Today on Drink Tank – Further embarrassment for the New South Wales Government as subpoenaed alcohol documents published exclusively on Drink Tank today reveal full extent of the alcohol industry’s influence.
Also today in a Drink Tank special edition, NSW Greens MP Dr John Kaye reveals his key role in exposing the Government’s interaction with the industry in Paper trail shows O’Farrell government rolling over to liquor industry and Caterina Giorgi, Policy and Research Director at the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education reflects on the role that the alcohol industry plays in the development of alcohol control policies and identifies the three contemptable acts carried out by the NSW Government in the development of the Guidelines
Drink Tank also announces plans to actively seek and publish further information which exposes the ways in which the alcohol industry uses its power to weaken and undermine legislation meant to serve and protect the public.
An exhaustive investigation of the documents obtained under subpoena in the New South Wales Upper House on 12 July have further revealed the alcohol industry’s undue influence in shaping the NSW Government’s alcohol policy.
Published exclusively on Drink Tank today, the documents reveal how the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) abandoned its plans to have the Australian Hotel Association (AHA) NSW and Liquor Stores Association (LSA) endorse and place logos on the front page of the NSW Liquor Promotion Guidelines following the public outcry and negative media reaction to the Government’s mishandling of the review process.
OLGR wrote to AHA (NSW) Chief Executive Officer, Paul Nicolaou and LSA General Manager, Michael Waters on 25 January 2013 offering to place the AHA NSW and LSA logo alongside the NSW Government Trade and Investment logo in return for their organisation’s endorsement of the guidelines.
The documents also reveal an approach was made by the AHA (NSW) to OLGR on 19 February to hold a joint press conference with Minister George Souris and Clubs NSW to announce the Guidelines.
Drink Tank, which obtained copies of all 88 documents from Greens NSW MP Dr John Kaye, has today made all documents publically available online. Drink Tank believes consultations on issues of such significant public importance should not be conducted behind closed doors. Nor should they be treated as the sole property and interest of industry to the exclusion of all other voices.
Today Drink Tank has also signalled its intention to actively seek and publish further information which exposes the ways in which the alcohol industry uses its power to weaken and undermine legislation meant to serve and protect the Australian public.
The 88 documents published by Drink Tank also reveal the unfettered access granted to the industry by the NSW Government, both in writing, by phone and in person, including a visit by an OLGR staff member to the LSA’s office in Alexandria.
Thanking OLGR for the visit, LSA General Manager Michael Waters said, ‘it was great that you could visit and familiarise yourself with our offices in Alexandria.’
The documents further highlight the degree of familiarity between OLGR and the alcohol industry with much of the written correspondence being on a first name basis, and demonstrate the eagerness of OLGR staff to appease industry stakeholders.
In email correspondence between an OLGR staffer and the LSA’s Michael Waters, the staff member proposes changes to the guidelines asking first ‘…would you be happy with the words’.
Despite the government’s complete failure to engage with public health experts, the documents also reveal OLGR was proud of its consultation process. In a House File Note (HFN) prepared for the NSW Cabinet, OLGR boasts of its ‘best practice regulatory approach,’ a claim considerably weakened by a subsequent statement in the same HFN that suggests that only once the Guidelines are released, ‘…the public will then be able to make comments or suggestions on the Guidelines.’
Photograph by Emily Barney