The easy access and availability of alcohol is a key contributing factor to increased levels of consumption and alcohol-related harm in Australia.

The physical availability of alcohol is regulated by State and Territory governments through liquor licensing legislation. The availability of alcohol is affected by policies on trading hours, density of liquor outlets in a given locality (both on premises and off premises), and the range of places in which it is sold; for example alcohol products are now increasingly being sold in supermarkets, such as ALDI and IGA. Added to this is the growing monopoly of the major supermarket chains over alcohol sales, enabling alcoholic beverages to be sold for increasingly reduced prices.

The last twenty years have seen the proliferation of alcohol retail outlets due to the liberalisation of alcohol laws and an increase in the types of liquor licenses available. This means that alcohol has become increasingly available from a wide range of retailers, during extended trading hours, and for cheaper prices. This deregulation of the sale of alcohol has been largely driven by National Competition Policy.

It is only in more recent years that legislation has started to shift towards a harm minimisation focus.  Much more still needs to be done to restrict the sale of alcohol in order to minimise harm.

The Foundation continues to invest in research on the physical availability of alcohol and its impact on levels of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms. In particular, Michael Livingston, based at the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, is conducting extensive research on the impact of alcohol outlet density on levels of alcohol-related harm.

The Foundation’s position

The Foundation supports initiatives focused on reducing the availability of alcohol through regulating the sale of alcohol based on the principle of harm minimisation. We support the work of State, Territory, and locally-based organisations to ensure that licensing legislation is effective in minimising harm. We also support limiting trading hours of licensed venues in each State and Territory, and furthering the evidence base on effective licensing legislation.

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