New ABA CEO talks about industry’s sustainable future

27 August, 2019 by Deborah Jackson

L-R: Andrew Wilsmore, Chief Executive Officer, Gohar Yazdabadi, Policy and Research Manager, Kerri Osborne, Media and Communications Manager, Athina Paris, Office Manager

There has been a change of guard at Alcohol Beverages Australia (ABA) with the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Wilsmore and earlier in the year, the appointment of Kerri Osborne as Media and Communications Manager. In the September issue of National Liquor News, we catch up with Wilsmore to talk about his incoming role, what’s top of mind for him and the challenges and opportunities he sees in the next 12 months.

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NLN:  Andrew, congratulations on your appointment, what’s exciting for you about it?

ANDREW: This is a fantastic industry that I have been fortunate to be a part of for most of my working life. It’s gifted me with the opportunity to meet and work alongside many talented people that have made our industry famous around the world for its warm hospitality, and the amazing quality of our local produce. It is an honour and privilege to assist ABA in ensuring the drinks industry maintains its vibrancy and sustainability. I am also committed to making sure the industry provides ongoing career opportunities for the many people who rely on it for their future.

NLN: Can you expand on that a bit more? 

ANDREW: Vocal public opponents of our industry are attempting to make a case that even a sip of alcohol can harm you and they are attempting to shame people who drink moderately to feel bad for their behaviour. It’s vitally important for our team at ABA to provide balance and be the voice of reason in important public and political discussions on consumption of alcohol that’s backed up by research that has a sound evidence base.

Our industry has demonstrably shown it has a sustainable role in Australian society. And our collective efforts have led to significant improvements in Australia’s relationship with alcohol that is often overlooked and underappreciated, especially when a sensationalist headline is in the offering.

A variety of Government data supports this view. Only in July, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released its latest figures showing that alcohol consumption and alcohol harm is steadily declining and we are drinking per person at the lowest level in more than 50 years.

NLN: What needs to happen for the industry to be assured of a sustainable future?

ANDREW: Our best advocate is presently silent, and largely disengaged. And this is our consumer – all 18 million of them. They pop their heads up now and then in letters to the editor or reply to negative articles on social media.

We need to activate our consumer and reinforce that having a drink is still socially acceptable. But it must be much smarter than just a call to arms for arms sake.

Our role at ABA is to stop playing our opponents’ game which only sees the world through alcohol harm and engage in a refreshed and positive way.

We need to chart our own path and remind decision-makers and the public of the industry’s importance. The national dialogue is looking for an industry sector to take an economic leadership role. There is none better than ours.

We are the future economy, in that many of our jobs are in the service industries of hospitality and retail, but we are still connected to blue collar working roots in our production facilities and logistics, and with primary production through wine grapes, wheat, hops and barley. We have a great story to tell and can be a leader in economic debate.

This is an excerpt from our conversation with ABA’s new CEO, Andrew Wilsmore. The full article will appear in the September issue of National Liquor News.