A health group’s proposal to significantly increase the tax on draught beer has promoted a dire warning from a Stawell pub manager.
Other publicans in the region were less concerned, believing the unpopular policy would never see the light of day.
A federal budget submission by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education has called for beer on tap to be taxed at the same rate as pre-packaged alcohol, ending a 16-year discount.
Combined with a 10 per cent tax hike on all alcohol, the proposal would mean that tax on light beer at pubs would increase more than five-fold, while tax on mid-strength ale would double and tax on full-strength lager would increase by 50 per cent.
Altogether, Australians would pay $2.9 billion in extra taxes while reducing their consumption of alcohol by an estimated 9.4 per cent, according to the proposal.
Stawell Gift Hotel manager Mattie Jones said the policy would have a devastating effect on country pubs and their surrounding communities if adopted.
“It’s ridiculous. It will kill trade,” he said.
“As it is you find it harder and harder to compete with supermarket bottleshops and your big takeaway outlets like Dan Murphy’s.
“You rely now on your bar drinkers to be in and having a beer and a feed.”
Mr Jones said a lot of pubs were struggling.
“Pub’s arent; what they used to be 10 to 15 years ago before they brought in new rules and regulations,” he said.
“You’d see pubs close down, without a doubt, beauce customers won’t want to pay a couple of extra bucks overnight.”
Gift Hotel customer Simon Nolte, from Stawell, also said the proposed tax increased would change his and other customer’s buying habits.
“It would absolutely put me off. It will kill pubs,” he said.
“It costs enough already. Country pubs have it hard enough.
“People will just drink at home. If it’s $6.50 or $7 for a draught and $6 for a can, then people will just go for a can.”
Horsham’s Exchange Hotel manager Luke Robertson said he was confident the proposed tax would not be enforced.
“I think the Australian Hotels Association will put a stop to it before it gets anywhere,” he said.
Wimmera Drug Action Taskforce co-ordinator Sally Pymer said the evolution of pubs should see them remain sustainable.
“The region’s hotels in 2018 are more than just watering holes – they provide entertainment, social interaction and quality meals, as well as alcohol,” she said.