EDITORIAL WEDNESDAY 20.08.08.
The Federal opposition leader has convened his own youth binge drinking forum, gathering together interested parties from across the spectrum. On the face of it that would appear to be a good idea. It would appear to provide the opportunity for some informed debate about the extent of the challenge and the various possible methods of addressing it. Like the increased tax on alcopop drinks. In fact, it was nothing of the sort.
From the outset, Brendan Nelson, yes he is still the Liberal leader (for now), made it clear that he had already made his mind up on the matter of the increased tax. This must have pleased the industry representatives who were participating because it completely removed any need for them to substantiate their claims that the tax has missed the mark.
Further to that, Dr Nelson apparently claimed that the problem of alcohol abuse is “overstated to some extent by various sections of the media and some people in public life.” In other words, he does not believe the whole issue is actually such a big problem. Is it possible that the whole exercise was put together so that Brendan Nelson could state his position to the participants and attempt to justify it?
In fact the forum has been labeled by some as nothing more than a stunt, and it’s difficult to escape that conclusion. Far from being an opportunity for discussion or debate, it seems to have been nothing more that an effort to validate the already announced position that the opposition will oppose the tax increase.
The truth is that in opposition Brendan Nelson is not in a position to implement any policy. The only thing he can do is block policy. Now that he has decided to block many of the government’s budget measures he needs to justify his position. The irony is that failing to conduct a legitimate debate achieves the opposite.