AUSTRALIA: Oz brewers lobby government for $270m charitable refund

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Australia's major brewers plan to recover $270m of excise from the Federal Government and donate it to charity.The brewers - Fosters, Lion Nathan, Coopers and J Boag & Son, have written individually to the Australian Taxation Office protesting against a new excise rate which came into effect on July 1, increasing bar prices by about 9%.The protest is a necessary step before claiming a refund and to any challenge.The brewers say they have based their action on a belief that the Government will not be able to get enabling legislation passed by both Houses of Parliament. They believe the Opposition Labor Party and the Australian Democrats, who hold the balance of power in the Senate, will vote against it.They also say that the Government is not planning to introduce the legislation into the Parliament for another 12 months by which time $A270m will have been collected.'We are keeping our options open,' said Foster's government relations spokesman, Jeremy Griffith. 'We'd prefer the Government to acknowledge the position in the Senate and introduce the legislation as soon as possible as that's the best way of resolving the issue.'We don't think it is appropriate for them to sit on it for 12 months.'Lion Nathan's corporate affairs director, Gabriel McDowell, said that the brewers would be continuing their collective education and lobbying campaign, involving anti-excise television commercials and a six semi-trailer road train covered in slogans, 'to alert the public that this battle is not yet over.'More than 500,000 consumers have signed a petition of protest which the brewers have organized and which they plan to have tabled in the Parliament.Chris Snow

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