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Dunne slammed for 'deliberate' coverup of alcohol survey

The government is being accused of burying a report that shows overwhelming public support for alcohol reform, including increasing prices and raising the purchase age.

The government is being accused of burying a report that shows overwhelming public support for alcohol reform, including increasing prices and raising the purchase age.

Peter DunneLast year the Ministry of Health asked the government-owned Health Sponsorship Council to put a range of questions about attitudes to alcohol to 1,700 Kiwis as part of a major study of New Zealanders.

More than 80 percent strongly supported increased restrictions on alcohol advertising, 56 per cent supported raising the price of cheap alcohol, and 78 per cent wanted the purchase age raised to 20.

A majority – 47.4 percent strongly in favour and 34.5 percent indicating support – were for upping restrictions on alcohol advertising. And 49.5 percent gave the thumbs up for a total ban on advertising.

The results were not made public as associate health minister Peter Dunne's office decided the $10,000 for the report to be finalised and peer-reviewed could be better spent elsewhere.

A spokesperson said the data backed up public views already available from other sources.

Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague said the results of the survey could have assisted MPs during the select committee consideration of the Alcohol Reform Bill. 

“Minister Dunne's explanations for burying the report – that publishing the report would cost too much and the results didn't add value – are simply not credible,” said Hague.

Professor Doug Sellman, medical spokesperson for Alcohol Action NZ, said the results were clear and the government had no excuse to back away from effective reform. 

“This indicates deliberate suppression of key new information at a critical time of the alcohol law reform process that didn’t suit Peter Dunne and the government, ” he said.

“Peter Dunne once again shows he is biased towards the alcohol industry and therefore should not be given any role on alcohol and health in John Key’s new government.”

Labour's associate justice spokesperson Lianne Dalziel said $10,000 was an "infinitesimally insignificant fraction" of last year's $12.5 billion health budget.

"The entire $10,000 could have been avoided anyway simply by emailing the report to every MP."