According to the New South Wales Auditor General, Peter Achterstraat alcohol abuse is costing the state government agencies over $1biilion a year. It is the first time that the Auditor General commissioned research to determine the cost incurred by police, hospital, community services, governmental agencies, courts etc. on alcohol abuse issues however this research did not take into account the social costs which would make the figure closer to $4 billion.
Achterstraat has made a rather controversial suggestion that people who abuse alcohol and cost the government department’s money should be charged because the money and resources wasted on alcohol related incidents could be better utilised somewhere else.
The following excerpt from an article on Abc.net.au explains:
If social costs like lost productivity are factored into the equation, Mr Achterstraat says the total cost rises to nearly $4 billion a year.
He has recommended the Government consider charging people who abuse alcohol for dragging resources away from more pressing work.
“Well we’ve heard of the concept of user pays, it might be time to consider the notion of abuser pays,” he said.
“So that people who are involved in drunken behaviour are asked to make a contribution to fix up the damage that they’ve caused.”
The article on Abc.net.au goes on to discuss more about the campaign to combat alcohol fuelled violence by a group calling itself “Last Drinks Coalition”. The group’s spokesman Dr.Tony Sara has expressed their approval of the Auditor General’s report which they believe has boosted the call for tighter sale restrictions.
Part of the group’s calls includes reduced trading hours and earlier lock-out periods. According to Dr.Sara while we have been aware of the human costs of alcohol fuelled violence for a while, we are only just coming to understand the huge financial burden of these alcohol fuelled violent episodes.
However the suggestion that alcohol abusers be charged for the costs they incur during alcohol fuelled misconduct has been opposed by those who say that this approach will just discourage people to seek the necessary help when incidents occur.
The article goes on to explain:
“We’ve been banging on about the human cost for a long time now and the Auditor General’s report is telling us that the economic cost is also enormous. And our view is the government needs to listen.”
The NSW Hospitality minister George Souris says an estimation that alcohol abuse costs the economy billions every year is alarming, but he maintains there is no one solution.
But George Souris says the suggestion of reduced trading hours and earlier lock-outs is too simplistic.
“Sydney is a very large metropolitan area, and the very last thing we want to do is create an underground industry,” he said.
He has also knocked back the idea of abuser-pays, saying it may discourage individuals from accessing the services they need.