There is heightened concern in communities across Australia about the increased availability of alcohol, primarily caused by the deregulation of liquor control laws. In many of our major cities and regional centres, the link between high densities of alcohol outlets and alcohol related violence has been the focus of significant public attention and concern. Similarly, there is strong evidence that extending the trading hours of alcohol outlets results in increases in alcohol-related problems. Other evidence indicates that a reduction in these hours can contribute to a reduction in these same problems.
In this context, NAAA is calling for action to reassess approaches to alcohol availability and enforcement of legislation. NAAA considers that treating alcohol like an ordinary commodity and prioritising market competition over public health will continue to exacerbate Australia’s harmful drinking culture.
Additionally, there is a need for national guidelines on alcohol outlet density and opening hours. There remains a lack of cohesive policy guidance among liquor licensing agencies, planning departments and local government over the relationship between alcohol outlet density, opening hours and alcohol-related problems and on how this relationship should inform decision making. NAAA proposes the development and introduction of national guidelines outlining how these issues should be considered in planning and liquor licensing decision-making, and defining levels of risk related to outlet densities than can be used to guide liquor control laws in each jurisdiction.
Recognising the critical importance of research and evaluation to inform policy in this area, NAAA calls for the development of nationally consistent, comprehensive and current data collection on alcohol outlets, alcohol sales, and alcohol-related harms.