In 2016 the sanctimony of so-called community leaders and self-appointed bastions of morality has become, as they would say, an epidemic. Our politicians have been in a frenzy as they try to turn New South Wales into a #nannystate, obviously because that’s what’s best for us. The attack on small business, night life and freedom has been relentless. The Axis of Abstinence has united strange bedfellows in a war against freedom and personal responsibility. This #teetotalitarian regime is led by an evangelical zealot with an image problem, we’re constantly being judged by a man who believes he’s on a mission from above. “Service that is purely self-serving” is his biggest vice for now… His right hand man is an equally devout police commissioner who they apparently call The Electrician. They’re backed up the health lobby and amateur statistician doctors who moonlight as policy experts. Their pawns are the public faces of a tragedy who may or may not have now been seduced by the ethically ambiguous, non for profit gravy train.
At the centre of this motley crew we have a state government who has made a mockery of political donation laws, sold out the community and shown utter disdain to tax paying, law abiding citizens. It’s easy to see why many still consider Macquarie Street a cesspool of corruption. Over the last few years they’ve been creating a #nannystate under the guise of health and safety, seemingly to funnel citizens towards casinos and late night pokie dens. All to fuel a multi-billion dollar gambling problem.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) is a key proponent of the nanny state. FARE frequently insert themselves into policy conversations to push their agenda, much to the chagrin of decent, responsible people. The taxpayer funded prohibition lobby are known for fearmongering, completely absurd research, deceptive and manipulative polling and just being a general waste of time and money. By the looks of things, even they are not adverse to rolling the dice. Not content with shamelessly continuing antiquated wowser traditions such as moralistic judging and interfering with people’s lives, it would appear the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education has decided the thrill of telling adults when to go to bed is not enough.
All FARE Financials 2001 – 2005
It seems as though FARE have been bit by the gambling bug just like everyone else, only instead of feeding the pokies surrounded by all that evil, amber liquid – they seem to be operating what can best be described as a hedge fund, with tens of millions of taxpayer dollars wagered on the stock market.
Although many refer to playing the market as gambling, that terms isn’t really accurate when you an experienced broker is in charge of your investment. Experts consider such terms ignorant. But the fact here is, FARE look to be gambling. Big time. In the last financial year FARE were playing with $32,424,576 on the stock market, with $30,349 314 the year before. This year in dividends they earned $2,080,775. That’s a yield of over 6.25%. To put that in perspective, sure things such as Telstra yielded 5.47%. The Commonwealth Bank 5.32%, Westpac 6.06%. ANZ were 6.77% and oil operation the Duet Pipeline Trust were 7.37%.
To earn a return such as what FARE earned, they would have to be working with a highly concentrated portfolio – which is an incredibly risky move for someone playing the market, let alone a government funded organisation. Either that or it would have to be heavily geared. Which it isn’t. So firstly a) why the hell are they gambling with public funds to this extent and b) why the hell are they getting away with it?
It’s also worth noting they included “investment management fees” of $155, 332 and $158.523 in the last two annual reports. If you’re engaging someone to manage funds and place bets on your behalf, their fee is taken out at management level – it would not appear on the report. I would be very interested to know who is managing their funds, what they were doing with it and why it’s appearing on these reports.
One wouldn’t think a company like this would be allowed to gamble funds in this way and would instead be restricted to AAA rated assets or term deposits. But FARE has never been one to play by the rules, even in their formative years when they were known as the Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation. In the years between 2001 and 2005, the then awkwardly named AERF was to receive roughly $115 million in government funding. Of this, it was agreed that 80% would be put towards health and community programs.
Tasked with one fairly simple job, AERF budgeted $100 million to be spent on grants that fit the criteria over the first 4 years. This budget (as per below) would ensure the money wasn’t dumped into white elephant infrastructure, funnelled into non-existent infrastructure or misappropriated in any way. What these were grants were specifically was not clear. By the third year they’d only spent just over $20 million, despite having accepted almost $75 million in government funding. In the fourth year they embarked on an Oprah-esque spending spree but even then they only managed to allocate $57 million, well short of what was required. The rest of the money allocated to them was banked despite strict guidelines disallowing such a move, presumably to ensure their existence well past their used by date.
As you can see from the graphic above, FARE does very little operationally. Aside from a few pointless surveys, FARE seems to think they’re a G-Rated, Christian Rock Wolf of Wall Street. In my opinion nothing in the last financial year was of benefit the community. Over 50% of income (which was attributed almost entirely to dividends) goes towards paying the staff. Whilst they no longer receive large amounts of government funding, they’re essentially a hedge fund, serving no other goal but their own existence. Each year little is spent, but they’ve been pretty lucky on the punt, with dividends ensuring they remain viable for another year. The fact is, had they not completely disregarded the guidelines given to them by the federal government there would be no nest egg and they would have most likely died out.
FARE was set up to benefit the community and implement health projects. Instead they’re just a rabble rousing pack of do-gooders who gamble the public dollar in the hope of getting one more feature and keeping themselves in a job. The only thing FARE cares about is promoting its prohibitionist agenda and passing moral judgement over all who don’t agree. Other than lining their own pockets and keeping themselves gainfully employed that is.
Nobody is funding them, they’re not spending much money, they’re earning about $2million from stock market and their annual wage bill is just under that. FARE was always considered a waste of time by most reasonable people, but this is on another level. There is no such thing as a sure thing in punting, but one would assume the lower risk, lower reward systems would be sufficient for a syndicate like this. Their high stakes wagers seem quite unnecessary. Why are they risking so much on the relative roughie?
Given the nature of how all this has occurred and the fact that FARE is still using funds granted by the federal government they refused to utilise properly – I would be particularly interested in knowing where this money was invested. Are they betting on sure things? Or are they chasing that elusive 9 leg multi? I will submit a Freedom of Information request in due course, but I know the team from FARE are fans and will be reading this, so how about you do us a favour and provide some much urgent clarity. I won’t say your credibility depends on it, because, well… Anyway…. But this is a huge matter of public interest. These funds have been misappropriated from the start and are now propping up an obsolete organisation that exists only for itself.
With all the debate and angst over the federal budget, I would implore Mr Turnbull to set about having these funds returned so they can be used appropriately. If you want to put a few more dollars towards education – there’s a lazy $34 million just sitting here doing nothing productive. I’m sure $34 million could be of some help getting the whole “Ideas Boom” party started. You could even score a few cheap points with the #qanda crowd and sling a few bucks to some Aussie battlers – I’m sure $34 million big ones would go a long way. Just ask old mate Duncan. In all honesty, if you wanted to increase the salary of every member and throw a huge event to commemorate the generosity – why not use that $34 million sitting in a teetotaller’s shoebox under the bed. Why not. Anything you could possibly imagine spending this money on would be infinitely better than whatever punt FARE have planned.
But it better be done soon. According to an analyst the market has dropped 11% this financial year. Looking at the sensitivity analysis below, a 2% drop would see FARE losing over $600,000. This financial year could be catastrophic. But like the degenerate leaving the pokie room only to return from the ATM ready for round 10, I’m sure they’ll find a way to go again.
The fact that government money was stashed away by an obscure self-interest group to gamble with on a rainy day is a disgrace. What we’re seeing here is more or less an institutional fund sponsored by a government benefits. The hypocrisy is staggering. The fact this money was raised through grog and sin matters not to the sanctimonious, moral judges. What was once amber blood money is cleansed once it hits the righteous coffers. The pariahs who paid for their own witch hunt can abstain or choke on the devils drop.
FARE chief executive Michael Thorn and chief financial officer Sharrin Wells appear to be doing quite well for themselves in terms of salary. It’s not clear why they believe they’re entitled to be compensated for their personal moral crusade to the tune of almost half a million dollars between the two of them. Assuming they’re both earning a similar amount, their package is far greater than the average non for profit executive salary. It’s true what they say, the house always wins.
Like many so-called “non for profits”, FARE appears to be yet another gravy train for all who jumped on at the right stop. Six figure salaries for doing nothing but constantly offering an unsolicited opinion. Throw into the mix director fees and a plethora of ambiguous employee benefits and it seems more and more likely FARE is a complete an utter waste of time and money. Our time and money. Time for the bag man to call in the credit.
Not content with a privileged existence that is completely without merit, like a petulant, ungrateful narcissist FARE lives to bite the hand that fed it for so long. FARE that exists today is far removed from the Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation – set up as part of a parliamentary compromise which will be discussed in great detail in my next article. But as you can see on the documents above, the newly implemented objectives are in stark contrast to the initial, well intentioned concept. Specific, constructive aims have been discarded and replaced with thinly veiled moral grandstanding and do-gooder rhetoric. In perhaps their greatest act of delusion, FARE declared in 2012 they were an “institution whose principal activity is to promote the prevention or the control in diseases in human beings”
To appreciate the just how inappropriate this whole caper is, a deeper look into the organisation is required. What purpose do they serve? Who else funds their activities? Why do we hear from them regularly? Where did they come from and why won’t they go?
It comes as no surprise whatsoever to learn that the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation was born out of political bickering, posturing and manoeuvring with a hint of good intention for balance that was quickly forgotten. To suggest the current objectives of FARE suggest a slight detour from the original purpose would be an understatement. To say this whole debacle was planned and executed extremely poorly would be mirroring the sheer negligence shown by the federal government in 2001. In a childish display that no doubt inspired the O’Farrell government and opposition, all sides of government worked together, throwing large bundles of public cash to appease political rivals and/or spite one another.
Long story short, FARE in its initial form was set up as a compromise to end government bickering over the price of beer. In 1998 John Howard promised the price of ordinary beer would increase by no more than 1.9% upon introduction of the GST. Yet by adjusting the excise and replacing wholesale sales tax with the GST the increase ended up being closer to 9%. Or $0.20 a beer. Apparently ordinary beer referred to packaged beer. Labor and the Democrats interpreted the promise as applying to draught beer so naturally, they were not copping this outrage. The opportunistic taxation yielded over $200 million in the year Howard got away with it. Keep in mind gambling revenue was nowhere near what it is now, with pokies relatively new on the scene. $200 million was nothing to be scoffed at. But things soon came to a head. Brewers were not happy because it’s their bottom line and were lodging statements of claim against the federal government The Democrats figured they’d stomp their feet a bit so they could leverage something. The opposition were disgruntled simply because it was a Liberal policy. Shadow Treasurer Simon Crean was particularly angry about the whole thing –
“I tell you what, brother, you go into a pub and tell them that ordinary beer is not draught beer and see how you go.”
– Simon Crean, Lateline
By the time the whole debate hit fever pitch in the Senate, the brewers had tossed up a curve ball by deciding to protest the excise by….paying more than they had to. Remarkably, this strategy ended up being the inspiration for what would eventually be the compromise – the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation. The rationale was if we’re all going to be slugged, we may as well have the cash go towards something worthwhile. The Democrats were happy because they could claim a win without actually doing anything, good PR from a public health campaign and the respect of the people for fighting frothie prices to the death. Whores until the end, they later had no issue with the alcopop tax years later… Labor presumably approved of the whole thing because they got to stick it to the Libs.
$115 million dollars, generated by the excise, was to go towards establishing the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation (AERF). In hindsight, perhaps such a large amount of money would not have been allocated to a body spawned by pettiness with no solid plans for the future. As per the Memorandum above, strict guidelines on the allocation of funds were only in in effect for the first 12 months – safeguarding the project from becoming an administrative and financial Bermuda Triangle until it was (hopefully) somebody else’s problem. The only other condition seemed to be “spend as much as you can within 4 years”. But as we know from their 2016 position things did not quite pan out as they were supposed to.
Fallacies, Fearmongering & False representations
FARE has a tendency to push their propaganda at opportune times in order to capitalise on public sentiment. This strategy is twofold. Firstly, the use as much emotive and inflammatory language as possible in order to stir up the masses who would otherwise not hold an opinion – a reasonable stance when an issue does not concern one. The second is by conducting their polls and surveys at times where there is a strong community sentiment in the favour, such as just after a tragic event.
FARE have proven on multiple occasions they have no ethical qualms with cashing in on a tragedy. They claim to be all about families, yet have no issue using an event that has caused misery to further their own agenda. In short, cashing in on death appears to be within their moral constraints.
In January 2016, shortly after the tragic death of Cole Miller in Queensland, FARE decided to strike while the iron was hot and survey a small, select group on their feelings about alcohol – linked to their own agenda, of course. Never mind the fact had lockouts not been in place, we may not even be discussing that poor young lad or his family. But that didn’t stop the health and prohibition lobbyists from taking advantage of the situation.
Between the 8th and 14th of January, mere days after Cole Miller passed, FARE decided this was a great time to conduct a survey. In all fairness, if you were looking to get the answers you want it was the perfect time. Nothing like a bit of emotional manipulation to drive unjust policy. FARE surveyed a grand total of 350 opted in people. Feeling like this was an accurate representation of a state with 4.7 million residents, FARE came to the following conclusions –
To highlight a few of the more melodramatic points –
Almost three quarters (74%) of Queenslanders support the late night trading hour measures recently announced by the Queensland Government to reduce alcohol-related violence.
80% of Queenslanders believe that Australia has a problem with excess drinking or alcohol abuse, an increase from 71% in 2015.
The majority of Queenslanders (80%) believe that more needs to be done to reduce the harm caused by alcohol related illness, injury death and related issues, an increase from 74% in 2015.
Two thirds (65%) of Queenslanders consider the city or centre of town to be unsafe on a Saturday night, an increase from 52% in 2015.
For starters, the fact that they can claim “of Queenslanders” when referring to their miniscule, statistically irrelevant “research” is misleading. Most don’t understand how scientific polling works so to state as fact “all of Queensland” is deceptive and would be reasonably expected to be taken at face value by the average reader. Many who do understand how they work have zero respect for the process and a sceptical of their accuracy.
They claim 74% of Queenslanders support late night trading hour restrictions because 259 (roughly 0.005% of the state) hand-picked respondents told them so.
They claimed 80% of Queenslanders believed Australia had an alcohol problem because 280 (roughly 0.006% of the state) hand-picked respondents said so.
They said the majority of Queenslanders feel more needs to be done to reduce harm caused by alcohol because 280 (roughly 0.006% of the state) hand-picked respondents said so.
They said 65% of Queenslanders consider the city or centre of town to be unsafe on a Saturday night because 227 (roughly 0.004% of the state) hand-picked respondents said so – days after a young man had been killed in the city.
The timing of this survey is despicable. Media reports at the time was wall to wall coverage of the senseless attack on a young man that tragically resulted in his death. While most decent human beings were reflecting on the tragedy, this lot were scheming on how best they could use it to their advantage. The fact is the results of their survey are completely unworthy of any acknowledgement. But the truth is, as bogus as they are, they are decidedly inflated by the fact emotions were running high after an incident which rocked an entire state. To cash in on the death of a young man, the despair of his family and the sympathy of the public is a callous move.
Sadly, this is not a one off. Between the 13th of January and 16th of February 2014 FARE conducted an impromptu survey in New South Wales. This was in in the immediate aftermath of Daniel Christie’s death while emotions were running high thanks to Fairfax and News Limited scare campaigns and the constant exploitation of the family of Sydney’s other high profile victim – Thomas Kelly – who FARE also took advantage of in August 2012.
This time a grand total of 320 people were surveyed. FARE felt this was an accurate representation of a state with 7.5 million residents, and announced the following conclusions –
The majority (67%) of NSW adults indicated that it is unsafe in built-up areas of the city or the centre of town on a Saturday night.
Of the NSW adults who felt it was unsafe, a vast majority (94%) indicated that people affected by alcohol made the city or town unsafe.
The majority (69%) of NSW adults support the introduction of the Newcastle model across NSW, which includes 3am closing times and 1am lockouts.
Only (12%) of NSW adults think that the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell is doing enough to stop alcohol related violence occurring in and around pubs, clubs and bars. A majority (57%) indicated that he isn’t doing enough.
To again highlight the absurdity of their sample size in comparison to the state they claim surveyed individuals represent, the breakdown of their insubstantial evidence is as follows.
It was claimed the majority of New South Wales felt unsafe in the built up areas of the city or centre town because 214 (roughly 0.003% of the state) hand-picked respondents told them so. Despite the fact only a couple of months earlier an INTERNATIONAL survey had declared Sydney the SAFEST CITY IN THE WORLD.
They declared 94% of the two thirds of NSW felt unsafe because of alcohol because 201 (roughly 0.0025% of the state) hand-picked respondents said so.
They claimed the majority of NSW supported the Newcastle model of lockouts implemented across the state because 221 (roughly 0.003% of the state) hand-picked respondents said so – most of whom would not have been Newcastle residents or anyone with any knowledge about anything to do with Newcastle.
They declared the majority of NSW believed premier Barry O’Farrell wasn’t doing enough to stop alcohol related violence occurring in and around pubs, clubs and bars because 182 (roughly 0.002% of the state) hand-picked respondents told them this. Despite the fact statistics proved the complete opposite was the case, a stance shared by O’Farrell himself until he spinelessly caved to the media. It’s interesting to note respondents weren’t asked about other scenarios such as in the home – where it can be argued domestic violence is a real issue.
Much like the 2016 Queensland survey, while the rest of us where condemning the individual who attacked Daniel Christie and feeling the upmost sympathy for his family, FARE were hitting the ground running and making sure they could gain maximum benefit from this poor young man’s death. This is akin to hitting on the widow at her husband’s funeral and ambulance chasing behaviour of the lowest, most depraved kind.
It’s all par for the course from a mob who deceptively claimed “two thirds of NSW” supported lockout laws because a couple of hundred people said so. Meanwhile, 15,000 people were suggesting otherwise… Along with frequently bringing into disrepute established polling company Galaxy, who frankly should be ashamed of themselves for allowing their name to be constantly dragged through the mud, FARE have another partner in crime for their manipulative endeavours. Surveys have also been conducted using a company called Pureprofile. The Pureprofile website is fairly clear when it describes how it works and what the benefits are for people who respond to polling.
I feel the point about hand-picked respondents has been rammed home enough, but for anyone unconvinced, the graphic above speaks volumes. The “about” section did not dedicate an exclusive section to the benefits for companies using the service, but I feel the statement above says it all.
Attacks, Accusations, Attitudes & Agenda
When FARE aren’t clogging up newsfeeds for their one day in the sun every quarter or so, they’re publishing unprofessional and articles on their affiliate website “Drinktank”. Half the articles are written by FARE staff and despite the website being a part of the organisation, they refer to themselves in the third person. Either a measure of their delusion, or a pathetic attempt to further convince their handful of readers they’re truly independent. The other half are written by what appears to be a large army of contributors. What it lacks in quality it makes up for in quantity, with anybody who has ever submitted an article featured on the Drinktank “contributor” wall of shame.
Most of the “contributors” are a bunch of nobodies including community association members, former alcoholics and nosy neighbours. There’s a predictable smattering of journalists and a handful of politicians. It may surprise anyone planning a federal protest vote against Mike Baird to see the likes of Bill Shorten, Richard Di Natale, Clover Moore and ex NSW Labor leader John Robertson amongst their ranks too. In a true show of credibility there are even a few incognito trolls using pseudonyms who FARE have been happy to publish.
The common theme amongst contributors is their anti-alcohol agenda. Considering this is apparently a foundation for alcohol research and education, you’d think in the interests of being independent and legitimate there would be at least the odd neutral piece. But no, not even a token article to feign anything other than temperance. Other common themes are deception and manipulation as well as a healthy amount of personal attacks, totally inappropriate for an organisation that claims to have merit.
The unimaginatively named troll, John Johnsonson, recently had a vile article published by Drinktank in a true show of defiance against ethics and integrity. While using the least creative alias of all time, Johnsonson showed his class by referring to a long-time friend/acquaintance as a “failed electronic musician” and “haggard, old ecstasy enthusiast”. Mr Johnsonson also points to the fact his old mate began balding in the 1990’s. Not sure what this fact has to do with anything in the spectrum of alcohol research or education. Nor does it achieve anything other than highlighting the calibre of people associated with this organisation. It’s just yet another cheap shot from an anonymous troll who may or may not be a hideous creature to gaze upon.
Johnsonson then goes on to show the world just how little he knows about it by bemoaning the fact an article read by one million people had taken over his Facebook newsfeed and not knowing why. He claims he’s being trolled because Facebook knew he didn’t approve, showing zero understanding for how social media works. Failing to grasp the concept that newsfeed domination generally reflects popular opinion, he then cries into his cup of warm water and salt that mainstream media were also engaged. Clearly this is an individual who knows little about the world and it’s no surprise he didn’t put his name to his efforts. The headline reads as a crack at people his age group who aren’t as bitter as him, but perhaps “How to lose friends and influence nobody” would have been more fitting.
The journalists don’t fare much better either. News Limited wannabe provocateur Caroline Marcus is a card carrying member and contributor. Ms Marcus tries desperately hard for attention, but in reality is just a very poor woman’s Miranda Devine, Murdoch’s master of pot stirring (all apologies to Ms Devine – whether you agree or disagree with her, she is damn good at what she does). The thing with opinion pieces is, the writer needs to have some kind of status or at the very least be respected, for their piece to have any weight or relevance. Ms Marcus spends a great deal of her time whinging about the D-List set she yearns to be a part of, viciously aiming her poison pen at reality TV contestants. This is despite the fact some are apparently close, personal friends. The “who cares” moment of 2013 (only discovered in 2016) was Ms Marcus declaring she wouldn’t be drinking on Australia Day and all the reasons why. Unfortunately the part that fails to explain why the reader is supposed to care what she says, does or thinks was missing.
In a large, yet uninspiring body of work it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what Ms Marcus is most known for. It certainly is not for winning any awards – that’s something that will elude her until the Walkley Awards get their own spin-off like the Oscars have with the Razzies. In the media, advertising and marketing world most would remember “the girl and the jacket” – a cynical viral marketing stunt by Naked Communications. Ms Marcus was one of only two mainstream writers who ran with the story, reporting on it as though it was a legitimate, feel good story. Only problem it was not a true story, and Ms Marcus was duped by the easily identifiable hoax.
Ms Marcus also counted Jessica Ainscough, aka the Wellness Warrior as one of her social scene acquaintances. Ms Ainscough tragically passed away on February 26th 2015. It’s unconfirmed whether or not the coffin had been lowered before Ms Marcus launched a savage attack on her now deceased acquaintance 9 days later. Not content with kicking the loved ones of Ms Aincsough while they were down once, she backed it up on March 21st with a cruel rant, seemingly mocking her former friend less than a month after her death, whilst comparing her to alleged fraud and “high-school dropout” Belle Gibson. She then goes onto accuse the deceased of sending countless others, including Ms Ainscough’s own mother, to early graves. This was especially tasteful –
“Gibson’s story is reminiscent of another celebrity blogger, Jessica Ainscough, aka The Wellness Warrior, who tragically (yet predictably) died of cancer on February 26 after building a lucrative business on the falsehood that she had “cured” herself by rejecting conventional medicine for the Gerson regimen, which involved drinking countless raw juices and having five coffee enemas a day.”
“It’s impossible to know just how many cancer patients Ainscough misled to early graves, though we do know her own mother, Sharyn, passed away from breast cancer in late 2013 after following her daughter’s lead and snubbing oncology in favour of quackery.”
With friends like Mr Johnsonson and Ms Marcus, who needs enemies? The fact FARE have happily published the work of these two truly repulsive individuals speaks volumes about the management of the organisation and everything the group stands for.
In Europe it’s common for teenagers on the cusp of adulthood to be allowed a drink or two in the presence of their parents. This approach is a way for responsible parents to introduce their children to alcohol in a way that is safe and supervised. The majority of young adults will inevitably try it one day, so it’s a far more intelligent idea to allow this experimentation to occur with family as opposed to with a group of equally inexperienced friends. Many believe by allowing their teenagers to enjoy one every now and then it minimises the appeal of going out and binge drinking with friends. After all, half the appeal of anything one does as a teenager is often is the fact that you’re not allowed to. Having a wine or a beer with parents and family instils healthy, responsible drinking habits. It comes as no surprise most of these European countries don’t have major issues with violence or unsocial behaviour. Freedom is paramount, and the #nannystate is unheard of.
“FARE chief executive Michael Thorn said the results showed that governments needed to do more to promote the laws and their penalties, which are also in place in Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory
In NSW, supplying alcohol to minors in unlicensed premises has a maximum penalty of $11,000, 12 months in jail, or both, and an on-the-spot fine of $1100.
In WA, the maximum fine is $10,000 but unlike NSW it includes adults who supply alcohol, even if they have consent from a parent, if the child is drunk or the parent giving consent is drunk”
These responsible, loving parents would be locked up in jail if Michael Thorn had his way. Predictably, in their infinite wisdom on the topic of everything, FARE disagrees with the approach. Opting to ignore the real life evidence with a sample size in the hundreds of millions, the temperance brigade feels their own, moral views are far more accurate. Rather than trying to encourage safe approaches to alcohol education, FARE wants the liquor laws to be enforced at the highest severity. What kind of an individual would want to see a parent locked up for having a trust-filled relationship with their son or daughter? Why would anybody want to make good parenting a crime and turn loving parents into criminals?
Responsibilities, Rights, Research, Reality & Relevance
The five R’s are terms not welcome in any discussion initiated by FARE. It’s laughable the SEO gaming tags on Drink Tank include “personal responsibility”. Nobody searching for content using that term would find what they’re looking for. In fact, anyone with the misfortune of being led to a FARE website using these terms would be disgusted with what they discover.
Personal responsibility is a concept traditionally attributed to libertarianism and indeed loosely held by the Liberal party. But not teetotalitarianism, the ideology dominating the current political climate. FARE show nothing but disdain for the mere suggestion of mature adults having the ability to make grown-up decisions. Presumably due to the fact a statistically irrelevant number of individuals occasionally make poor choices, FARE believes all should be treated as criminals, pariahs and degenerates. Even hundreds of years ago moderation was correctly seen as the best approach to alcohol, but showing how backwards their ideology is, this is nowhere near enough for FARE. Abstinence is the only acceptable option for those who believe themselves to be morally superior. Never mind the gambling.
The anti-alcohol lobby are always the first to hold licensed venues responsible whenever any incident occurs, regardless of whether the venue was involved or not. This has been happening for a while in Sydney thanks to the unconstitutional “Alcohol Linking Program”. This highly dubious is designed purely to blame venues and hold them responsible for the acts of individuals. This system flies in the face of High Court precedent set by none other than QC Ian Callinan.
Allowing venues to take on any responsibility other than tedious reporting and red tape is a concept that is out of the question. The very suggestion that the hospitality industry may be better equipped to be responsible for themselves is met with horror and indignation. Cries of self-interest come from all corners of the prohibition scene, oblivious to the hypocrisy on display. But the truth is venues and the entertainment industry should have a far more meaningful role in creating a healthy drinking environment. Venues are constantly bogged down with excessive paperwork, with the level of detail required astounding. Venues are working so hard to ensure there is not a slight mistake in their reporting as the penalty can be catastrophic under the Three Strikes Policy. A different approach, as suggested by the Kings Cross Liquor Accord would be far more practical.
Nobody is more concerned with having a night time culture free of incident more than those directly involved – venue operators and those who socialise at them. For the most part this has been achieved. The incidents that prompted the media hysteria and all that went with it occurred on the street. Venues did their job perfectly. A shame they had no support. But facts show, the safest place to be when out late at night is inside a venue. It’s time liquor accords and other industry bodies were treated as adults and allowed a little control. Their venues have everything on the line – reputation, popularity, revenue, etc. Nobody is going to want to go to a poorly managed venue, so the majority of operators would continue to run an extremely tight ship.
Naturally, FARE Chief Executive Michael Thorn disagrees. In a typical display of pig-headedness and ignorance, Thorn claimed the industry should “never” be involved in discussions on policy, offering a woeful comparison with the tobacco industry.
“I think it reveals a sad state of policy-making in Australia and internationally where industries with vested interests can threaten governments and have an impact on the way they behave,” Thorn said.
The hypocrisy is astounding. Does Thorn truly believe the prohibitionist lobby does not have a vested interest? The health industry? FARE and other groups on that side of the divide deal in emotion and manipulation of data – two things which obviously have no place in policy discussion. Evidence and actual research is required, not the rubbish FARE dishes on the infrequent occasion a poor young person dies. But despite Thorn closing his eyes and covering his ears, there is an organisation where alcohol industry representatives work alongside the doctors, medical experts and are chaired by a former chief commissioner of the police.
Drinkwise, based in Melbourne (naturally), is a great example of how industries working together can achieve practical solutions. Drinkwise offers extensive information on health risks, social drinking and education. Rather than holding the community to futile and arrogant expectations of abstinence, Drinkwise promotes moderation and responsibility. Looking back through history and applying common sense, it’s a no brainer which approach is superior and which is outdated and pointless.
Whereas FARE only exists to push their own agenda and ensure their own survival, Drinkwise actually puts a strong focus towards the health and wellbeing of the community – something FARE in its inaugural incarnation was supposed to do, but didn’t. FARE only offers moral judgements, skewed research, inflammatory articles and stern talking to’s. Drinkwise offers information for parents, health warnings, education on responsible drinking and most importantly – support services. If individuals have an issue with alcohol, they actually care, and they want to do help.
Cynical anti-grog proponents ignore the benefits of the service and accuse Drinkwise of being self-serving because they’re responsible for the issue. What they fail to understand is there is a difference between looking after your interests and acting responsibly. Of course Drinkwise is going to the best those who drink alcohol, that’s their customer base. It’s extremely poor business practice to want anything but the best for your customers.
FARE does not offer a single, solitary service of this nature, despite rehabilitation being a key feature of their original mission statement. The reality is FARE and Drinkwise are polar opposites and have completely different aims and target markets. FARE is an anti-alcohol lobby. Without health and social problems attributed to alcohol, they have no reason to exist. A non-drinker is of no use to them. Individuals who drink responsibly and enjoy good health and a social life are the scourge of groups like FARE. People who fit that description (I would estimate most mature adults fall into this category) are living, contradictory evidence to the probation lobby. Abstinence is all they offer, and their target market would only consist of those with health issues.
The way I see it – should the product be mismanaged, one group stands to lose it all and the other stands to benefit immensely. I know who I’d be trusting to better manage said product…
Rights have no place in the world either. No right to decide and no right to live a life free from judgement. FARE only knows one definition of the word “right”, and that’s in the context of right and wrong. For the record, they’re right and everyone else is wrong. According to them at least. What makes them think they have the right to dictate this to others, who knows? The audacity of the organisation is surpassed only by their sanctimony.
As for research, FARE simply does not understand the meaning of the world. Their inclusion of the term in their name makes a mockery of science and intellectualism. I’m not sure how asking a group of hand-picked respondent’s leading questions constitutes for meaningful research. Yet another reason why this outlaw self-interest group needs to be abolished.
Admittedly, there is one policy FARE promotes that I am complete support of. FARE are currently making a lot of noise about alcohol advertising in sport, especially the current State of Origin series. There is far too much advertising in Australian sport and most of it is related to alcohol and gambling. Jerseys that were once worn proudly to support a team turn fans into walking billboards. Compare an NRL jersey to an NFL jersey or anything in US pro sports and the difference is clear. Kids watching the game don’t need to be bombarded with alcohol advertising, and while it’s up to their parents to bring them up appropriately and teach them about booze, I just don’t think a 10 year old should be a walking ad for VB.
A recent survey conducted by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) shows 60 per cent of Australians believe alcohol sponsorship should be banned from sport and 70 per cent believe alcohol advertising should be banned on television before 8:30pm. – Drinktank
Unfortunately though, rather than presenting a very legitimate concern in a way that opens constructive discussion, FARE simply went straight to their go-to tactic of demanding a complete ban, backed up statements like the above. As always, rather than intelligently considering workable strategies, prohibition is the only solution. Had the questions included “is there too much alcohol advertising in sport” and “would you support limiting it in some way” they would have registered a 95% yes vote – myself included. Previous studies that are far more in depth than anything FARE have ever undertaken support this, as per the table below. But a complete ban? I cannot support that and the reality is it’s an extremely poor idea.
Sporting teams do a hell of a lot of good for the community, despite what the tabloid stories say. Charity work, hospital visits, getting kids active, the list is endless. The reality is, a lot of this costs money. Money which, in no small part, comes courtesy of alcohol sponsorship. Even funding that goes to junior and grassroots sport can be attributed to alcohol sponsorship. Without sponsorship dollars where would that money come from? I don’t see FARE rushing out there to sponsor any teams or do anything positive to contribute.
If FARE devoted their energy on coming up with constructive contributions to the discussions they enter, perhaps they make meaningful contributions. Instead, they simply run surveys designed to obtain favourable responses for their agenda and then bleat about the results. This rarely achieves anything nor does it add value to the discussion. If their activities remotely resembled the name, one would hope to find an array of information looking at the behaviour and effects of alcohol. There would be legitimate studies looking at the correlation (if any) between alcohol and various human behaviours. Instead, all that is offered is the biased opinion of unqualified individuals. This is in no way, shape or form worthwhile research.
In 2013, The Australian Institute of Health & Welfare conducted an in depth research project that is far more worthwhile than anything undertaken in 15 years of failure. This study involved approximately 24,000 people – dwarfing the 300 odd people FARE surveys whenever they publish their outlandish claims. Drinkwise published the findings of the study and it was welcome reading for the community and health officials. Australian’s were becoming more and more responsible with their drinking habits, and the number of individuals with unhealthy relationships with alcohol was in decline. This is still the case. Naturally, FARE painted a different picture when they no doubt begrudgingly reported the findings, attempting to misconstrue the data and focus on the areas that fit in with their agenda. They did admit “public health advocates need to ensure that policy and prevention focuses on older adults as well as young people” – for reasons summarised below – however any evidence of action on this realisation is lacking.
FARE and the anti-alcohol lobby ignore the inconvenient truth throughout their constant struggle for relevance. If you believed their constant bleating, you would expect to see alcohol consumption at an all-time high. Epidemic proportions. The reality is Australians are drinking less than ever before. As you can see from the diagram above, there are less daily drinkers than 25 years ago. Ex-drinkers are currently on an upward trend. Most significantly, the number of people who drink responsibly and in moderation, by opting for smaller serves in on a steep upward climb.
Contrary to the claims and fearmongering of the anti-alcohol lobby, you can see above that daily drinking is lower than it was 10 years ago for all age groups. Young adults who are so often stigmatised for their irresponsible behaviour are the people who are less likely do drink daily. Admittedly younger people would be more likely to have that one big night on the weekend, but the fact they’re drinking less regularly cannot be considered anything but a positive. Ironically, it’s the baby boomers who are drinking far more than their younger counterparts. The most entitled generation in history loves to complains about the behaviour of those younger than them, but the reality is they’re indulging in daily drinking up to ten times more than those wild young kids that are such a concern. But even with their hypocritical drinking habits, they’re still drinking less than they were.
Anti-alcohol preachers like to deflect the previous evidence by making baseless arguments suggesting people are binging at dangerous levels more than before. But again, these alleged debauched binge drinking habits are becoming less and less common. The graph above shows single occasion risky drinking to be on the decline as well. Drinking that risks lifetime health damage as well as single occasion damage are both steadily on the way down. So not only are we drinking less, we’re drinking more responsibly and in moderation more than ever before.
Breaking that data down as per above, I’m sure wowsers will be shocked to see it’s young adults leading the way with responsible drinking habits. The biggest drops in lifetime risk drinking habits is seen in teenagers and 18 to 24 year olds. Worryingly, 40 to 49 year olds and 60 to 69 year olds have seen a slight increase. So perhaps instead of focusing on lockouts and creating a #nannystate, campaigners, lobbyists and doctors should have a look at their own age group and perhaps address the fact fellow boomers are the only ones who are incapable of drinking responsibly. Or they could just allow adults to make their own decisions.
Looking at the single occasion risk – the area commonly attributed to younger adults – the results again speak for themselves. Shattering the stereotype, adults 39 and under are all less interested in drinking to dangerous levels and exercise responsibility and moderation. Once again, the selfish boomers are letting the team down and relying on the younger generation to pick up the slack. Adults aged 40 to 69 who drink to a level of single occasion risk have slightly increased. But the future looks very good, with a generation of mature, young adults proving they can make better decisions than those old enough to know better.
Victims and perpetrators of “alcohol-related” harm have decreased across the board. There has been an increase of approximate 0.5% in the category of physical abuse – which is a concern as that’s an area we want as low as possible. But can that increase be reasonably attributed to alcohol, given what every consumption at risky levels has dropped significantly? Of course not. Alcohol has not changed either. It hasn’t had a new element added that turns an individual into a violent thug. One potential reason is a change in reporting methods and the implementation of the alcohol linking program. But it’s more likely the reason is due to behavioural trends and socioeconomic reasons. There are issues in the community that have been allowed to fester, with policy makers placing the real problem in the too hard basket. Lobbyists with no interest in addressing the root of violence were satisfied with this approach. It can’t be denied there are issues though, which are complex and wide ranging. Every other day we see wild brawls in the suburbs, occasionally involving hundreds of participants. We’re also seeing a worrying new fad of cowardly “anti-fascist” groups who hypocritically try to silence other protest groups with differing views by using violence and intimidation. Alcohol is not a factor in any of these scenarios are – people are. Government needs to stop taking the easy option and misdiagnosing the issue. If not, their negligence could create an actual issue to replace the current exaggerations.
The analysis used for the previous graph can also be applied to this information. Interestingly, heavy drinkers are now less at risk of physical harm than before. This contradicts the usual argument that involves protecting one from themselves. Those who abstain are more at risk than before, which is a concern. I would be interested to find out how this has occurred. It’s fair to say this increase is not attributed to the anti-alcohol’s regular target – nightlife. This would suggest those who don’t drink are being attacked by drunks as part of a trend. For starters, the number of those who go out and completely abstain would not be high enough to sustain a trend of that nature. Those who would find themselves in a volatile situation would be far better equipped to handle it and avoid it. Whilst not wanting to speculate on this issue, it’s reasonable to suspect this may be related to domestic violence – an issue that has seen a shameful failure to properly address. This is an issue far too complex to simply attribute to alcohol, so I would serious attention is being paid to this issue.
In summary, reality presents a strong argument against the anti-alcohol lobby. Can someone remind me again, why these groups believe they are relevant or necessary?
Emotion, Exploitation, Ethics & Earnings
The anti-alcohol lobby does like to ignore evidence and legitimate research when convenient. Why wouldn’t they when there is a far stronger currency available, which is readily accepted by the gullible and those who are easily manipulated. When there are no facts or truth to be found, emotion can be easily used instead and often does a far greater job anyway. FARE has demonstrated this time and time again. Before even putting pen to press release paper, emotional manipulation is in effect as discussed earlier. By seizing the moment and conducting research when public emotion is high, FARE positions itself perfectly to obtain the responses they want. To do so is morally reprehensible, but shockingly FARE are not alone in doing this. Doctors associations, police groups, community organisations and politicians are all quick to capitalise on a tragedy.
There are no ethical justification for these actions. Even putting aside moral bankruptcy there is no justification. In Sydney, Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly were both attacked well before midnight. Sadly, lockouts would not have saved either of these young men. In Queensland, Cole Miller was attacked after lockouts had taken effect. Sadly, an absence of lockouts may have saved this young man. But these facts don’t stop the anti-alcohol lobby shamelessly cash in and exploit the families affected every, single time.
But what FARE seemingly lacks in ethics, they more than make up for in earnings. Pro-lockout supporters often point to an absurd conspiracy where so-called Big Alcohol are at the centre of everything. The Keep Sydney Open rally was suspected of being funded by the liquor lobby. Prominent websites that publish articles critical of the legislation are accused of being sponsored by the alcohol lobby and speaking on behalf of industry figures. In fact, anyone who voices an opinion remotely opposing the legislation is accused of being a #grogdealer or Big Alcohol Shill.
But in reality none of this is close to the truth. The Alcohol lobby only entered the game a few weeks ago, days after being called out by this website for their conspicuous absence. The only “big” lobby movement present in this two and a half year battle has been Big Health. Supporters of prohibition are blind to the fact the health lobby is indeed a lobby. There are big bucks to be made in areas such as hospital and non for profit funding, as well as inflated incomes at executive level, such as we discussed earlier. FARE executives Michael Thorn and Sharrin Wells enjoy lucrative combined earnings just under half a million dollars. It’s difficult to envision how they spend their working week, and how they actually earn their salary. Whilst obviously nowhere near the level of some gravy trains we have seen, it would be fascinating to see a breakdown of their working week.
Wowserism is a competitive industry. Groups like FARE are constantly competing with other organisations for funding and attention. FARE has received less than $500k in the government funding in the last two years, so it’s little wonder they’ve turned to other means to ensure their own survival. One can only imagine the Federal Government’s decision to allocate over $100 million to the National Binge Drinking Strategy in 2008 would not have gone down too well at FARE. $53.5 million was allocated to the absurdly named National Binge Drinking Campaign – “Drinking Nightmare”. $50 million allocated to the Australian National Preventive Health Agency, which you’ll see if you click the link is no longer in existence. Yet more money poured down the drain.
Not only are FARE feeling threatened by other anti-alcohol campaigns, they also cry poor when the government dares to address what it deems to be more pressing matters in community health. In the last few years methamphetamine has been a growing concern in the community. Whilst perhaps not quite at the “pandemic” levels hysterical tabloids bleat about, ice is certainly a drug that is becoming more and more common place. FARE is none too pleased about this. But not because it’s a threat to public health, but because it’s a threat to their own self-interests. Having pigeonholed themselves as anti-booze crusaders, other vices are instantly the enemy. If other drugs are making headlines, FARE’s pointless fight for relevance becomes all the more difficult.
In this bitterly headlined piece in 2015, FARE bemoaned the fact money was being pushed towards fighting the growing meth problem. Hat in hand, they used their propaganda machine, Drinktank, to trivialise the issues ice was causing to shift the focus back onto themselves. Never mind the fact there is clear evidence issues associated with alcohol had been in steady decline for years and years. They felt they deserved more money to be dedicated to their non-issue. Much needed funding being used to combat an actual issue was an considered an outrage and a personal insult.
In a true display of throwing the toys out of the cot, Michael Thorn spat the dummy big time in 2015. Yet another anti-alcohol think tank losing a mere $170k (less than what Thorn takes home in a year – and roughly 10% of what FARE spends on salaries per annum) in government funding was enough for Thorn to throw a public temper tantrum.
“The drug problem in Melbourne isn’t ice, it’s alcohol,” he said.
“Alcohol dominates emergency department presentations, hospitalisations, arrests, family violence incidents.
“It completely overwhelms our drug and alcohol services.”
Mr Thorn said the State Government was ignoring its own data on substance abuse.
“We’ve been trying to make this point over and over again,” he said.
“But it seems that too in the Victorian Government are deaf to the problem.
“The way that we’ve been treated, Professor Room’s been treated and all the staff at APR have been treated is just appalling.”
No reference to how much money was still being funnelled towards temperance. No reference to how little was being allocated to new social issues. Just a grown man crying poor over a miniscule slice of an enormous pie being taken away, from him personally it would seem. “The way we’ve been treated” he stressed, presumably fighting back tears. Cry me a river. This line speaks volumes and reiterates what has been demonstrated all along. The crusade is not about benefiting the community in any way, shape or form. The line reeks of self-interest and suggests if you’re not with them, you’re against them. Never mind the greater good, or actual benefits to the community.
What FARE has become is so far removed from what they were set out to be. Despite the murky, backroom dealings surrounding the origins of this body, there were once good intentions, at least for the first few minutes. The Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation was supposed to benefit the community, and was supposed to be an initiative where various interests worked together to benefit public health and wellbeing. How quickly that all changed, and very existence of the current day Foundation of Alcohol Research & Education is a complete betrayal of everything they once stood for.
It’s time to right a tonne of wrongs, and finally achieve something tangible and beneficial for all – not just a select few. It’s time to shut down the #nannystate and this deluded teetotalitarianist regime.