10 Aug 2022

Swarbrick frustrated by Deputy PM not backing alcohol harm minimisation bill

4:04 pm on 10 August 2022

Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick says she is frustrated that her bill to ban alcohol sponsorship in sports is not receiving the backing of the government, despite the presence of overwhelming evidence.

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Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick (file image). Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson told Morning Report yesterday he had concerns about a bill that would ban alcohol sponsorship for sports and sports venues, as well as advertising during broadcasts.

"We've got to be able to have sustained and continued funding, while I recognise the impacts of alcohol on our population that's a very substantial sum of money to switch the tap off right away on."

Robertson signalled he would not vote in favour of the bill if it was to be treated as a conscience vote.

"It's a pity in a way because parts of that bill are very good around how to make local alcohol plans work better but the idea that we're just going to switch the tap off on a funding source that has been a critical part of sports funding without a coherent and clear plan of how to deal with that at a time when the government's resources are thinly stretched across a lot of other areas we need to be looking at.

"So, yeah I've certainly got concerns about that part of the bill."

It comes as many grassroots sports are struggling for cash, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick, who submitted the Alcohol Harm Minimisation member's bill, told Morning Report she was frustrated by the political inaction shown by the government.

"I am frustrated and I think that this is indicative of why the New Zealand public get frustrated at politics, we have health agencies, we have overwhelming evidence.

"We even have two reports that the government commissioned in the last term of Parliament which said get on with these recommendations from 2014 and from 2010 and 2011, which have subsequently been ignored by the bogey man of the alcohol industry."

The proposed bill had received the most widespread support out of any members bills ever that had yet to reach its first reading, she said.

"We've got councils from across the country who have endorsed it, we've also got Hāpai Te Hauora, the Health Coalition Aotearoa, St Johns, the Salvation Army, the Mental Health Foundation, we've got Women's Refuge, Plunket, Alzheimers New Zealand, the Child Poverty Action Group."

Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson. File photo (file image). Photo:

Swarbrick was awaiting a response from Robertson which she hoped would clarify the total alcohol advertising spend in sports that he referred to as a "very substantial sum of money".

"In 2014 we had a quantification of all of the money spent across all sports advertising and sponsorships, so this is not just the broadcast, broadcast importantly is the part that my bill targets but for all including grassroots sporting."

Figures in the alcohol and sporting sectors had told her the total money spent on alcohol advertising in sport was likely "substantially less" than the $20m estimate in the 2014 quantification, Swarbrick said.

"To put this in context of government spending in the tune of billions and billions of dollars for a substance that being alcohol is a drug which contributes, based on law commission reports estimation between $735 million to $16.1 billion of social harm per annum.

"This is a drop in the bucket," Swarbrick said.

There were two main ways in which the loss of advertising funding could be counteracted, she said.

The first could see a mechanism similar to the Smokefree Aotearoa campaign but instead focused around alcohol, which would see the government fronting up the cash to plug the gap of the loss of advertising revenue in the sports sector.

The second would see an existing levy placed on all alcohol sales around the country, taxing a matter of cents on the sale of each sale of alcohol.

Along with banning alcohol advertising in broadcast sports, the bill also aimed to restore local democracy through introducing a local alcohol sales process - something that had received widespread support from councils.

Discussions were being held around the nature of the vote on Swarbrick's bill and she hoped the significant backing behind the bill would make it an exception to the norm.

"Historically we have seen that alcohol bills have been treated as conscience issue but this one has such overwhelming evidence and does not deal with pricing nor does it not deal with age so to that affect we could just treat it as a party vote."

As the bill had already been pulled from the ballot, there was no room to chop or change what it contained, Swarbrick said.

She urged Robertson to show support for the bill from its first reading if he supported the introduction of the local alcohol sales process.

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