New Chair for ABAC

After five years as Chair of the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code Scheme, Harry Jenkins AO has announced his retirement, with The Hon Tony Smith, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, named to succeed him.

Smith takes on the role as the industry’s voluntary advertising code comes under intense scrutiny, with more than 40 organisations signing an open letter in April calling for tighter regulation of alcohol marketing in Australia independent of the alcohol industry.

New independent ABAC Chair, Hon Tony Smith

Despite the scrutiny, research by ABAC in 2021 found that its rules met community standards for alcohol marketing.

In August this year ABAC released a revised and strengthened code it said was designed to ensure the regulations are in line with expectations on appropriate advertising of alcohol products.

Announcing his retirement, the ABAC Scheme’s CEO, Jayne Taylor paid tribute to Mr Jenkins contributions.

“Harry has provided strong independent leadership during a period of significant change in the alcohol and marketing industries and calmly guided ABAC through the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

“ABAC is grateful for Harry’s leadership and thoughtful advice in helping the organisation to evolve over the last five years to keep pace with community expectations and a rapidly changing media and industry landscape.

“We wish him all the best for his well-earned retirement from the position.”

Mr Jenkins said he was pleased to have been part of ABAC for the past five years and had been impressed by the serious intent of everyone involved in the ABAC system.

The Scheme has ably responded to a variety of challenges and I am pleased to see continuing reductions in risky alcohol consumption by adults and reductions in alcohol consumption by minors,” he said.

“Minimising exposure of minors to alcohol advertising and ensuring the content of this advertising does not appeal to them is and will continue to be the most important objective of the Code.

“I would like to thank those who are regulated by the system for their ongoing co-operation with the complaints system and their proactive efforts to comply with the Code standards, demonstrated by a strong use of the pre-vetting service.”

Retiring Chair, Hon Harry Jenkins AO

Jenkins noted that ABAC was approaching 25 years of operation, and had considered 31,557 requests from industry to have their marketing pre-vetted for ABAC compliance, rejecting 4742.

He said ABAC’s expert panel had adjudiced on 922 public complaints with an average turnaround 14-20 business days in recent years and had ordered ads or packaging out of market on 344 occasions, at significant cost to marketers.

Tony Smith takes the position as independent Chair having served in federal parliament for over 20 years, including as Speaker for over 6 years, and serving on numerous Parliamentary Committees, many as Chair.

A statement from ABAC said the Scheme has a history of appointing former Parliamentary presiding officers due to the impartiality and integrity they bring to the role. Mr Jenkins succeeded the Hon Alan Ferguson, formerly President of the Senate.

Mr Smith said he is looking forward to joining an organisation that is “effective, responsive and has proven itself to align with community standards.”

“ABAC has shown it is proactive and dynamic in the way it has kept pace with the ever-emerging issues, demonstrating its willingness to be ahead of the curve,” he said.

It is important that the Code remain global best practice, responding to changes in the environment in which it operates.”

Brews News has previously spoken with Harry Jenkins on the Beer is a Conversation podcast. You can hear it here.

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