In 1965, Charles Perkins organised the Freedom Rides to rally against the Australian government’s discrimination against Aboriginal people—Sir Robert Menzies was the Australian prime minister then. On April 20 (the same year), Thomas Angove’s winemaker company received the first patent for the first wine cask.
Ever since, casks have become “part of Aussies lifestyle,” as the wine industry’s “Ask for Cask” advertising campaign says.
FARE’s 2012 study found that cask wine consumption is most common among the oldest and youngest age groups and in poor neighbourhoods. Moreover, cask wine consumers are more likely to drink daily than bottled wine consumers —31.6% vs. 7.9%.
For some, wine casks are simply a convenient way to store inexpensive wine without worrying about the bottle being left open for long. However, the “goon bag” is also an affordable way for youth and others groups to get drunk.
Generally, alcohol marketers have denied the allegations that they are targeting the younger generation, despite the overwhelming proof to the contrary. For example, when a cask is manufactured in the shape of a handbag, it is difficult to imagine that younger ladies women are not the targeted group.
While the prices for this kind of product vary, a litre averagely costs around A$2. One of the big alcohol sellers often offers a considerable discount if you buy more than two wine casks.
The Henry Review described the Australian alcohol tax system as “incoherent.” For starters, it gives a massive advantage to cheap wine. The WET (Wine Equalization Tax) levies a tax on the wholesale value of wine and not its alcohol by volume content.
This means that the less expensive the wine, the lower its tax rate. Cask wine is taxed much lower than other alcoholic beverages, such as spirits and beer.
In reality, the WET serves no purpose but to benefit those in the alcohol industry. This anomaly should be eliminated despite all the evidence that alcohol has a devastating impact on people’s health and well-being.
Instead, the national government should implement an alcohol content-based volumetric tax rate, taking care to avoid decreasing distilled spirits prices.
In 2009, extensive research and over 112 reviews confirmed that the prices of alcohol and taxes are the significant enablers of alcoholism in Australia.
That the effects are enormous compared to other preventative measures programs and policies. They also observed that “regulations that increase prices of alcohol are an excellent way to minimise drinking.”
Another survey found that increasing alcohol prices and making it harder to get are cost-effective ways to reduce harm.
According to FARE, eliminating the alcohol tax system’s leniency for inexpensive and cask wine and enacting a volumetric tax system could raise over A$3.4 billion in just four years. This would be a considerable windfall for any government during difficult economic times.
This s in addition to the estimated A$15 billion annual savings from alcohol-related accidents.
Other producers have sound business reasons to back tax reform, just like some states have good political reasons to back what is essentially a subsidy for their beverage industries. South Australia, for example, has been pushing for a long time to keep the WET. This is part of its endorsement of the cheaper and nasty part of the wine industry that does well there.
Provided that the product is accessible, affordable, and appealing, the big chains that control most of the market will keep selling and advertising it.
Joe Hockey, the Federal Treasurer, shouldn’t have to wait for white papers, proposals, and slowdowns before unveiling the changes in the budget. Instead, he should take immediate action to reform Australia’s obsolete and messy alcohol tax structure and banish cheap wines from the country’s history.
A portion of the additional funds should be used to help treat and prevent mental health issues. This could be an excellent idea to celebrate the cast’s 50th anniversary.