Should there be a minimum price for alcohol?
Minimum prices for alcohol are a tax on the poor and won't deliver better health outcomes.
Public health activists claim we need minimum prices because cheap booze contributes to obesity and violence. They claim the social costs of alcohol are around $15 billion annually.
But social costs are not an accurate reflection of the cost of alcohol to government. Social costs are a method used by modern day wowsers to boost the appearance of costs.
They include the cost of your lost Sunday morning following a lively Saturday night barbecue. Sorry, but your hangover comes at your cost. Not the Government. There's definitely a cost to government from alcohol consumption. But it doesn't justify moral panic.
All minimum pricing will do is replicate the failure of past policies.
In 2008, the Rudd government increased taxes on pre-mixed sugary alcohol drinks alcopops by 70 per cent.
The objective of the alcopops tax was to cut drinking levels among younger Australians.
Rudd justified the measure because young drinkers were more sensitive to prices.
Rudd was right. Price sensitive young people stopped buying alcopops.
But young people swapped from alcopops to bottles of spirits and mixed spirits with soft drink themselves. But the most spectacular consequence of the alcopops tax was something no one predicted.
Instead of buying more expensive alcohol, some young people substituted cheap booze for illicit drugs.
University academics argued 2010 data showed some young people were popping ecstasy pills instead of alcohol.
But the cost won't just be on young people.
If all alcohol is forced to a minimum price, bottles already at the new minimum price level will increase their prices to differentiate themselves.
We also know that once these price floors are in place they only head in one direction - up.
But the biggest issue is that they act as a tax on the poor. Political progressives have argued against consumption taxes because the poor pay a greater share of their income on consumables than the rich.
Under floor prices, more tax will be paid on cleanskin wine families drink with a cheap bowl of pasta, than French champagne popped at top-of-the-town cocktail parties. That's not just inequitable, it's immoral.
And it's a demonstration of the sneering elitism that minimum price floor advocates have to average Aussies.