The Distilled Spirits Council of Australia (DSICA) has applauded the Federal Budget announced today. In particular the DSICA supported the new national excise scheme for low-alcohol beer and the changes in taxes of RTDs.

In a statement issued today, the DSICA said the new national excise scheme for low-alcohol beer was "a significant breakthrough".

It delivers a nationally uniform tax treatment for lower alcohol beer and builds into the alcohol tax structure clear and consistent incentives to both produce and consume lower alcohol beer," said John Pollaers, chairman of the DSICA.

The Federal Budget has replaced the State low alcohol subsidies for beer. These subsidies were set at various levels and resulted in different prices for the same product in different states. They also had the effect in some States of lower alcohol beer being more expensive than higher strength products.

However, the DSICA criticised the fact there were no similar incentives to produce and consume lower alcohol RTDs. When the beer rates are introduced in July, consumers will pay twice as much for a light pre-mixed RTD as they will for an equivalent light beer and 20% more than for a mid-strength beer.

RTD producers were also hit by a change in the labelling and tax rules of RTDs. The Federal budget announced that it had closed an excise loophole whereby alcohol products manufactured at less than their labelled alcohol strength gained a tax advantage over other products.

Excise will now be payable on the higher of either the labelled or actual alcohol content for products.

This has always been the case for imported alcohol products. However a loophole existed whereby Australian manufactured RTDs or beer were only required to pay excise on the actual strength, and therefore could be falsely labelled as containing a higher strength of alcohol, with no penalty.

The DSICA welcomed the move saying it removed "the incentive to short-change consumers."