Wine Equalisation Tax Rebate

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11 September 2015

Surgeons are dramatically confronted with the effects of alcohol misuse when treating patients with injuries resulting from road traffic trauma, interpersonal violence and personal accidents that are caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol misuse is also a significant contributor to the total burden of disease, including liver failure, GI bleeding, upper GI and oropharyngeal cancer and infections related to malnutrition. Overall, hospitalisations relating to alcohol misuse continue to represent a significant and concerning proportion of the surgical workload.

From both a public health and economic perspective, reducing the significant harms and costs of alcohol should be a key objective of alcohol taxation arrangements. The current system for taxing alcohol, however, does not fulfil this objective. Instead, current taxation arrangements encourage consumers and producers to consume and produce alcohol on the basis of volume rather than value, driving more consumption and production of alcohol than is safe or desirable.

RACS recommends that the WET and rebate be removed as soon as possible, with both parts of the system being reviewed together. A review of the rebate in isolation is a piecemeal approach to meaningful reform of the alcohol taxation. Replacing the WET and rebate with a volumetric tax on all alcohol will help resolve problems facing the industry and overcome market distortions that foster the harmful consumption of alcohol.