Greg Hunt says alcohol strategy wasn’t watered down due to industry meddling | Australia news


The health minister, Greg Hunt, has rejected suggestions Australia’s key strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm was watered down due to industry influence.

The latest version of the national alcohol strategy made several significant changes to a 2017 draft, including deleting a passage prohibiting industry involvement in strategy governance and softening passages on the negative consequences of Australia’s drinking culture.

The changes were made after consultations with industry, among others, and angered the Australian Capital Territory and West Australian governments, who pulled their support for the strategy. Guardian Australia understands the ACT is still refusing to endorse the document.

Earlier this month, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (Fare), a health industry group, alleged industry meddling and influence had prompted the changes.

That allegation has been strongly denied by alcohol industry peak group Alcohol Beverages Australia, which said it was supportive of evidence-based policies to tackle problem drinking.

Hunt also rejected any suggestion of industry meddling on Wednesday, during an address to the National Press Club. He said industry would be inevitably disappointed with some aspects of the strategy and pleased with others.

“No, I wouldn’t accept that proposition at all,” Hunt said. “[Industry are] in agreement with some things. They’re in significant disagreement with other things.

“I think all of the states and territories held a roundtable with those who wanted complete action in some areas. Industry was part of that. That was a public exercise, as it should have been.”

Last week, Alcohol Beverages Australia said it had simply participated in an “open and transparent consultation process” to provide input on the policy.

The group said most Australians consumed alcohol responsibly and that alcohol consumption rates were at 50-year lows.

“ABA’s members support targeted education, awareness and prevention measures, as evidenced by individual member programmes, the support of Drinkwise and other targeted government-led programs.”



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