18 August 2023

ACT proposes reforms to rapid alcohol delivery amid underage, harm concerns

| Lizzie Waymouth
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Hundreds of wine bottles.

How should the ACT regulate same-day alcohol delivery? The community is invited to have their say. Photo: File.

The ACT Government is considering reforms to the legislation surrounding services that deliver alcohol directly to your door.

As this relatively new retail sector continues to grow, jurisdictions across Australia are introducing specific legislation to regulate rapid alcohol delivery. It comes in light of concerns that easy and fast access to alcohol could create increased opportunities for harm.

The ACT Government is now seeking feedback on its proposed reforms. These include introducing a maximum volume of liquor that can be delivered to one customer over a 24-hour period, restricting hours when deliveries can take place, and making it an offence to deliver alcohol to individuals evidently intoxicated.

“While these services are convenient for consumers and create retail and employment opportunities, the same day delivery of alcohol presents some risks for the community,” ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said.

“In particular these include risks for those under the age of 18 and those who are intoxicated when they place an online order.”

The discussion paper cites research published by the University of NSW (UNSW) earlier this year, which found Australian adults who used an online alcohol delivery service were six times more likely to drink at hazardous levels than those who had never used such a service.

It also found that out of more than 1000 adults surveyed who had used online alcohol delivery services in the preceding three months, one in five had purchased alcohol to extend a home drinking session and one-third said they would have stopped drinking if online delivery had not been available.

The UNSW study found consumers were significantly more likely to report never having their ID checked when receiving an alcohol delivery compared with buying alcohol in person. The proposed reforms will require customers to register their ID when creating a customer profile, and show proof of age upon delivery at the request of the driver.

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Currently, same-day delivery services in the ACT are regulated by Access Canberra as off-licences, but other jurisdictions such as NSW and Victoria are introducing specific legislation.

Anke van der Sterren, acting CEO of the Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT (ATODA), welcomed these reforms.

“There has been a significant change to alcohol purchasing behaviours over the past few years,” she said.

“ATODA encourages the ACT Government to take on board the importance of reducing late-night delivery and preventing rapid delivery of alcohol. It’s time for action now – other states have already taken action, including South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.”

Dr van der Sterren noted that in 2021 the ACT had the highest rate of ambulance attendances for alcohol intoxication in Australia at 681 per 100,000 population.

The rate of ambulance attendance among 15 to 24-year-olds in the ACT was also the highest in the country for this age group, at 1033 per 100,000.

“In the ACT, alcohol is the leading risk factor for preventable disease, injury and death among men aged 15 to 24 years (13 per cent), and men aged 25 to 44 (12 per cent),” Dr van der Sterren said.

“Alcohol is also the second leading risk factor for preventable disease, injury and death among females aged 15 to 24 (5.8 per cent).”

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The proposed reforms would also introduce “a shorter window for rapid delivery … to minimise alcohol-related harm”. Off licences in the ACT can currently trade from 7 am to 11 pm Monday to Saturday, and 9 am to 11 pm on Sunday.

Dr van der Sterren said ATODA supported an end to late-night alcohol delivery.

“That is when severe alcohol harms are most likely to occur, including assaults in the home, suicides and sudden or unnatural deaths involving alcohol.

“It is also important appropriate protections and supports for delivery drivers are put in place, to ensure they are able to safely refuse delivery to intoxicated persons or to minors.”

She said ATODA also backed calls from the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education for there to be a two-hour delay from when someone ordered alcohol online to when it was delivered.

Consultation for enhancing the protections of online ordering of alcohol and same-day delivery of alcohol in the ACT is open until 6 September. Visit the website to find out more and to have your say.

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