THE HAPS The 1News poll has popularised what Roy Morgan and Curia’s polls were already showing. On today’s numbers ACT would return 14 MPs, up four, and could form a Government with National. There is over a year to go, but ACT’s campaign for real change is on track.

THE HAPS

The 1News poll has popularised what Roy Morgan and Curia’s polls were already showing. On today’s numbers ACT would return 14 MPs, up four, and could form a Government with National. There is over a year to go, but ACT’s campaign for real change is on track. If you read Free Press, you are a core supporter of ACT, thank you for your support.

WOWSERISM 

New Zealand was the first country in human history to afford every adult citizen equal political rights, but wowserism is never far from our politics. Even Kate Sheppard’s great achievement required an unholy alliance with the teetotallers, who hoped women would vote for prohibition.

Today the Government is desperate to rid New Zealand of equal political rights, but we’ve still got the wowserism or, more accurately, Gowserism thanks to Patrick Gower’s latest catharsis. It’s the worst of all worlds.

Wowserism today comes in the form of Chloe Swarbrick’s Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Harm Minimisation) Amendment Bill, a bill that would, among other things, ban alcohol advertising from sport. This is not evidence based, it is just old fashioned wowserism that’s been with us since the Treaty.

Swarbrick is right we have a lot of alcohol advertising these days. In 1980 we had a state monopoly on broadcasting, until then Broadcasting Minister Richard Prebble threw the market open.

New Zealand media came alive with Sky, TV3, and two dozen radio stations in most cities. This new media, unlike the old New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, needed advertising revenue. Since then advertising has gone from a highly restricted monopoly to a free market with minimal controls.

Liquor advertisers responded from the late 80s and early 90s by going hard on broadcast advertising, advertising brands (remember the Lion Red adverts of the early 90s, that was new).

Surely, with all this advertising, people will just run off and buy more booze, right? Here’s the funny thing. Alcohol consumption has plummeted in this period.

Stats NZ helpfully measure how much Kiwis drink each year. They measure the actual alcohol, so a 150mL glass of wine at 12 per cent alcohol volume is 18mL of alcohol. A 330mL bottle of beer at five per cent is 16.5mL.

When they started records in 1986, the average Kiwi over 18 drank 12.2L of alcohol. That’s just about 1.85 drinks per day, per adult. Today the figure is 9.2L about 1.4 drinks per person per day. So alcohol consumption has fallen by a quarter in the past three decades.

Internationally, we are middle of the pack. The Finns, Canadians, and Koreans drink a little less. The Swiss, Belgians and Americans drink a little more than us.Just selling the booze is a sunset industry. That’s why the booze barons are busy trying to create ‘experiences’ with their branded pubs and so on. That’s why there’s a plethora of offerings, craft beer, a million grape varieties, light beer options, even wine and beer and spirits with no alcohol at all. They can’t get away with selling the same old sticky brown liquid that generations of Kiwis called ‘piss.’

The decline in boozing hasn’t just happened in spite of advertising, it has probably happened because of it. That’s the central problem with Swarbrick’s bill. She thinks that the average person is a hapless muppet just waiting for advertisers to tell them what they should want. That’s not how business works.

The real purpose of advertising is to inform your customers and potential customers that you have a product they might want. There would be no point innovating if you couldn’t tell anyone about it. That’s what the liquor industry has been doing for the past three decades.

It’s safe to say a Green MP won’t get this. Swarbrick’s Bill is not anti-alcohol, it is anti-capitalist. It is anti-business (with one exception, see below). Like the party, the real cause is beneath the surface. It is about power and control of the proletariat, rather than empowerment of the people.

Back on planet earth, we are gradually moving to a much more sophisticated drinking culture. Most of this is undoing damage from previous Government policy. Six o’clock closing created our binge drinking culture, and our now free society is gradually fixing the harm.

One final twist, that hasn’t got nearly enough attention. The Swarbrick Bill bans sports sponsorship, but not all of it. There’s a special clause that says the ban does ‘not apply to the display, on any craft, of any alcohol product trade mark or the company name of any alcohol product manufacturer, where that craft is participating in an international race.’

Swarbrick is the MP for Auckland Central, where the America’s Cup is held.


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