by Peter WilkinsonNews Weekly
Letter: A bad mix
, December 1, 2001
Professor H.M. Kolsen’s article, "Where Competition Policy Fails" (News Weekly
, November 17) identifies a major problem small business encountered when reviewed under National Competition Policy guidelines. In short, "one shoe does not fit all".
Under National Competition Policy (NCP), there was pressure from unelected and unrepresentative bodies such as the National Competition Council to abandon the well-tested controls on alcohol and reinvent a "control free" deregulated liquor industry wherein the only criteria is "let liquor licences proliferate".
Yet the recent release of the National Alcohol Strategy: A Plan for Action 2001 to 2003-04
by the Commonwealth Department of Health insists that the key strategy for liquor licensing throughout the Commonwealth must be commitment to harm minimization. This Federal Government-sponsored Catch 22
contradiction makes it impossible for small business to plan and operate in a secure environment. To have one arm of government supporting the NCP goal, and another arm of that same government opposing it, is a hallmark of Orwellian totalitarianism.
Victoria is the most deregulated state in terms of availability of alcohol and proliferation of liquor licences. The economic impact of this NCP-inspired action against small packaged liquor retailers is devastating. Owners have seen their business’ values evaporate overnight. While the retail liquor industry was "restructured" by stealth, government provided nothing by way of compensation or industry assistance. The only winners are the chain stores that enjoy a market imbalance of power.
On the social side, there are early warning signs in Victoria of issues of public drunkenness and harmful behaviour. So pleased is the National Competition Council with the outcomes of the Victorian liquor achievements that this State is now touted as the model for the rest of Australia, even though the outcome is an economic and social disaster.
In the present day context of National Competition Policy the legislators and bureaucrats refuse to recognise the principle, "Deregulation and alcohol do not mix".Peter Wilkinson,
Liquor Stores Association of Victoria,