State’s top cop demands national action on alcohol

Western Australia’s Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan will have the nation’s leaders in his sights when he takes to the stage in Canberra today to call for the introduction of meaningful, evidence-based alcohol policy reforms.

A vocal proponent of effective measures to tackle the growing alcohol toll in his home state, the Commissioner will deliver the keynote address at the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol (NAAA) Forum at Parliament House, increasing pressure on Federal Government and Opposition parties to declare their intentions before the 2013 Election.

Frustrated by a culture of binge drinking in WA that is estimated to cost the WA Police tens of millions of dollars each year, Commissioner O’Callaghan says policing alone will not fix what has become a national crisis.

“Binge drinking and alcohol fuelled violence has reached epidemic proportions and the time for band-aid solutions is well past. The WA police cannot arrest their way out of this problem and nor can any police force in the nation. Governments, both State and Commonwealth, need to stop treating the symptoms and commit to treating the cause,” Commissioner O’Callaghan said.

Commissioner O’Callaghan is particularly concerned with the way in which alcohol is marketed to young people.

“The marketing and promotion of alcohol normalises and glamorises alcohol in the eyes of our children. We know that children are being assailed by dangerous levels of alcohol advertising and we know that the more they are exposed, the more they are likely to drink,” Commissioner O’Callaghan said.

The Commissioner’s speech will take direct aim at the issue of alcohol advertising in sport.

“Key players in the sporting industry are not interested in addressing this issue and continue to ignore the dangers of exposing children to alcohol advertising,” Commissioner O’Callaghan said.

Commissioner O’Callaghan says the lack of an effective Government response is all the more frustrating, in the full knowledge that there exist proven, evidence-based measures to tackle the problem.

Those measures will be further highlighted when NAAA presents its 2013 Federal Election Policy Statement,¬†Healthier Families, Safer Communities, at Wednesday’s forum.

Speaking ahead of the launch of NAAA’s five point plan to prevent alcohol-related harm in Australia, NAAA Co Chair, Todd Harper says that while the size of the problem is vast, much of the alcohol harms are actually preventable.

“There is already ample scientific evidence and expertise to guide what needs to be done in preventing alcohol-related harm,” Mr Harper said.

Today’s forum will provide an opportunity for the major parties to argue their alcohol policy positions ahead of the 2013 election, with Senator Richard Di Natale, Greens Health Spokesperson, the Hon Mark Butler, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing and Dr Andrew Southcott, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Primary Healthcare participating in a panel discussion facilitated by Paul Bongiorno, Network Ten’s National Affairs Editor.

Commissioner O’Callaghan and Todd Harper are available for interview

Media Contact: Jeremy Henderson 0425 559 710

NAAA is a new national coalition of health and community organisations from across Australia that has been formed with the goal of reducing alcohol-related harm. Currently comprising major organisations with an interest in alcohol and public health, the formation of NAAA represents the first time such a broad-based alliance has come together to pool their collective expertise around what needs to be done to address Australia’s drinking problems. NAAA aims to put forward evidence-based solutions with a strong emphasis on action.

Action on labelling welcomed by the NAAA

The NAAA has joined with health groups across Australia to welcome the announcement of further government moves towards regulating warning labels on alcohol, following the meeting of the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation which is chaired by the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, the Hon Shayne Neumann MP. The communique from the Forum included the following announcement regarding labeling:

In December 2011, Food Regulation Ministers agreed to provide the alcohol industry a two-year period to adopt voluntary initiatives to place pregnancy warnings on labels of alcohol products.

Food Regulation Ministers noted that a project to evaluate action taken by the alcohol industry in Australia in placing pregnancy warnings on alcohol products will commence shortly. The independent evaluation will be conducted in three stages. During the first stage the evaluation framework will be developed in consultation with stakeholders. The second stage will include an analysis of industry initiatives and economic impacts, with a quantitative analysis of the labelling initiative planned for stage three.

New Zealand will also be undertaking an evaluation of the New Zealand industry’s voluntary labelling initiatives.

Interim and final reports will be provided to Food Regulation Ministers in December 2013 and March 2014 respectively. While it was agreed to await the outcome of the independent review, Food Regulation Ministers have asked FSANZ to provide advice on the steps that would be required to regulate and have agreed to hold an extraordinary meeting as soon as the review report becomes available.