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    “The alcohol industry had effectively been given a vote on the nation’s future alcohol policies”

    Doesn’t any one know anything about Stakeholder dialogues? The whole point is to bring in diverse opinions from relevant stakeholders. And the alcohol industry, for better or for worse, is a major stakeholder being the primary distributor of alcohol. To form a policy without their involvement is ridiculous and is more likely to result in adverse outcomes (see every policy failure over the last 20 years). The best policies are the ones where the industry affected has been consulted and given input. The alcohol industry wants a healthy/peaceful population as well, remember. It’s good for business.

    Also, the industry can hardly claim new policy recommendations are a witch hunt/they weren’t consulted if they are in the meetings. Better to have them inside the tent pissing out than the other way around.

    Read the philosophy of Habermas for further info..specifically his theories on Communicative rationality.

  2. 2

    Trevor King

    I was a member of the project management group responsible for the consultation process and development of the National Alcohol Strategy (2006-2009). The goal of the strategy was “to prevent and minimise alcohol-related harm to individuals, families and communities in the context of developing safer and healthy drinking cultures in Australia.” We consulted widely with community members and sought advice from a wide range of experts – grouping them into four advisory groups. One was the Alcohol Beverages and Hospitality Advisory Group. As one of the cornerstones of the strategy development process was to align recommendations with the available evidence, we were dismissive of contributions that clearly failed this test. Some such contributions came from the industry group (no-doubt for the reasons that Kyp outlined) but that was not the only source.

    My recollection is that the sub text in the title was always “Towards Safer Drinking Cultures” – as a member of the project management group I would have objected to the ambiguity of a sub-title – “Developing our Drinking Culture.” It would have been even more problematic if such ambiguity was based on industry influence.

    At that time I think it was appropriate to seek advice from the industry in an arms-length advisory way – representing just one source of advice in the development of an evidence-based strategy to be accepted or otherwise. But each time we consider the considerable community costs of alcohol we need to very carefully consider the nature and extent of any involvement of those with vested interests. There are many examples where involvement has been inappropriate.

    It is also worth mentioning that some deviation from the evidence-base (eg. exclusion of sensible taxation reform recommendations) appeared in the final, government endorsed version of the strategy. This was disappointing but not surprising given the complexity of policy development processes.

    My final point is that at the time I was very aware that the advisory process we set up was not the only opportunity for the industry to influence the final strategy.


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