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Minimum pricing

Written By: - Date published: 10:16 am, July 3rd, 2012 - 136 comments
Categories: alcohol, crime, health - Tags:

All the evidence (eg) shows that increasing the price of harmful substances is the best way to decrease their use and, particularly, their abuse. Minimum pricing is one effective measure to do that for alcohol. But John Key disagrees. Based on … nothing. He hasn’t even taken the time to understand what minimum pricing is.

Here’s Key showing he doesn’t actually know what minimum pricing is:

“Does it mean a supermarket couldn’t loss-lead … or does it mean that there’s actually a minimum price for a unit of alcohol?”

It’s the latter, John. But one of its effects is the former.

Now, this is where, in Key’s own words he reveals that with respect to his financial literacy, he doesn’t have any. He says minimum pricing doesn’t work (remember, this is the thing he has just said he doesn’t understand) because:

“What typically happens is people move down the quality curve and still get access to alcohol”

Um. John, the point of minimum pricing is that moving down the quality curve no longer means moving down the price curve. The minimum price is set at the level above what is currently the dirt-cheap, ethanol plus sugar cost.

And, here’s where Key really shows he doesn’t understand basic economics, minimum pricing doesn’t increase the price of alcohol above the minimum, so why would it force consumers to drink lower-quality booze – the good stuff hasn’t got more expensive and the crap stuff is no longer as cheap.

Honestly, I don’t know why people listen to the guy with the worst growth and debt records in New Zealand history as if he is some kind of expert on economics. He doesn’t have a clue.

Or, maybe there’s a reason he’s spouting bullshit. Fonterra. It produces a whole lot of surplus ethanol as a by-product of its production. A lucrative by-product. That stuff ends up as the alcohol in those dirt-cheap RTDs.

It would be interesting to know what kind of communications Fonterra has had with the Government over alcohol pricing.

I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical of minimum pricing – it seemed like wowserism. But, having taken the time to look at the research, it seems like a well-targeted measure to reduce alcohol abuse. And reducing alcohol abuse, the research shows, is the big low-hanging fruit left to improve health and living conditions for those on low incomes, and to reduce crime.

That’s the thing about informed decision-making. Sometimes it reveals that your knee-jerk reaction was wrong. It would be nice if National would try it now and then.

136 comments on “Minimum pricing”

  1. shorts 1

    Key is playing a ‘clever’ game of confuse the issue and hope the debate goes away… booze is not just a major supporter of the party… but also the parties and its core supporters drug of choice

    Needless to say the govt doesn’t apply the same rationale to smoking and excise taxes et al

    its not what you know but who you’re in bed with….

  2. Carol 2

    As someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, I strongly object to using alcohol as a loss-leader, while putting the price up on necessities – though I thought some people had claimed this doesn’t happen in NZ…. so Key is saying it does?

    e.g. this article from 2010:


    Supermakets should be forced to supply their alcohol pricing data to the Government to prove they are not using it as a loss-leader, alcohol research groups say.
    Professor Jennie Connor, head of Otago University’s preventive and social medicine department, said there had been quite a lot of discussion among alcohol researchers about loss-leading – the practice of selling a product below cost to attract customers, while making up the profit on other products.

    “The supermarkets absolutely deny it … but it certainly appears that they’re cutting their margins very, very sharply on alcohol and making it up elsewhere.”

    The turnover of alcohol in supermarkets was eye-watering, she said. “Supermarkets are driving a lot of what’s going on because they’ve got such massive buying power.

    “My fear is that people are paying more for real food because they’re selling cheap alcohol.”

    • Vicky32 2.1

      As someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, I strongly object to using alcohol as a loss-leader, while putting the price up on necessities –

      I absolutely agree, Carol! I am amused when I see people in their 50s and early 60s, trolleys laden with booze, bullying their way through the express line at the supermarket, on the grounds that 4 cartons of 10 cans or bottles of beer = 4 items, or that 15 bottles of wine = 12 items because it’s ‘nice’, posh wine!
      Meanwhile, a parent with children, is counting her items, and getting the kid to put the cereal back, because she’s counted the $$ in her purse and realised that she can’t afford it…

  3. Uturn 3

    I have a suggestion for Mr Key. Why not make the sale of alcohol illegal, but the making of it perfectly legal, as long as it is not supplied to minors (or practically speaking when drunken minors get caught the supplier gets clipped). Then the price of making your own would be determined by the much worshipped (now everyone, look to the west with bowed heads…)

    Free Market

    *lights flash, trumpets sound, children dancing, etc etc*

    and the quality of product would also increase (after a while)! People could drink as much as they could practically make for themselves.

    I know, John. It’s so easy you can’t believe you didn’t come up with it yourself? You can have this one for free.

    No, no. Go on. I insist.

    A knighthood?

    Oh , now you’re just being silly, John.

  4. Bunji 4

    The ‘failure’ in Scandanavia would appear to be alcohol companies working out ways to get around loss-lead laws – which isn’t minimum-pricing.
    Scotland has just introduced minimum pricing, and the rest of the UK is doing it. Sweden and Norway have not less than cost price (Sweden +25%) laws, which have some effectiveness, if slightly manipulated. Germany & Switzerland have ‘must offer other beveridges cheaper’ laws, which are defacto minimum pricing in pubs.

    All the studies show price is the big driver in purchasing alcohol, but National keep ignoring evidence… but that’s hardly a change.
    It’s always what John thinks, rather than what evidence knows…

    • Zetetic 4.1

      In Scandanavia, the main way around the taxes is booze either cruises between the expensive countries which sell cheap booze in international waters where there’s no tax, or to countries with cheaper booze just across the baltic – they go across for a weekend in ports like Lubeck, Gdansk, and Tallinn and come back with their maximum allowance in booze.

      Not really an option in New Zealand.

  5. vto 5

    How on earth does minimum pricing affect those who it doesn’t affect? i.e. those with higher incomes…

    Eh? Or does everyone just wilfully ignore that?

    • Rob 5.1

      Exactly the point. 

    • Enough is Enough 5.2

      I agree.

      All minimum pricing does is whack those at the bottom. It is essentialy the same as a Paula Bennet type policy. The poor are not allowed the same choices as the rich.

      How will minimum pricing effect Remuera drunks. No effect at all

      How will minimum pricing effect Otara drunks. Kids will miss out on meals.

      • Gareth 5.2.1

        Exactly, Either that or home brew vodka will become more prevalent with the associated black market.
        You can buy a home still that will push out 7-8L of spirit at around 40% alcohol every 12 hours for a couple of hundred dollars. ingredients are pretty cheap and you can imagine it would be very profitable if the minimum price is set to high.
        The problem as I see it are the small pop up liquor shops and the fact you can buy alcohol off licence at 18.
        My local liquor shop often has kids in school uniform in it buying large quantities of what ever is cheap and distributing it to their mates outside. Often to several different car loads. Obviously the purchaser is 18 but their friends and associates aren’t. Also it isn’t uncommon to see a line forming on a sat morning waiting for it to open, often the people lining up seem to be carrying on from the night before and in all reality shouldn’t be served but inevitably are. If they had to travel further possibly they wouldn’t bother.
        I think we would be better off reducing availability (less outlets) and lifting the off license purchase age. We should also be punish outlets which sell outside the rules severely along the lines of 2 strikes and you’re out.

        • Vicky32

          My local liquor shop often has kids in school uniform in it buying large quantities of what ever is cheap and distributing it to their mates outside

          What? Unbelievable! This area doesn’t have such shops, so I have never seen such an appalling sight. IMO, that’s a very good argument for raising the age.

  6. Olwyn 6

    I would ;prefer to see the left turn its attention to issues of social and economic justice rather than “we must stop them from keeping their coal in the bath” type issues. The question as to whether to drug test beneficiaries, or to price booze above their heads is a people management issue.The right is always happy to debate on this level, since the oppression of the unworthy is then presupposed, and the focus falls on the form it should take. In NZ at present, privilege is successfully defending itself against need, and that is where the front line lies. The question as to how the privileged manage the needy provides a handy diversion. Privilege does not lend anyone moral authority over anyone else, but people on the right side of privilege are all too comfortable speaking as if it did.

  7. vto 7

    “And reducing alcohol abuse, the research shows, is the big low-hanging fruit left to improve health and living conditions for those on low incomes, and to reduce crime.”

    That’s not right. The big low hanging fruit is exercise. I propose compulsory 5km walks for beneficiaries each morning at 6am.

    Really, this is wowserism at its best Eddie. You should trust your initial instincts.

    • David C 7.1

      I thoght the low hanging fruit was education. I propose that benificaries must read a book a week and submit a book report to be graded (and passed) before they get the dole each week.

      • Hami Shearlie 7.1.1

        I thought the “low hanging” bit could apply to Chris Finlayson – he’s sure lying low at the moment, avoiding being interviewed over the Dot.Com fiasco!!

  8. Andrew Scobie 8

    “the good stuff hasn’t got more expensive and the crap stuff is no longer as cheap.”

    This statement simply couldn’t be true given the possible scenarios. The biggest issue i have with this is that it punishes everyone instead of just those who the law is trying to help.

    My wife and i have a $10 cap on wine from the supermarket, every now and then we break it, but you can get a very good bottle of wine for $10. With 7.7 standard drinks in the bottle of wine, does that then make the minimum $15.40 if the minimum price was set to $2?

    Likewise, my spirit of choice is Jim Beam (yes i’m from the waikato), but with 33 standard drinks in a 1 litre bottle, with a standard drink price of $2, that would make a $40 bottle of spirits $66?

    Now i don’t know what the standard drink price would be set at, but it would end up as another nice little tax bucket for the government of the day to manipulate as they choose. It could easily get to $2 a standard drink.

    The cost of living is already punishing people enough without booze going up as well. I’m sure all that will happen is that a few people will drink less, most will pay more for the same amount, and a few more kids will go to school hungry because mum and dad spent more money on booze than they used to.

    By all means control the amount of those bastard “cheap liquor” outlets that pop up all over the place in lower socio economic areas, they are a scorn on society (like money lenders) and do nothing more than target those people that this law is trying to help.

    You can’t just punish everybody in the hope that a few people will drink less. Target those with a problem, and leave the rest alone.

    • Carol 8.1

      This statement simply couldn’t be true given the possible scenarios. The biggest issue i have with this is that it punishes everyone instead of just those who the law is trying to help.
      Alternatively, it could be that you are benefiting from the ruthless practices of the alcohol industry, by getting access to alcohol that is underpriced. This underpricing is done to suck as many people as possible into buying the alcohol, regardless of the fact that it is encouraging some people to consume alcohol in a way that harms themselves & others.

      And, if the loss-leader claims are true, you are being subsidised in your drinking habits by those of us who don’t drink alcohol.

      • David C 8.1.1

        A cheap bottle of Jimmy Beam from LiquorKing makes the carrots at New World more expensive?

      • Andrew Scobie 8.1.2

        “you are benefiting from the ruthless practices of the alcohol industry, by getting access to alcohol that is underpriced”.

        The alcohol i buy from liquor outlets cannot possibly be under priced as they would have all gone out of business already. Liquor King and The Mill cant sell booze at a loss because they have nothing else to sell. The price of booze in this case is set by the market and what people are willing to pay.

        “And, if the loss-leader claims are true, you are being subsidised in your drinking habits by those of us who don’t drink alcohol”

        Don’t believe that for a second. Supermarkets can sell beer and wine at lower prices than the liquor outlets because they have such massive buying power. On special, some brands of beer and wine can be close to, or maybe below the cost of purchase. So what.

        The only time i have gone to the supermarket with the sole intention of only buying beer was for our wedding. I saved close to $1,000 by buying beer and soft drinks from a variety of different supermarkets depending on who had what on special.

        I also do all my other food shopping at supermarkets, so they more than make up the pittance they make on beer and wine from my other purchases.

        One thing i would agree on however, is for alco-pops to be regulated. These are shitty over sweetened drinks aimed at young people only, made from crap alcohol and crappy mixers.

        Thinking about it, if the law was specifically targeted at pre-mixed drinks, then i would actually say i was in favor it. But definitely not for beer, wine and spirits.

      • TightyRighty 8.1.3

        There are cross subsidies all the time. Don’t smokers pay more tax than they cost thereby subsidizing those who don’t smoke? What about single people paying to much tax to support other peoples kids? I’ve noticed your a fan of making other people pay for things you believe they should carol, but hate the idea of paying yourself for other people. Your sense of entitlement is staggering.

        • Carol

          Ah, no TR, you are wrong about me. You’re way over-generalising from a specific instance.

          I’m happy to pay for many things that benefit others more than me, because, others need them to participate in a democratic society, and, in the long run, it benefits society overall. Not so cheap alcohol, and certainly not so if it means we all are paying more for the necessities like fruit and veges. It might balance out for people who buy a lot of alcohol, but not so the rest.

          I am happy to pay quite high taxes for services I don’t use, or won’t use anymore e.g. you mention childless people. I don’t have children, and never will, but I prefer my taxes get put to use to give all children and equal chance of getting a good education.

          But the only sense of entitlement I see going on here is the idea that people are entitled to cheap alcohol. And the entitlement of profiteers to try to extract as much money out of people as possible e.g by manipulations and marketing devices to entice people into buying more booze than is sometimes good for them

          • TightyRighty

            Right, But your not happy for me to drink as I please at a price of my choosing? These goods are taxed already, setting a minimum price. If the liquor companies want to operate at the margin of making a profit, then who are you to tell me that I can’t take advantage of market forces.

            The contradictions by those supporting left parties on this site are hilarious. There is not a shred of intellectual integrity or consistency.

            We can’t have partial asset sales to private investors as that will raise power prices, but the government must intervene in the private market to raise liquor prices. so what is it? governments keep prices low for the consumers, or given increased competition, the market sets them to low?

    • Bunji 8.2

      In Scotland the price they’ve just set is 50p per unit. So $1. So it’s likely not to affect the price of the alcohol you drink.

      And one of the big issues that people have with minimum pricing is that it isn’t a tax, and it doesn’t generate money for the government. The extra profit will go to the alcohol companies. Although I guess if you can get a nice bottle of wine for $7.70 and a crap bottle for $7.70, the crap bottle is going to go out of business, so maybe just quality will rise.

      You talk about a few people drinking less, but the figures actually show it is a large chunk of society that drink too much according to health guidelines – and we won’t be punishing those who don’t drink. In fact, it will be targeting those who drink more, which is kinda the point, no?

      Stats show that in fact a lot of people will drink less when you put the price up. Minimum pricing seems to target those who are drinking more, and those who are drinking cheap, because they’re just drinking to get pissed. It can have the added plus point of reducing the difference between supermarket prices and bar prices, encouraging people to be social rather than drink at home.

      The downsides are that it doesn’t raise any money for the government to pay for drunken injuries and liver cirrhosis, and that poor people are unfairly hit, as they can only afford cheap alcohol, even to not get pissed…

      Any option has trade-offs, and I guess do you let those downsides stop the most effective lever being pulled?

  9. Roy 9

    Key has money invested in wine-making, does he not?

  10. The Baron 10

    Now that I’m off my ban, may I rejoin the conversation by saying the last thing Labour needs is to turn back into everyone’s mummy by trying to stop us all from having a good night out.

    I predict that this entire idea will go down like a poo in the bath once the middle class works out that Charles Chauvel wants to push the average bottle of shiraz over $20.

    Adults can make their own decisions thanks, Charles. The “booze culture” of NZ is lamented only by some closeted academics who make a living off crying doom and gloom. And put up the price of my CC and dry and I’m even less likey to vote for you, thanks.

    • higherstandard 10.1

      ” The “booze culture” of NZ is lamented only by some closeted academics who make a living off crying doom and gloom.”

      And health professionals thanks very much, go into any A&E on a Friday or Saturday night and you’ll see a heap of drunken morons taking up space. Perhaps actually enforcing the law in regards to drunkedness and making thee turds have some consequences for their actions would be a better place to start

      • prism 10.1.1

        You call drunken people turds. What do you call the people who make money from selling them alcohol 18 hours a day closing 3-4 a.m.? Alcohol is a strong drug connected to losing inhibitions and having a good time in people’s minds. Trouble is, once they have excess, they don’t know whether they are having a good time or not so spoiling the effect, and their own and other people’s lives.

        • Colonial Viper

          Another version of blame the addicts, idolise the dealers.

        • higherstandard

          Prism they too are turds.

          Our liquor licensing laws are as pathetic as the dross that are unable to control their intake of booze. We need stronger laws and penalties for those selling liquor and those overindulging.

          • prism

            hs Yes I think that I think it would be a good idea for drunkeness to be an arresting matter. And have pens where the drunks are hosed down. Sounds as if I’m pretty nasty on this matter.

            But the peer pressure, the socialisation of being drunk, is a mighty draw and if some unpleasant experiences at police hands could make a difference and bring a distaste for the practice, then that would be worthwhile. But of course somebody in a drunken coma would swallow their tongue, or get pneumonia, or vomit in police custody and choke to death.

            The trouble is that people don’t just get drunk once to see what it feels like and then stop. And the boys get drunk and the girls get drunk and then nobody takes responsibility for their actions. All pretty pathetic really when you hear of overseas people struggling just to live and feed themselves, hungering for education, or laying their lives on the line to get better governance of their country. We just play at being alive taking our bountiful lives for granted and our children can’t wait to waste themselves.

            • Vicky32

              I think it would be a good idea for drunkeness to be an arresting matter. And have pens where the drunks are hosed down. Sounds as if I’m pretty nasty on this matter.

              Well, if you are, so am I! I agree 100%

               We just play at being alive taking our bountiful lives for granted and our children can’t wait to waste themselves.

              Like the poor stupid boys who blew their house up the other day, by huffing LPG… I feel so sorry for them, but much more so for their families…

    • Bunji 10.2

      Don’t scaremonger Baron – A bottle of shiraz isn’t going to go anywhere near $20 due to minimum pricing.

      The booze culture is lamented by more than just academics. It’s a favourite of media outlets (have you read any papers, or watched any TV news recently? All the stuff with Len Brown?), politicians, but more than anyone else, A&E staff. Indeed the surveys that went along with the Law Commission report showed that a majority of New Zealanders want something done about it, and are prepared to have price as a lever.

      Just because you think something, don’t imagine everyone agrees with you Baron…

      • David C 10.2.1

        Is $17.80 “near to $20” in your world?
        8.9 std drinks at $2 per?

        • Fortran

          My problem is that my wife and I only get 4 glasses per bottle, although it says 7 on the bottle.
          What are we doing wrong ?

        • Bunji

          8.9 units is a strong wine, and I really can’t see it being $2/unit. Try $1, and $8 for the bottle.

          • David C

            15% per in this case
            Darrenberg dead arm shiraz 1993
            strong but just a wine.
            Hardly the target of this law.

            • McFlock

              And at that price, not likely to be affected by minimum pricing at all.
              As opposed to “marque spew”, as I recall from my school days.

    • Colonial Viper 10.3

      may I rejoin the conversation by saying the last thing Labour needs is to turn back into everyone’s mummy by trying to stop us all from having a good night out.

      I fail to see how being killed by a drunk driver, being a victim of one of the hundreds of drunken assaults which occur on a Friday night, or having all our ED’s overflowing from midnight Saturdays every single Saturday is “having a good night out”.

      • TightyRighty 10.3.1

        So you penalise millions for the irresponsible actions of the few?

        • Colonial Viper

          The millions ARE being penalised!

          Who do you think pays for the ED’s and the Council cleaning staff on Sunday mornings, and the ACC rehab?

          • Andrew Scobie

            and you can’t just “fix” that by making everyone pay more for alcohol.

            • Colonial Viper

              Of course you can. Less extreme consumption means less extreme damage and injury.

              • Andrew Scobie

                but those engaging in “extreme consumption” now are still going to find ways get get smashed off their heads. regardless of how much you put up the cost of alcohol, these people are still going to find a way to get drunk!

                you need to target the idiots and those fighting and causing damage to themselves and others, deal with them … Make it unacceptable to act like a fuckwit in public. To change this behavior will require more than just paying a few extra bucks for a bottle of booze.

                I agree, something must be done, but i’m afraid this ain’t it.

                • Colonial Viper

                  OK so lets go with your alternatives. How do we make it unacceptable to act like a fuck wit in public? And do we simply let alcohol manufacturers and sellers off the hook for their role?

                  • I think no matter what you do people who like fuckwits when pissed will always act like fuckwits. 

                  • Andrew Scobie

                    i really have no idea. i don’t think it was any better or worse in “my day”. we still got drunk and did stupid things, people still got into fights, people still drove drunk and killed each other, i really don’t know how to change society.

                    there are apparently studies (i don’t have a link), that say young people are drinking less than they used to. if so, do we even have a problem? I’m guessing yes, but how to fix that problem?


                  • TightyRighty

                    Their is a chargeable offence called drunk and disorderly. The threshold for proof is very low. We already have the tools, they just aren’t being used. typical left supporter, hates money and people earning it, but see a problem? money will fix it.

          • TightyRighty

            The same taxes that I pay to support kids that aren’t mine. The same taxes I pay to support those who won’t work. I don’t like the fact the idiots cost the system so much, but i’m already being fucking penalised for it, over and over again. I don’t see why i should be socked again, when there is no proof that raising the price will stop drunk people doing stupid shit.

            • Bunji

              “when there is no proof that raising the price will stop drunk people doing stupid shit.”

              Except that is what all the evidence says. Raise the price and people drink less. Study after study in country after country has shown that.
              And the reverse. As alcohol has become much cheaper compared to household income, we’ve drunk more.
              The correlation across time, societies etc is astounding.

              • TightyRighty

                No it doesn’t actually. I drink however much I want regardless of price. as far as alcohol goes, I am perfectly price inelastic. This, I suspect, goes for the majority of the population. But because someone who you support thinks that punishing the majority for the actions of a few dickheads is acceptable via their wallets, you push for it.

                Don’t you see the hypocrisy of your stance? You deride benny-bashing as you say it adversely affects those bennies who genuinely need welfare because of the actions of a small minority. yet when it comes to alcohol, you take the exact opposite view. you scoff at the ability of the private market to lower prices through competition and insist on government intervention to keep pricing down in the power market, yet claim the government must intervene to raises prices in another market? where is the intellectual integrity? even consistency would be ok if you can’t be honest with yourself. scrap that, the cheerleaders for the left on this site are consistent on one thing, if a left politician says it must be so, it must be so.

                • Colonial Viper

                  I drink however much I want regardless of price. as far as alcohol goes, I am perfectly price inelastic. This, I suspect, goes for the majority of the population

                  I love how you assume that you somehow embody the ‘average citizen’ and can thus speak for the majority.

                • Bunji


                  I’ve only just googled to discover the Lianne Dalziel is promoting minimum pricing. I had no idea who was promoting it, other than the Law Commission.
                  I agree with it because of the evidence they present in their report, the extensive Sheffield study (as cited by that lefty David Cameron), and many other scientific studies that show raising price minimises societal harm. Is that such a bad aim?

                  I deride benny-bashing, because is minimises societal harm. It does society no good to victimise anyone, let alone the weak and the powerless. Yes, the few who rip off the system should be punished, as should those who rip off the tax system to avoid their responsisbilities. Most use the safety net for a short time, and for reasons outside their control. Pray that you’re lucky enough never to join their number.

                  I don’t know that I insist on government intervention to lower prices in the power market. Lower power prices would of course lower societal harm… But I’d just like those assets kept in our hands please, so the money keeps subsidising our taxes, and we keep control of essential assets in our country (among many other reasons).

                  Indeed I don’t know that I scoff at the market’s lower prices through competition (where proper competition exists), much as I don’t think it’s always the best system (but that’s a whole ‘nother story)

                  But I admire your arrogance on your price inelasticity to alcohol therefore everyone. Scientific studies say you’re the exception, and you need to get out into the real world.

                  (you’re rambling: time to sober up)

      • Olwyn 10.3.2

        There has been great, though admittedly not absolute success, in reducing the number of drunk drivers on the roads. And I cannot be sure how many of these drunken assaults there really are, and how much it is a current talking point. I do think that the weird, little pigs versus wolf game that goes on with the bars and the punters is probably a contributor to anti-social drinking. The bars put the bands on later and later, so the punters will drink up, and the punters respond by fueling up at home. I cannot think of a more anti-social way of doing a social life.

        However, I am sick to death of “progressiveness” that takes the form of placing more and more constraints on the poor and the young “for their own good,” along with the attendant neglect of the real forces of oppression. I fear that if Paula Bennett announced that she was reintroducing workhouses, the present Labour Party’s response would be to bravely cry that such places should be alcohol-free and that the soup served therein should contain vegetables.

    • Vicky32 10.4

      I predict that this entire idea will go down like a poo in the bath once the middle class works out that Charles Chauvel wants to push the average bottle of shiraz over $20.

      Much cheaper than cigarettes then! Oh I am so amused to see all the frantic bleating about the prospect of raising the price of booze… 🙂
      Hypocrisy much?
      (Thanks TR, I had no idea how much booze costs.)
      Don’t come back with the nonsense that alcohol is only sometimes harmful but cigarettes always are… I think that myth’s been busted by now? I hope so, anyway…

  11. vto 11

    Thebaron is right. This is completely and utterly dumb politics. And will not solve the problem. Don’t make me pay more for a bottle of vino because of others who can’t control themselves.

    This policy smacks of school teachers – make the whole class stay behind because one idiot threw a dart. Bloody made my blood boil then and still makes my blood boil today.

    Great way to drive away voters. And great way to reinforce the stereotype of Labour having only school teachers and busybody wowsers and unionists in their ranks. Who are the thick-arses that come up with this stuff?

    Frankly, unbelievable.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      Great way to drive away voters.

      Maybe continuing to drop alcohol prices, as they have been dropping over the last 20 years, and further increasing booze availability 24/7, is going to attract back voters?

      Frankly, unless you are used to $8 bottles of wine, this is not going to impact you in the slightest.

      Continuing to poison young NZers with floods of cheap alcohol supplied by corporates and bar owners run by those in their 40’s and 50’s is not the way ahead for this country.

      • vto 11.1.1

        CV, this is madness and fails on so many fronts. Have read your other posts and understand what you are trying to do, which is commendable, but it just wont work on all those fronts.

        What is being proposed is a form of prohibition. Ever heard what happens during periods of prohibition?

        People supporting this stuff need to understand that humans love getting high in all its various forms. Always have, every society does, always will. This is something that cannot be stopped.

        The best bet is education, consistent and over a long period.

        • Colonial Viper

          How can it be a form of prohibition when plenty of alcohol will still be available, at prices comparable to just 10 years ago? I have never heard of a “partial prohibition” or “semi-prohibition” or “light prohibition” before.

          • vto

            Prohibition forces things underground. Price forces things underground.

            Home brewing has gone through the roof in some circlesquares of mine. Think it through… home brewing costs a small fraction of retail, it is usually heinously high in alcohol content, and the people end up drinking more not less.

            The whole shebang is entirely self-defeating. Especially as a good home brew is quite tasty and lotsa fun.

            • Colonial Viper

              Its not a prohibition!!! Alcohol still available everywhere mate.

              • vto

                Well, that is exactly my point CV. Alcohol still available everywhere, no matter what tricky tricks the authorities try to pull. People will make their own in backyard stills and drums.

                Waste of time.

                That is the lesson from history.

                Continuing education is the key. In the olden days, for example, All Blacks used to get pissed post-matches. That is recently changing and they are providing examples and leading the way. It is taking time but it is working. If our so-called heroes and leaders stand up and say no then others will follow. There are plenty of examples of this working in the past.

                This idea of making everybody pay excessive amounts to get at the bad eggs is, as said before, like the school teacher making the whole class stay behind because of just one who threw a paper dart. Blunt instrument and I don’t like it and will not support it.

                Too blunt mate. Needs to sharpen up. All the clever people in the Labour party should use their brains to find a sharp instrument not just pull out a mallet and whack all their supporters over the head.

                • Carol

                  Continuing education is the key. In the olden days, for example, All Blacks used to get pissed post-matches. That is recently changing and they are providing examples and leading the way. It is taking time but it is working.

                  Really? Didn’t work so well during the Rugby World Cup:



                  Celebration turned to injury for many rugby fans during the World Cup, with a record number of patients treated at Auckland Hospital during the tournament.
                  Alcohol was a factor in many cases and there was a higher volume of injuries typically seen by the department , said Dr Parke.

                  These related largely to falls, such as ankle fractures and cuts to the head, and to fights, which often resulted in broken cheeks and damaged eye sockets, he said.

                  Yesterday, 234 patients were treated at the department – the busiest day on record, exceeding the 212 patients seen on World Cup opening night.

                  The policy of the All Blacks on alcohol use is more about their brand enhancement than them actually working as a role model.

  12. Augustus 12

    Minimum pricing is just more lazy politics, we can’t find the perpetrators so we just
    punish everyone. Guilty by an imagined association and punished with everyone else.
    “Oh, we have problem with drinking teenagers!” “Lets up the price of grandma’s sherry then, that will sort it out”.
    The thing that sticks out to me is that the countries that consider it are those with a
    history of failed alcohol policies as long as the history of the prohibition movement itself. As far as I can see, that is exactly where this comes from, too. Just look at the people promoting it. As far as I can see, they are much more interested in their own ideas of morality, rather than the health of binge drinkers.
    And it adds another dimension to the trend to set the biggest idiot in society as the benchmark for policy making.

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      Minimum pricing is just more lazy politics, we can’t find the perpetrators so we just
      punish everyone.

      National sitting on its hands and refusing to enact the toughest parts of alochol law reform is lazy politics.

    • Bunji 12.2

      Why is everyone obsessed with the teenagers? Their only problem is that they drink like the rest of us…

      It is no small section of society, or a few binge drinkers who have a problem. It’s most of us.

      And people aren’t promoting their own idea of morality, it’s medical and legal advice and scientific research they’re citing.

    • Vicky32 12.3

      “Oh, we have problem with drinking teenagers!” “Lets up the price of grandma’s sherry then, that will sort it out”.

      I remember that particular w(h)ine from Leighton Smith back around 1999-2000, and he’s a self-admitted alcoholic. I heard the desperation in his voice, at the prospect of a price rise, and he ‘earned ‘ close to a million $ a year at the time.
      Still, that’s how alkies roll.

  13. Tiger Mountain 13

    “I don’t have a drinking problem, ’cept when I can’t get a drink” clanked Tom Waits a ways back.

    The torys and sections of Labour both have quite a drinking problem too it seems, they are torn between looking after the booze barons or perceived public health. Interesting that Fonterra’s profitable dirty little secret is indeed the whey spirit by-product used in RTDs.

    Wowserism and restriction is rarely the answer to anything however. Why not a minimum price for butter or burgers? That will sort out the lardasses… but of course it wouldn’t.

  14. Chris 14

    There is a good chance that the good stuff will get more expensive. Part of their pricing is likely to make sure they cost more than the lower quality stuff and are therefore seen as premium.

    If the price of the lower quality stuff goes up the higher quality stuff will increase their price to ensure it is continued to be seen as premium.

  15. Colonial Viper 15

    You can see all the alcohol industry shills here saying that more floods of cheaper alcohol is the solution.

    Drinking should be expensive. Not so expensive that young adults can’t afford two or three RTDs on a night out.

    But expensive enough that they cannot afford 10 or 14.

    • Dv 15.1

      How about charging the alcohol industry $10,000 for every person who is admitted to ER over the alcohol limit.

      That would be a good price signal.

    • TightyRighty 15.2

      everyone who can think objectively and outside of partisan lines is a shill in your book. your so predictable.

    • ochocinco 15.3

      Again, why?

      I can only speak from my own experiences but I would have definitely had much less success romantically if I hadn’t been drunk when going out.

      Getting drunk helps those of us who are socially shy. Stop hating. I’ll even make you a nice Negroni.

  16. Colonial Viper 16

    Small containers of beer and RTDs rated at 4% alcohol can be kept at the current pricing.

    Sting the ones up to 4.9% a fair bit.

    Sting the ones between 5.0% and 6% pretty hard.

    Sting the ones over 6% alcohol very hard.

    • Colonial Viper 16.1

      Oh yeah a caffeine tariff on alcoholic drinks too. its used as an additive by the industry to keep people drinking faster, for longer. So sting it and suppress its use.

    • David C 16.2

      So you think Speights and Tui shold be free of penalty taxation but Guinness should be hit “very hard”?

      Do you get out much?

      • Colonial Viper 16.2.1

        There are a few awkward edge cases, but it does what we need.

        • Augustus

          “but it does what we need.”

          You remind me of this 70+ year old lady I saw on the news a while ago (sorry no link), who thought that “we” needed to do something about problem drinking teenagers. There is no way that lady had been anywhere near the so-called “trouble-spots” in decades, hence all she knew was what she’d been told by the same media that is driving the whole agenda.
          See anything wrong with that?

          • Colonial Viper

            Under 25’s are the ones killing themselves in cars and dying in hospitals due to alcohol; less so the 70+ crowd.

            • Augustus

              Kinda ignores my point: How can you make an informed decision if all your information is from the proposer?

              And you said it yourself, the 70 + crowd does not much harm, so why tax them?

              • Colonial Viper

                They drink much less, they get taxed much less. It’s quite simple mate.

      • Te Reo Putake 16.2.2

        Guinness draught is a little over 4%, David, so it falls into CV’s ‘fair bit’ category, not the ‘very hard’. Perhaps you should get out more.

        • David C

          and the export stout is 8%

          any answer yet on why Key owning a few shares in a vineyard will make teens drink more expensive Pinot?

          • Colonial Viper

            No one ever drinks more than one or two of those, so the effective cost increase will be minimal.

          • Te Reo Putake

            You said Guinness, not stout, David, and Key’s financial links to the industry is the question, not the relative merits of Pinot versus RTD. But you know that, as you are clearly doing your commenting from under a bridge.

      • Bunji 16.2.3

        Liquor King.
        Guinness: 4.5%, $19.99 for 6 330ml bottles – $2.96/unit
        Speights/Tuis: 4% $26.99 for 15 330ml bottles – $1.80/unit
        Lion Brown: 4%, $19.99 for 18 330ml cans – $1.11/unit

        I think it’s just the bottom one they’d be targeting.

        • Bunji

          Or actually much more:
          Billy Maverick RTD: 8%, $29.99 for 18 pack – $1.09/unit

          • Colonial Viper

            If you’re paying more than $18 for a doz Tui or Speights, you are being ripped off. That’s $1.50/unit.

            • TheContrarian

              If you can actually manage to drink a can of Tui or Speights and keep it down it should be free.

              • Colonial Viper

                I’m not arguing.

                • David C

                  I have been in Pac and Sav shopping before going to the beach and seen twoguys almost pisstakes of whom they are but farm guys in singlets and shorts runing toward the beer because it was $10 a doz for tui….

                  price is right! buy large!

  17. shorts 17

    I personally don’t like the thought that the price of booze will increase (alongside everything else) because it means in my case I’ll drink less and go out less – as I have a set amount I can afford to spend on certain social activities

    for others it will mean they’ll spend less on necessities to compensate – cue more social problems for the less fortunate (the underclass if you will) in our society – creating more problems

    or in other words price manipulation won’t stop problem drinkers it’ll only cause them to be more of a problem

  18. Roflcopter 18

    Why not just fine anyone who gets admitted to hospital, with an excess blood alcohol level, the sum of $10,000.

    That’ll stop ’em.

    • Roy 18.1

      That might lead to a lot of people dying of alcohol poisoning, or alcohol-related injuries, because they did not go to hospital.
      I’m not averse to by-laws against public drunkenness, though.

    • Colonial Viper 18.2

      Why not just fine anyone who gets admitted to hospital, with an excess blood alcohol level, the sum of $10,000.

      So let the corporates profiting off the health damage that they cause scott free from both cost and responsibility?

  19. Kotahi Tane Huna 19

    It’s the economy, stupid.

    Enough is Enough is right – this is a Paula Bennett style policy – create the economic conditions that cause the problems, then punish people who succumb to them.

    Look at the number of problems we have that are strongly related to levels of inequality – it’s a waste of energy expecting Tory scum to do anything about it, or even care, but this must be the priority for the next government. Stop piddling around with band aids and fix the structural issues.

    • Carol 19.1

      +1 – the impact of inequalities and unemployment on alcohol abuse, but also the impact of the intensification of consumer society. Well, of course, these two things are inter-related. There wasn’t such an obvious problem of alcohol abuse and problematic public behaviour a few decades back – although it did exist.

      But the acceleration of consumer society, under the banner of the (hypocritical let-the-market-decide philosophy) has had an impact, I think. While unfettered capitalism claims to let the market & consumer demand set the price big corporates do everything they can to manipulate people, focusing on their emotions, and irrationalities of human behaviour, to encourage people to spend more than they would if left to their own devices.

      Supermarkets and big stores are pretty bad in this regard, using strategic layout and positioning of products in the store to that end, for instance. And targeting promotions, positioning and pricing of “nice-to-have” products, like booze, while putting less focus on the necessities that people will buy anyway – like food.

      • vto 19.1.1

        “There wasn’t such an obvious problem of alcohol abuse … a few decades back”

        Carol, I must completely disagree and in fact suggest that it was worse then. It was hidden more. People should be under no illusion.

  20. McFlock 20

    As a matter of interest, where did the very specific $2 per standard drink come from? An actual proposal, or have tories been pulling straw men out of their arses again?

  21. Bunji 21

    Just looking…

    Alcohol Action & Lianne Dalziel are proposing $2/unit, as most prominently found on kiwiblog…

    Law Commission isn’t proposing a particular number as part of their report, but $1.10-$1.30 is mentioned, as a 10% rise on the cheap end of the market.
    Interesting data from the report:

    “As we noted in chapter 17, consumers have access to cheap alcohol products.
    For example, cask white wine, budget beer and own-brand spirits can retail for
    as little as 60 cents, 85 cents and 81 cents per standard drink (10 grams
    of alcohol) respectively. At these prices an adult male’s ‘safe limit’ for drinking
    on a single occasion can be reached for about $5.864 This contrasts with the price
    of more standard products that retail for $1.50 to $2 per standard drink and bar
    and club prices that can be $3 to $4 or more per standard drink.”

    Also interesting – SuperLiquor and other industry outlets wanting law stopping loss-leading. They know they’re at a disadvantage compared to the supermarkets…

    • Bunji 21.1

      further from the report:

      A minimum price scheme would establish a minimum retail price per standard
      drink (10 grams of alcohol) or per unit of pure alcohol. If, for example,
      the minimum price were set at $1.20 per standard drink, then a bottle of beer
      containing one standard drink could not retail for less than $1.20 and a bottle
      of white wine at 12.5% ABV (with 7.5 standard drinks) would not sell for less
      than $8.88.


      The results from the various modelling exercises all show strong support for the
      introduction of a minimum price regime. When “minimum prices” were set below
      or at the low end of the purchasing price points they had little impact on reducing
      harmful outcomes. But as the level set for a minimum price increases, alcohol-related
      hospital deaths and admissions fall, as do alcohol-related crimes.

      and from Alcohol Action, looking at some of the arguments raised here:

      Not surprisingly, the intention to pass this new law in Scotland has been criticized by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association who have said: “Minimum pricing would punish the vast majority of responsible drinkers with higher prices, hitting those on low incomes hardest, yet there is no evidence it would address the root causes of alcohol misuse.”

      Professor Connor disagrees entirely. “This is classic alcohol industry rhetoric” she says. “Invoking the punishment of responsible drinkers and poor people is a deliberate strategy used by the alcohol industries whatever reform is proposed. Since responsible drinkers are those that don’t drink very much, price control makes very little difference to them. What these interventions do is protect low-risk drinkers from the harms they currently suffer due to other peoples’ heavy drinking, including drink-driving, violence and the waste of their health resources”.

      “Whatever one considers the root cause of heavy drinking, there is plenty of evidence that increasing the price of alcohol controls it”, she added.

      • vto 21.1.1

        ““Whatever one considers the root cause of heavy drinking, there is plenty of evidence that increasing the price of alcohol controls it”, she added. ”

        That is such a dumb-arse justification.

        So too does lowering the speed limit to 60kmh
        So too does cutting the fingers off thieves.
        So too does cutting the willy off rapists.
        So too does increasing the price of petrol.
        So too does decreasing politicians pay packets.

        Whatever one considers the root cause of … (insert favourite issue) … there is plenty of evidence that … (insert any and every punitive measure) … controls it.

        What a terribly useless way to end a piece.

        • McFlock

          “It works” is a dumb justification because other things solve other problems?
          Damned academics, insisting on pointing out which proposed solutions have a real-world evidence base and which do not.

          • vto

            Think mcflock think. My point was that all sorts of things work to solve problems. So does banning it – so why dont they propose complete bans? The method is too blunt. You punish those who do not have the problem. Why is that so hard to understand?

            Personally, I like the idea somebody floated above where the costs get sheeted home to the booze barons. Add up the cost of alcohol problems each year, divide it by market share of each supplier, and send the bill to them. That would clean it up in a flash.

            Really, I cannot understand this over-blunt approach and do not like it not one little bit. It is also incredibly stupid politics. It seems on some things the left never learns..

            • ochocinco

              Except as noted, you are ignoring the social utility generated by the consumption of the liquid sold by “the beer barons.”

              It’s the same with fatty food. Yes, it’s harmful. However, people enjoy it. Therefore you have to weigh the harm (health) vs the happiness (feeling of satisfaction). If harm > happiness, then you tax it until you reach equilibrium

            • McFlock

              in addition to what 8-5 says, you also forget that we can still be better off if the measures that affect an antisocial few also moderately affect a more responsibe majority. The reason being that the harm caused by the antisocial few is extensive, expensive and occasionally lethal.
              So yeah, in the absence of a solution that is effective and targeted only at those people who drink to the point of hazardous behaviour, I’ll take the next best option that works.

  22. ochocinco 22

    The entire debate is flawed because the social benefits of alcohol in terms of happiness generated are never considered.

    Until we have an econometric analysis that shows that the utility generated by alcohol consumption is LESS than the (substantial) social harm generated, then we shouldn’t limit consumption. If something’s making a profit, you don’t sell less of it.

    For all the drunken fights and vomiting, look at all the happiness. People hook up, they dance, they chat. They have a great time. They wouldn’t buy it if they didn’t like it.

    • mike e 22.1

      Oci WE are not debating that, its minimum pricing you obviously haven’t walked down a high st thurs fri sat of any medium sized town or city or university city since the drinking age was reduced.
      alcohol in moderation can be beneficial so can morphine blah blah.

  23. ochocinco 23

    The obvious solution, it seems to me, is NATIONALISATION OF THE LIQUOR INDUSTRY

    1. This will enable better analysis of benefits and costs
    2. By destroying the profit margin we avoid irrational production

    Basically we would identify the perfect amount of alcohol required and market it. Money saved through economies of scale could be pumped into additional healthcare.

  24. ochocinco 24

    PS for those of you who think that the disorder problem in Auckland is getting worse, why don’t you put in an OIA to NZ Police asking for:

    Disorder, public place violence, and breach of liquor bans for Auckland Central Area for the period July 2007 – current date.


    And you might be well surprised…

  25. belladonna 25

    Typical to hit the poor who have a glass or two of wine as one of their too few pleasures.
    Lower the drinking age, educate the young but stop hitting the poor who can control their drinking.
    Concentrate on those who cause the problems with alcohol.

  26. Hami Shearlie 26

    Shonkey doesn’t know what minimum pricing means, yet he calls John Campbell “financially illiterate” or words to that effect!! And the media don’t twig the hypocrisy??? Sheesh!!

  27. millsy 27

    The greatest threat to society?

    Climate change?
    Nuclear war/accident?
    Mitt Romney if he wins in November?
    Al Qaeda?

    Nope, a 17 year old with a bottle of KGB.

    Gotta love the wowserism from both sides of the fence when it comes to alcohol.

    You want to stop all the crap that results from drinking and alcoholism? Simple really. Give people a more safe environment in which to drink in.

    • McFlock 27.1

      Actually, yeah – I’m much more likely to be bottled by an angry drunk than being hit by terrorists or Romney, or being adversely affected by a nuclear meltdown or war. About equal on the global warming, though. But the drunk threat can be mitigated by minimum pricing.

      • mike e 27.1.1

        Hey McFlock seen the latest news on banking scandal Just finished listening to interview with a former merchant( investment )banker.
        Shokeys modus operandi Means he is in deep trouble.

        • McFlock

          Been keeping half an eye on it.
          Alcohol-related street crime is still a significant threat to my safety, too. 

      • Vicky32 27.1.2

        Actually, yeah – I’m much more likely to be bottled by an angry drunk than being hit by terrorists or Romney, or being adversely affected by a nuclear meltdown or war

        Absolutely right! 🙂

  28. Balanced View 28

    Important to note the following;
    1. Alcohol consumption per capita is far less than it was years ago – and declining
    2. Prices are not reducing – they are increasing as you’d expect them to do
    3. RTD’s are more expensive to buy than mixing your own as I had to do “in my day”
    4. Liquor companies advertise to grow their share of market – not to grow the entire market

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