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‘Enough to make you weep’: Beer prices to rise as Aussies slugged for more tax

The study, written by Professor Kym Anderson, found that at $2.19 a litre for packaged beer, Australians pay more than three-times the average of other developed nations of about 70 cents.

Australians forked out about 18 times more beer tax than Germany, eight times more than the US and 37.5 per cent more than the Brits, it found.

Australians pay the fourth highest beer tax in the world, behind Norway, Japan and Finland, but pay the highest proportion of income, compared to other countries of similar wealth.

Last year beer taxes fed the federal budget’s bottom line more than $3.6 billion.

Brewers Association chief executive Brett Heffernan said the international comparison was “enough to make red-blooded Aussies weep”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised the “tantalising prospect” of cheaper beer in last year’s budget by reducing costs for craft brewers.

Australians are paying more tax on beer than any other developed nation.

Australians are paying more tax on beer than any other developed nation.Credit:Andrew Quilty

But many said publicly they would use the saving to invest in their business, rather than reduce the price of a frothie.

Mr Heffernan said freezing the beer excise indexation would simply lock-in the “unreasonably high” taxes Australians were already paying.

He has proposed the federal government increase the excise-free threshold on both draught and packaged beer, amounting to about $1.60 off a carton and around 17 cents off a schooner. It estimates it would cost the federal budget around $250 million a year.

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While Mr Heffernan said it was “not massive” and “just a conversation starting point”, it was an “affordable option” for a Coalition government focussing on cost-of-living issues.

“Correcting our runaway and regressive beer tax regime is relatively quick, easy, cheap and long overdue,” he said.

He said even in the Britain, where new prime minister Boris Johnson had put “sin taxes” on top of his list of policy reforms, beer is taxed at $1.37 per litre.

The push comes at a sensitive time for the government, with health professionals accusing the alcohol industry of meddling with its draft National Alcohol Strategy. A recent leaked copy of the blueprint was criticised for describing booze as “an intrinsic part of Australian culture”.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found recently 84 per cent of Australians drink within recommended guidelines of two standard drinks a day, with binge drinking is at its lowest levels and alcohol consumption per capita at a 55-year low.

Mr Heffernan said with low and mid-strength beers now accounting for more than a quarter of all beer sales, Australia has become a world-leader in market-share for light and mid-strength beers.

“Yet, while Australians are drinking less alcohol in their beers, they are paying an artificially-inflated premium due to exorbitant tax,” he said.

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