been a recent change in the statistics is distracting us from tackling the real issues."
"The real issue is the significant harm being caused by risky drinking and the massive cost to the community, which has been a large and growing problem for some time," said Senator Siewert.
Alcohol costs the community over $15.6 Billion per year, while the revenue it generates is only around $5 Billion. It is responsible for over 3000 alcohol related deaths per year, 70,000 hospital admissions, a third of road deaths, 50% of domestic violence and 80% of night-time assaults. Close to one in five Australians have been affected by alcohol-related violence.
"The real surge in Australia's drinking statistics happened in the 80's and 90's and we've been paying the price ever since," said Senator Siewert.
"What we need is an integrated and comprehensive approach to problem drinking - that combines price-based measures with stricter regulation of opening hours and the concentration of venues in problem areas, a ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship, and increased efforts in community education, referral, treatment and rehabilitation."
"The Australian Greens are not convinced that one-off, partial measures like the tax on ready-to-drink alcohol will succeed in isolation," she concluded.