Professor Fiona Stanley AC
Chair, Alcohol Advertising Review Board
Dear Prof Stanley,
Last year, I used your online form to lodge a complaint about a motorised, rotating billboard at the intersection of Brunton Avenue and Punt Rd, Richmond that declares that alcohol does not cause violent behaviour, rather violent people are responsible. I explained that the ad had been there for at least 12 months and that it had been placed by the Nightclub Owners’ Association of Victoria, a dubious organisation headed by a convicted criminal, who was relieved by another criminal whilst the first was in jail.
The website of this Association masquerades as a public resource for scientific research papers on the links between alcohol and violence but the papers present on the site are predominantly opinion pieces rather than peer reviewed journal papers and frankly, they are utter garbage, better characterised as propaganda. They repeatedly deny any link between excessive alcohol consumption and violence and denigrate those claiming the opposite.
I received no response to my submitted complaint, despite including a photograph of the billboard. Of course, I noted that the AARB has no statutory authority whatsoever and is essentially ignored by the all powerful Alcohol/Hotel industry, who don’t even seem to desire to create the illusion that they care about the adverse societal impact of their constant breaching of the alcohol advertising code of conduct. In my opinion, the formality and seriousness of your organisation’s quarterly reports is highly likely to mislead the public into assuming that you do have some clout but are treading lightly, rather than the outrageous reality of an industry escaping the long overdue regulation and oversight it requires, via a well established strategy of large political donations to co-operative governments and constant repetition of a mantra of lies and distortions regarding the extremely harmful drug, from whose sale they are legally entitled to amass huge profits.
I believe that the AARB should be naming and loudly shaming both the advertisers and the governments that accept the industry’s bribes. The AARB should demand that the government apply the same strategies that have succeeded with cigarettes, namely smart regulatory measures and a long term goal of steady reduction in consumption via community education. Australian Drug and Alcohol Policy is a dismal failure, criminalising a generation of young Australians by the long proven disastrous strategy of prohibition of arbitrarily proscribed substances that when combined, cause around 10% of the total substance related morbidity and mortality of Alcohol!
I want to hear the AARB clamouring for statutory powers to force the alcohol industry to comply with tough advertising regulations, rather than continue operating as a limp-wristed mirage that blows smoke at the alcohol industry juggernaut, provides cover for disingenuous governments and is as effective as being hit with a feather duster.
No wonder clinicians like me, dealing with the human costs of alcohol every day, are so cynical and so frustrated – hence my passion – in stark contrast to the AARB’s bland reports.
DR JEROME GELB