Introduction by Croakey: Retail store closures and recurring, sometimes extended lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to changes in alcohol and other drug consumption patterns in Australia, partly reflecting attempts by the deep-pocketed lobbying industry to capitalize and capture the changing social environment.
Perhaps more worrying is the political pas-de-deux that provides a permissive environment for such practices to flourish.
In this piece, first post at the Public Health Association of Australia InTouch Public Health blog, Jeremy Lasek reviews a new study in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health examining public awareness and attitudes towards alcohol industry political donations.
Jeremy Lasek writes:
Over the years much has been written and said about political donations – their motivation and impact. Under Australian law, subject to disclosure threshold, political donors must file an annual report with the Australian Electoral Commission each year.
More and more there are accusations large corporations and influential people donating without proper disclosure.
The alcohol industry is known to be a major donor from all sides of politics and has shown that it wields significant influence over public health policy in favor of its profits.
Posted in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (ANZJPH) are the results of a new study explore Australian public awareness and attitudes towards alcohol industry political donations.
In the decade from 2005 to 2015, Australia’s largest political parties combined reported a total of $7,650,858 donated by the alcohol industry.
The ANZJPH article identifies that tactics used by the alcohol industry to make political donations are considered problematic by the public health community and others, as they have been shown to establish long-term relationships between industry and politicians and influence short-term decisions. for the alcohol industry. He says Australian laws governing donations are weak and allow donations under $14,3000 to go undeclared.
Given the potential pressure that public opinion can exert on the formation of government policies and the existing gap in the literature, this study was commissioned to investigate:
- What are the Australian public’s levels of awareness of the alcohol industry’s main motivations for political party donations?
- What are the public’s views on the relevance of donations and revolving doo in politics versus the alcohol industry?
A total of 1,044 participants completed the survey via an online national panel. Each had to answer a series of questions, including:
- How often do you drink alcoholic beverages in a typical month?
- Why do you think the alcohol industry donates to major political parties?
- Is it appropriate for political parties to accept donations from the alcohol industry?
- How long does a former civil servant or politician have to wait before they can be employed in a related industry or lobbying firm?
Overall, 82.1% of the sample reported drinking alcohol, and 24.9% of all respondents reported drinking to get drunk.
The most frequently selected reasons for donating were to support the interests of the alcohol industry (59.5%) and to influence government policy (52.4%). Less frequently chosen motivations were to help get the party elected (20.7%), to help solve alcohol problems in the community (14%) and because the party represents industry beliefs. alcohol (12.5%).
More than half of participants disagreed that it was appropriate for political parties to accept donations from the alcohol industry (54.5%) and almost half of participants (45.6 %) agreed that the alcohol industry has too much influence on government policies and decisions. decision, and only 14.2% disagreed.
More frequent drinkers were more likely to agree that political parties accepting industry donations and politicians attending industry events were acceptable behaviors.
Almost a third of participants agreed with the statement that ex-politicians and civil servants should never be allowed to work for a related industry or lobbying firm (31.7%) and a third agreed that a waiting period of 4 to 5 years should be applied.
In general, the younger the age group, the more likely they were to believe it was appropriate for the alcohol industry to make political donations. Heavier and more frequent drinkers were less critical of the alcohol industry’s financial ties to politicians than were light drinkers and non-drinkers.
These findings are reminiscent of FARE’s 2020 Annual Alcohol Survey which continues to demonstrate that Australians are skeptical of the alcohol industry. More than half (58%) think the alcohol industry makes political donations to influence policy, a significant increase from previous years (53% in 2018), while 62% think the industry alcohol should not be involved in public policy-making.
The ANZJPH article, Public opinion on the political activities of companies in the alcohol industry was co-authored by Peter Miller, Florentine Martino and Narelle Robertson of Deakin University and Julia Stafford and Mike Daube of Curtin University.
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